All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain Free Essay Example
“All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” This was what Ernest Miller Hemingway, the man who had won the Nobel prize in Literature said about the novel ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. The novel itself is a classic American novel famous, and considered one of the formal example of American literature. The story goes on with our antagonist Huck, a poor, Southern, white boy and Jim, a runaway slave, as they travel down the Mississippi River in search for freedom.
Sometimes regarded as a children’s bedtime story, this has plenty of symbolism and meanings that are not immediately apparent. The story holds ideas and observations that the author felt were crucial to the culture and people he was writing to. Considering the novel was written in 1885 after when the American Civil War had ended, and slavery had become illegalized, it focuses on circuitously criticizing those who had abused slavery by infringing upon the slaves’ personal rights.
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Despite the fact that Huck is just a poor, white boy, Jim and Huck are both what represents the people who struggle against the unfairness of slavery and crave for a new life through freedom.
While Twain’s story does have the outward appearance of a boyhood adventure tale, it is impossible to overlook the symbolic nature in the two “runaways’” desires for such an adventure. Both Huck and Jim are running away from the social constraints of their worlds.
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Huck feels confined by his new “civilised” life, and Jim by his slave status. In the Widow Douglas’ household, Huck is not allowed to indulge himself in his former delights of boyhood. He feels trapped by the various social rules and expectations the two widows try to enforce upon him. Jim is confined by the bonds of slavery into an uncomfortable and immobile spot in society- one that restricts him from being with his own family. Thus the two “prisoners” begin their escape for freedom. And, while it is natural that Twain placed the story on the wide and powerful Mississippi River where he spent part of his life, there is also a symbolic gesture in the setting. While Huck and Jim travel down the flowing river, they feel a distance from stagnant society on the river’s banks. On the natural river, they are free from the shortcomings and evils of human nature that exist in the man-made towns they have known. On the raft, there is no practical need for racism or greed. The boy and slave are simply two travelers bound for bigger and better waters. Twain is largely successful in illustrating his support of the deserved freedom of the human condition through his main characters. Huck is an innocent young boy who relies only on his surprisingly sharp criticism of human nature and a goodness and gentle-heartedness that he is not even aware of. Huck’s youthful ignorance and lack of education allow for the innocence that makes him such a believable and effective protagonist. Despite his age, however, he is still able to discern the often hypocritical actions of the adults around him. For example, he cannot understand why the fine people of the Grangerford family would be involved in something so horrible and ridiculous as a feud. When Jim become a part of the journey, Huck, much to the argument of his misguided conscience, shows mercy and, eventually, respect towards Jim. Bestowing respect upon a slave would have taken a lot of humility for a white boy, and Huck certainly possessed humility. He had no desire for material possessions, or even a very strong desire for money. Jim’s good nature and kindness is indisputable in the novel. He commits himself to watching over Huck during their journey, and often does so at his own expense. The reader cannot help but to admire Jim’s love for his family and kind, selfless nature. All of these characteristics innocence, mercy, humility, kindness are not elements that support the institution of slavery2E Perhaps Twain is suggesting that the potential goodness of human nature that exists in his characters could exist in a world without slavery. Furthermore, Twain has mastered the use of situational and verbal irony and satire, and uses this to reveal truths about human nature. Twain places some instances of dialogue that are so gradesfixer.com 1 / 2 blatantly racist that one cannot help but wonder if the author went to extremes to simply make his point. For example, Aunt Sally asks Huck if anyone was hurt on the steamboat and he replies that it only “killed a nigger,” to which Aunt Sally replies, “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt.” This one statement is so obviously wrong that it seems Twain is not advocating prejudice, but simply displaying it’s wrongfulness. This use of irony is implemented throughout the dialogue in the novel, and, while anti-slavery supporters could misinterpret Twain’s ambition, the other elements in the novel help support the author’s true intentions. It is apparent that he believes that, if put into simple words, one could easily see that such racist views are very hypocritical of the good qualities of human nature that Twain so highly values. Furthermore, the most racist people and advocators of slavery in the novel are always depicted in a negative light. For instance, Twain gives little respect to the King and the Duke who split up the slave family at the Wilks household, or the mob of angry farmers at the Phelps who want to kill Jim. Twain’s open critique of slavery and its supporters and racial prejudice, therefore, do indeed mark him as an advocate for human freedom. In conclusion, Twain uses the qualities of his main characters and the freedom they seek, as well as criticism of the racial views of the society that Huck and Jim occupy, to illustrate his belief that all humans possess the right to be free, if they so desire it. While it is doubtful that Twain would give himself the title of “abolitionist,” he certainly states in Huckleberry Finn that he does not believe that imposing an institution such as slavery on any person cannot be deemed any other than a blatant violation against morality. Slavery is indeed an immense evil of society, and Twain uses the contrasting goodness of people like Huck and Jim to battle against it. It is also apparent that Twain does not admire the constraints of society, and, like Huck, would rather be free from it and its hypocrisy. Therefore it is doubtful that he could support an institution like slavery that had such aristocratic roots. Twain’s characters are too noble, his views of white society too critical, for him to be blamed as a supporter of slavery; he is instead a motivator of the human desire to be free
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“All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” […]