The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
A Question of Civilization in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
At first look, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may be mistaken for a children’s book about a fictional journey and adventures of a thirteen year old boy. However, deeper analysis demonstrates that in his writing, Mark Twain touched upon several important points for discussion, one of them being Huckleberry’s rebellion and resistance to being civilized. Huckleberry Finn rebels against civilization because he doesn’t agree with its standards, morals, and prefers individual development. Even though Huck Finn undergoes certain changes throughout the progression of the story, his position concerning cultural development is unaffected.
From the very beginning of the story Huckleberry Finn demonstrates his unwillingness to become civilized and behave appropriately, the way “appropriately” is defined by the society he lives in. As the narrator stated “The Widow Douglas, she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I could stand it no longer, I lit out” (1) he attempted to escape regulations every time he had a chance to do so. Huck did not accept the rules, such as wearing appropriate nice clothes, coming on time for dinner and waiting for the widow to speak before eating, studying the Bible, going to school, and possessing good manners. His discomfort is clearly noted when he complaints “She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn’t do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up” (1) in contrast to rebellious “I got into my old rags, and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied” (1) where he uses words such as “free” and “satisfied” versus “sweat” and “feel cramped up”.
Huckleberry Finn’s rebellion concerns morals of “civility” as well, especially religious practices. His lack of understanding of religion and the widow’s and Miss Watson’s view of it is what sparks his unacceptance. Huckleberry Finn did not comprehend the importance of spiritual belief and benefit, and viewed religious practices that were taught to him as illogical, as supported by him saying “After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers…Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care no more about him; because I don’t take no stock in dead people” (2). For Huck the “good” and the “bad” places had their own meaning as well. As the narrator pointed out “Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there…Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it” (2). To him, the “good” place seemed dull and boring, meanwhile the “bad” place is where his friend Tom Sawyer will be, therefore, Huck didn’t have any intentions or logical reasons to strive for Heaven. Another important religious part that was rejected by Huck Finn because he did not understand its purpose was prayer. Huck viewed prayer as a way to accomplish materialistic goals, and when that failed he “went out in the woods and turned it over in my mind a long time, but I couldn’t see no advantage about it – except for other people – so at last I reckoned I wouldn’t worry about it any more, but just let it go” (8).
Huckleberry Finn’s preference of self development played a significant role in his rebellion against being civilized. He was able to break away from the standards of society and create his own rules and morals which completely satisfied him. Huck proved to himself and to the reader that there is no one holding him back from individualism when he mimicked his death and escaped to an island to live on his own, leaving all the people that took a part in his life behind. When Huck stated “Jim, this is nice…I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here” (37) as he and Jim were in harsh conditions during a storm, it demonstrates that Huck is satisfied with his decisions and his way of living, as long as he is the one making these decisions. On the contrary side, he was feeling uncomfortable when he was being “civilized” by being dressed into nice clothes, sleeping on a comfortable bed, and going to school. Throughout his journey, Huck not only learned individuality and self dependence, but also enhanced certain skills that could not always be taught in school, such as real life situation reasoning, as proven by “hold on, – s’pose you’d a done right and give Jim up; would you felt better than what you do now? No, says I, I’d feel bad – I’d feel just the same way I do now” (69). Huckleberry is able to reason with himself and reach a logical answer, a quality that represents maturity. In contrast, not even all adults are able to express this quality, as is demonstrated when the duke yells at the king “Leggo the boy, you old idiot! Would you a done any different? Did you inquire around for him, when you got loose? I don’t remember it” (155). This proves that even though Huck is not being civilized, doesn’t attend school, and doesn’t behave “properly,” he is well suited for life and its situations, which is what matters the most.
The final quote of the book “I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally, she’s going to sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before” (220) indicated that Huck has not changed his mind about being civilized and views it the same way he did at the beginning of the book. The ironic use of word “sivilize” in the beginning of the book and at the end of the book adds on to the fact that he has not learned grammar, religion, or standards of behavior, and therefore remained uncivilized, even though with the progression of the book Huck matured and developed greatly, not only as a character, but as a young adult. Thus, does Huckleberry Finn’s rebellion against being civilized necessarily mean lack of civilization?
A Review of the Novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
The following text is a review of the novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain which is starred and narrated by Huckleberry Finn, a child who to get rid of his abusive father decides to fake his death and escape through the Mississippi river where he meets with Jim, who is also running away, and together, they leave in an adventure towards freedom.
I decided to make a book review because I wanted to evaluate in a positive constructive way Twain’s literary work and show my understanding of the novel. Also, because I think it is an appropriate text type to express my own ideas of the book on the basis of my personal taste.
To make this text easily readable to my young adult audience I will use a tone and style intended to engage the reader with a semi-formal register that allows me to be sufficiently expressive with my ideas and not leave ambiguities about the subject.
“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is considered the masterpiece of Mark Twain, and surprisingly, it’s less popular than “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” one of the most celebrated novels in American literature.
There are several reasons for that, this novel shows strong problems that even today continue to be scandalous and in that time even more. It’s about a young boy named Huckleberry Finn who has had a difficult life and decides to run away of his alcoholic father and float down the Mississippi River where he joins a runaway slave named Jim. The reader wants to find out how this mischievous duo with scarce education and no family overcome an array of obstacles in their journey for freedom.
The book is an exceptional story of adventures, with an intense rhythm that catches you from the first page and maintains the attention without rest; however, under the superficial part there is a judgment about human behavior expressed through the use of the innocent eye protagonist child without any kind of “cultural manipulation” as a way to criticize certain social norms of the society of the nineteenth century.
Twain uses this technique and creates a more complex protagonist since Huck is not an entirely innocent child; he lived with an abusive father so he has trouble trusting in adults, and like most of the society of his time has racial prejudices. That’s how the author began to take a realistic look about humanity in humans, with pessimism that far from fading was increasing day by day.
For example, Twain’s critics of people who think they are more intelligent than Huck and therefore morally superior for having read a book like the king for reading Shakespeare. The ridiculousness of the situation is that Huck uses common sense and knows that certain things are non-sense but does not question it because “as they have read books, they will know more about everything in general”.
On the other hand, much of the excellence of this work lies in the language used in it. The fact that it is written just like a teenager speaks, the author makes grammatical and pronunciation mistakes, repeats a lot of things so it really seems that you have Huck in front of you and he is telling you what happened to him. Twain makes incredible use of colloquial language and experiments with it, which differentiates him from other American writers of the time.
Moreover, since the story is written in first-person point of view it allows us to know many of Huck’s internal debates and how he thinks about what is good or wrong for society. Also, we can appreciate in the best way possible the evolution of his character. How at the beginning the kid was clearly racist and considered Jim an inferior person just because he was a black slave and then how after spending time with him Huck not only developed affection for him, he also thought of Jim as a paternal figure in his life.
That’s why “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is considered a beautiful work of literature that combines humor, sarcasm and intelligence in the best way possible to criticize the society of that century and also teaches us many magnificent things about friendship, adolescence and happiness. If you haven’t read it yet, have the great pleasure to do it!
Exceptional Leadership Qualities in the Novels “Huckleberry Finn” and “The Savage”
Both Huckleberry Finn and John “The Savage” are the main characters in their stories and both show exceptional leadership qualities throughout their stories. During his journey Huck Finn has always disregarded societal rules and always chooses his own path, this can be seen when Huck’s father re-enters his life and takes Finn away from the widow. Rather than continuing to stay with his abusive and alcoholic father Finn plans an escape and lives on his own until partnering with an old friend, Jim the slave. Together they make their way across the southern states region. As they journey together Finn is always thinking and planning for the future, early on Finn starts to question the faith and the use of prayers and doing things that would be beneficial for others. At the time Finn saw it as a waste and “couldn’t see no advantage to it.” (page 14) since then Finn has always been seen to be planning and thinking of future applications of his actions, while they may seem selfish, but he does what he presumes to be the best course of action for him and for Jim which shows great leadership qualities in that he’s caring for his wellbeing as well as another persons’.
As for John “The Savage” he chooses to display his leadership qualities in a different way. John understands the current society is flawed and that his fellow people should have the freedom of choice and he’s always adamant and voices his opinion. While having a conversation with Henry Foster John gives a rebuttal to Foster’s argument (page 215) “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.” Continuing his demands, “Not to mention I want the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy… I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.” When given the choice to live a quite easy and care free life The Savage chooses to face hardship and difficulty further cementing the idea that The savage is a man of character, integrity, and purpose which are all the qualities of a leader.
While both novels clearly have many differences the most evident being the settings, but both novels have a reoccurring theme of freedom and confinement and how both characters of the story want to break from societal norms and want the freedom of choice. The Savage thoroughly expresses his desires to have the freedom of choice. The most notable and obvious example of this occurs on page 215, “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness…” The idea of wanting freedom and rejecting confinement is the premise of the character. The Savage was not raised in the normal circumstances he lived away on a reservation where they too have the ability of the freedom of choice on this reservation they still practice marriage, family life, and natural birth which are all viewed to be unorthodox and primitive.
After experiencing life within the new society The Savage escapes to a life of solitude and confinement (page 218) “The Savage had chosen as his hermitage the old lighthouse which stood on top of the hill…” but to no prevail as he was followed and continuously gawked and marveled. Again we see even more evidence to support the theme of confinement when Mustapha Mond says (page 45/46) “but everyone belongs to everyone else.” Although as cryptic as it may appear to be but Mond is implying that we as humans are essentially property and owned by things such as instincts and old traditions, like the savages who are stuck in the old ways. But that has been deemed obsolete and was eradicated by the new society.
These themes are still prevalent within the novel of Huckleberry Finn and much more explicitly stated by Finn’s actions as well as verbally. While living with the widow Huck is taught to be educated and civilized and he is rarely given the chance to do what he wants, unless he sneaks off to be a part of Tom Sawyer’s gang. But his discontent with his current lifestyle is made noticeable very early on when being taught how to be civilized by the widow Finn eventually gets fed up with the constant chastisement (page 6), “all i wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was change.” All Finn wants is the freedom to do what he chooses to do and not be commanded to live by society’s rules, especially ones he doesn’t agree with. Eventually Finn has had enough and sets out to live on his own and be governed by his own choices, but it doesn’t come easily for him. For a moment Finn is seen living with his father in a remote cabin but in reality Finn is treated like a prisoner and is in a constant state of solitary confinement. “He kept me with him all the time, I never got the chance to run off . We lived in that old cabin, and he always locked the door and put the key under his head at nights.” (page 25).
It doesn’t take him long to grow restless of his current situation and eventually he longs for freedom and is willing to do anything to get it, “so by-and-by I got the old split bottom chair, and clumb up, easy as I could, not to make any noise, and got down the gun. I slipped down the ramrod to make sure it was loaded, then laid it across the turnip barrel, pointing it towards pap.” (page 31). Of course Finn chooses the latter option and makes a quiet and clean escape from his prison and goes on to live free of confinement and with his freedom.
Both novels have written within them many different tones and some may be more stated than the rest. This is especially seen in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the author relies heavily on the idea of colloquialism. This is easily seen during the many conversations between Jim and Finn, (page 42) “Well, dey’s reasons. But you wouldn’ tell on me ef I’uz to tell you would you Huck? “Blamed if I would, Jim” “Well, I blieve you Huck, I —I run off.”
Each of Twain’s characters appear to have different levels of education and with the colloquial style he is able to show that through the dialogue, not only does it set the tone but it also builds his characters. This appears throughout the story and can also be seen within internal dialogue (page 13) “I says to myself, if a body can get anything they pray for, why don’t Deacon Winn get back the money he lost on pork? Why cant the widow the snuff box that was stole.” We can see that Finn has somewhat of an education and that he is philosophical and Twain has use colloquialism to show depth to his characters. When speaking with Jim Finn tends to be more simple to him but on his own Finn can be complex and philosophical.
While Finn is written in the style of colloquialism A Brave New World takes on a rather compare and contrasting tone as author Aldous Huxley often compares the new world with the old world and the savages. (page 44) “Freud had been the first to reveal the appalling dangers of family life. The world was full of fathers— therefore was full of misery; full of mothers— therefore every form of perversion from sadism to chastity; full of brothers, sister, aunts, and uncles— therefore full of madness and suicide.” While (page 45) “and yet among the savages of Samoa, the tropical sunshine lay like warm honey on the naked bodies of the children tumbling promiscuously among the hibiscus blossom.” Immediately the comparison of the two worlds is made, the new world is condemning the ways of the old blaming the for perverting the children.
Cheerful Boy, Summer, Sun
For a writing piece to be considered an ‘Unreliable Narration’, there are three main criteria that, generally speaking, must be met: What the author knows, what the narrator knows, and what the society in the story believes is acceptable. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn meets these specifics by exhibiting a tale in first-person point of view of a homeless, uneducated twelve or thirteen year old boy who simply goes by “Huck”. Huck lives in a Southern town plagued by age old prejudice beliefs of racism and practices of slavery. He is especially naïve to the social implications of his actions throughout the novel up until the ending, thus making him an unreliable narrator. This leaves a large portion of the novel’s message open to interpretation, thereby contributing directly to the theme of Mark Twain’s vehement anti-slavery idealogies.
An illustration of this can easily be seen in the character Jim and his relationship to Huck. In this case, Huck is an unreliable narrator, and his naïve misreading of situations creates dramatic irony, which contrasts the cruelty of slavery in the South to Huck’s carefree and joyfull idiosyncrasies.
To elaborate on the idea of an unreliable narrator contributing to the theme, take for instance Jim’s plight for freedom. He flees from the evil slaveholder Miss Watson in order to pursue a free life. His only wish is to save his family from the cruelties of slavery. During a journey down a river to continue to flee from oppression, Jim protects Huck, not in the manner of a slave servant, but rather as a friend. Twain utilizes an unreliable narration through Huck to exemplify the common, yet evil, practices of slavery in the South while also encouraging empathy for Jim. As mentioned before, only in the final section of the novel does Twain develop this internal and external conflict concerning slavery: If Huck were to free Jim, that would condemn Huck to Hell. If he chooses not to, that would force Jim into a life of misery. This leads Huck to abandon all things “sivilised” in order to free Jim from the literal chains and metaphorical shackles of slavery.
In addition to this, Huck’s unreliable narration is shown through his blatantly racist ideas that Jim had “an uncommon level head for a nigger.’ This portrays Huck’s indoctrination of prejudice believes set upon him by the South. Or in other words, Huck displays what the current society deems as acceptable. To reiterate, everything in the novel is filtered through Huck, the reader then has to rely solely on him to accurately convey whatever happens in the novel. And yet one cannot overstate the truthfulness and rather earnest way Huck carries himself. All of this can directly add on to the underlying theme of racial equality through the lens of a young, uneducated, and filthy boy.
The Story of a Boy with a Big Heart
Meghan WalshHonors American Literature
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain has been called both a brilliant piece of satire and a piece of racist trash. The premise of this “American Classic” is that two socially outcasted characters, an abused boy escaping his drunken father and an escaped slave, come together to escape the Southern states and create a new life in the free states. They attempt this by building a raft and floating down the Mississippi River, then floating back up a different river to get to free territory. Apparently unbeknownst to them, they could have just crossed the river to get to free territory instead. Their journey is brought to a halt many times. They join forces with two characters known as “the King” and “the Duke”, who make money scamming people. They get caught up in a deadly family feud. They even almost encounter a lynching. By just skimming over the book you may be lead to believe that it is nothing more then an adventure novel, but under the surface, there are many more forces at work underneath the surface. The novel is narrated through the main character Huckleberry Finn’s voice, a young white boy who grew up in the South during the 1830s and 40s.
Especially at the beginning of the novel, Huck’s attitudes and language reflect the time and place of his upbringing. He uses the N-word as a synonym for African Americans and equates “white” with “good” or “nice”, despite most of the white characters in his life being far from perfect: his father was a drunken abusive mess who locked him in a cabin for days on end, he was taken in by an affluent, “christian” family stuck in a multi-generational feud (which no one really knows why it started) that ends in the death multiple people, including a child. Undeniably, this book is controversial in its language, in its characterization, and in its plot points, it pulls no punches. Since its publication in 1884, it has been the subject of intense debate. The debate today is no less sensitive or controversial; it has been both banned in various high schools and put on the required reading list in others. Just as race-relations have changed in the country over the last century, so have the reasons for controversy and debate surrounding Huck Finn. Today, most agree that characterizing an African American character as a good person is not enough to prove a book is not racist; today’s controversy lies in the characterization of the main black character Jim and other African American characters and whether or not the book is an effective satire of white supremacy.While it may not be outwardly racist and would have made an effective satire in a Jim Crow era society, today, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn serves only to reinforce unconscious racial attitudes by making the central African American character, Jim, emotionally unrealistic, stereotyping black people as minstrel characters, and failing to take slavery and its atrocities seriously. It is therefore unsuitable for a school environment, lest we introduce the harmful stereotypes that are present in the novel and enable damaging stereotype-based humor on school grounds.
Jim and African American characters, in order to appear more humorous to a white audience, are characterized more as minstrel caricatures than believable human beings. An example of Jim’s characterization being sacrificed for the sake humor can be found in Chapter 2 when Huck and Tom Sawyer put Jim’s hat a the tree when he’s sleeping and watch as Jim comes to the conclusion he has been visited by a ghost. Soon Jim becomes a local celebrity as other black people come to hear his story. The boys take advantage of his stereotypical superstition for their and the reader’s amusement just as minstrel shows often did. In this scene, Jim and the southern African American population is reduced to your stereotypical superstitious group of black people simply to amuse a white audience. You are expected to laugh at Jim’s superstitiousness the same way you would laugh at a minstrel show. However, when you reduce a character to a caricature, you also lose your empathy for them; we see Jim, in this scene and others, as less than fully human because he is characterized as less than fully human. Forcing black characters, especially Jim, into the molds of minstrel darky keeps them from being whole, fully characterized, human beings who we are capable of empathizing with.
While the middle section is, for the most part, refreshingly free from these caricatures, the evasion sequence, in the words of Peaches Henry in her essay, “The Struggle for Tolerance: Race and Censorship in Huckleberry Finn”, “constitutes an absolute betrayal”. From writing with blood on t-shirts and allowing himself to live with rats and other vermin because a little white boy told him to, the evasion sequence completely reverses Jim’s character development and invalidates what the book attempts to disprove in the middle chapters. What use was it to go through all of the work of developing Jim’s character if you are just going to completely disregard it at the climax of the novel? Fritz Oeschlaeger’s “‘Gwyne to Git Hung’,: The Conclusion of Huckleberry Finn”, as featured in Henry’s essay, outlines this failure to retain a developing character from the middle chapters, writing that “… Jim becomes again the stereotyped, minstrel-show ‘n*gger’ of the novel’s first section, a figure to be manipulated, tricked, and ridiculed by the boys.” Much like characters in a minstrel show, this reduction from human to caricature makes the audience less empathetic to the pain and injustice they suffer.Jim is passive and docile; he is created to be likable through compliance.
Jim is what Julius Lester calls a “black hero”, the only type of black character white people really care for: “faithful, tending to sick whites, not speaking, not causing trouble, and totally passive”. He is exactly the character we see in books, movies, and tv shows to appeal to a white audience- not confrontational, not upstanding. He is passive and faithful. This passivity is painfully obvious in the Evasion sequence. One such example of Jim’s ridiculous passiveness was when Tom said Jim must allow rats and other vermin to live with him in his cell. With very little objection, Jim allows the boys to put rats into his cell. Jim is compliant to Huck and later Tom, and just as outrageously, he’s happy to be this way- all Jim needs to be completely compliant to Huck is Huck’s compassion. Jane Smiley, in her essay, “Say It Ain’t So, Huck” writes about Jim’s affection towards often oppressive or dismissive characters, saying, “If Huck feels positive towards Jim, and loves him, and thinks of him as a man, then that’s enough. He doesn’t actually have to act in accordance with his feelings.” Those who write in favor of Huck Finn often talk about how Huck feels about Jim. They often ignore his actions, which much of the time completely contradict how he feels toward Jim; Huck goes along with Tom’s elaborate plan to free Jim, which ends in Jim almost being put back into slavery, in order to impress Tom and get his approval. He puts Jim’s need to escape slavery in the back of his mind and focuses on his own adventures. Huck does not treat Jim with compassion but Huck feelings toward Jim is enough, and Huck’s “compassion” shouldn’t be enough for an escaped slave to sacrifice all that he’s earned. (Smiley 3) This passivity and complete compliance, brought on because a white boy thinks he is “white inside”, reduces him in the Evasion sequence, and much of the book, to a plaything and a joke.
One of the leading supporters of Huck Finn is David L Smith, who his essay, “Huck, Jim, and American Racial Discourse”, addresses none of the points made by those who reference Jim’s lack of character development and his fall back to a minstrel character stock-types as proof of the evasion sequence’s (and thus the book’s) failure. Smith frequently references how the characterization of Jim contradicts that of the expected characterization of black people in white eyes, but does not give reference any such incident of this from the Evasion Sequence. This avoidance of the evasion sequence by Huck Finn supporters is not uncommon nor is it surprising; proponents of the evasion sequence just can’t seem to disprove that fact that, while at some points during the middle section of the novel we see an attempt at creating a fully developed character, any progress made in Jim’s characterization is completely abolished during the infamous evasion sequence. Many admit that the novel would be better off without the last twenty-five percent of the novel. But it is important to recognize that this section is in the novel, and it therefore completely delegitimizes the entire book and nullifies any character development worked towards in the middle chapters. Smith defends this section by calling Jim morally superior for his actions in the evasion sequence. He writes that “Twain… contrasts Jim’s self-sacrificing compassion with the cruel and mean-spirited behavior of his captors, emphasizing that white skin does not justify claims of superior virtue.” Smith ultimately claims that since a black man is doing the right thing and a white man is not, the book automatically is not racist. Such logic is horribly outdated.
In the twenty-first century, we are far past the days where any tv show, movie, or book is deemed not racist merely if the black character is not horrible and a white character is. We cannot just brush aside all of the stereotypes and characterization-based fallacies peppered throughout the book because in the end Jim is a good person- today, we have higher standards. Because it fails to create a fully emotionally capable human being in Jim, the book itself also fails to take Jim’s needs, escaping slavery, seriously. Like Huck, the book and storyline itself inexplicably does not prioritize Jim’s escape from slavery over Huck and Tom’s adventures. Not only are we expected to abandon our sense of logic and intelligence by accepting that Jim did not know the pair could simply cross the river to escape to free territory, choosing instead to go deep into the heart of slave territory, we also are expected to lose our empathy for Jim’s condition at this point. It is in this moment, when the book completely writes off that they could simply cross over the river to free territory, that we learn slavery will not be an issue brought to the forefront of the novel. When Jim and Huck are forced down the river completely illogically into slave territory, we should realize Jim’s escape from enslavement will not be a deep and philosophical plot point, but instead, an excuse for adventure. And “adventure” should not be the first word that comes to your mind when you think of escaping slavery. This completely illogical behavior is prevalent throughout the book. Most outrageously, he allows Tom to impede and seemingly foil his escape completely through a series of meaningless and harmful tasks for Tom’s own amusement. He scribbles on t-shirts with his own blood and is repeatedly bitten by the rats he allowed Tom to put in his cell. And most outrageously, he sacrifices his escape simply to please a boy he undeservingly gave his compassion.
The evasion sequence doesn’t prove the morality of black people, it delegitimizes and brushes aside African American’s systematic maltreatment and abuse at the hands of slavery.To the impressionable teenage mind, such stereotypes and generalizations can be extremely harmful. While the book may help blatant racists realize that black people are not, in fact, the worst, in today’s society, making teenagers read Huck Finn will only reinforce biases that can serve to create racial tensions in a school environment. In short, I discourage Wayland High School from putting Huck Finn in the required reading list. Even if you think that Twain had some “deeper meaning” in his characterization of Jim (which would directly contradict Twain’s personal beliefs), you cannot expect your average teenager, at their age and ability level, to understand it.
Whether you believe if the novel is a brilliant satire or racist trash, the stereotyping of African Americans and the disregard for their needs, no matter the purpose, is more likely to resonate with a teenager than with any “deeper meaning”. Henry voiced similar concerns about giving such a book to teens, saying that for adolescents, “… the more obvious negative aspects of Jim’s depiction may overshadow the more subtle uses to which they are put.” Even the most wholehearted and determined supporters of Huckleberry Finn must admit that there is indeed scenes in which African Americans are characterized in stereotypical ways for comedic effect- that is undeniable. Smith himself wrote that, “could be excused as a characteristic of the genre of humor within which Twain works.” Justin Kaplan, another determined Huck Finn supporter, justified this comedic stereotyping as a way of healing race relations in America. To Kaplan, I ask: how did the stereotypical humor of the minstrel shows help race-relations in the nineteenth century? How does blackface help race-relations today? The results for both were that of even more oppression and greater strain on race relations. Now imagine if Kaplan’s and Smith’s logic was applied to schools.
No doubt, the results would be catastrophic. If we hand out and actively support such a book, one that stereotypes for the sake of humor, into the hands of adolescents, are we not enabling if not encouraging teens to do the same in the school hallways and on social media? Are teachers to teach students that they should make stereotypical jokes to laugh their way to the end of racism as Kaplan suggests? What social repercussions would be a result of these teachings? Especially in the environment of a high school, we cannot risk reinforcing and encouraging stereotypes by making students read such a book. Indeed, due to its rampant stereotyping of black characters, characterization of Jim, it’s failure to take slavery seriously, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn simply has no place as an American Classic in the 21st century and certainly no place in the classrooms of Wayland High School.
The Theme of Morality and Cruelty in the Conscience of Huckleberry Finn and from Cruelty to Goodness
Dictionary meanings of cruelty and morality do not fully define the two concepts at an empathetic level, as they deserve to be understood. The following essay is a reflection on the readings of Jonathan Bennett and Phillip Hallie and is meant to provide an alternative humane description of the two concepts while at the same time exposing the flaw in their dictionary meanings.
Cruelty, as understood by Phillip Hallie, refers to the act of knowingly subjugating a fellow human being in suffering. However, Hallie was more focused on a specific kind of cruelty known as institutionalized cruelty (Hallie, 1981). He defined it as cruelty perpetrated towards victims while at the same time minimizing the guilt and empathy of the torturer and killing the esteem of the victim such that he or she believes that they deserve the cruel treatment. He stated that the cruelty manifested itself in a relationship between the torturer and the victim, which has been happening for a long time with the torturer constantly humiliating his victim. He referred to this as the power relationship. Therefore, it can be concluded that the conventional meaning of cruelty is not sufficiently thorough in defining cruelty since it simply ties it to the infliction of pain.
Hallie defined the power relationship as an association between a torturer and a victim in which not only has the torturer convinced their conscience and the victim that the torture is warranted but also where the victim himself believes that he deserves the inhumane treatment. This power relationship is established when a party in the majority has more physical or economic over the other party. In such a scenario, when the stronger party despises the weaker party for being weak and the weaker party gives in to the sentiment, then the power relationship of cruelty develops (Hallie, 1981). According to Hallie, the power relationship ultimately leads to cruelty since human beings are not forgiving of weakness in the sense that, they may feel pity for the weak but their tolerance for the weak diminishes over time thus negating previously held pity and replacing it with apathy. Thereby, while a traditional definition of cruelty may revolve around disparities in physical strength, Hallie paints a more dynamic definition involving political and economic power disparities.
The Le Chambon village, according to Hallie, serves to demonstrate unambiguous goodness during the Second World War. According to Hallie, the villages rescued about six thousand children from Nazi concentration camps and cared for them in their homes against the directives of the German and French governments who sent soldiers to thwart their noble cause. Thereby, Hallie states that the opposite of cruelty is hospitality, as the residents of Le Chambon had demonstrated. Hallie defines hospitality as kind treatment that embodies an efficacious and unsentimental kind of love. He stated that it was not just the use of power to end cruelty, but in the sharing of that power so as to include the victim in the partaking of whatever little that the host has. He states that the Chambonians embodied that kind of hospitality in their actions (Hallie, 1981).
Jonathan Bennett defines bad morality as the type of morality that is in dissonance with a holder’s conscience and whose principles he deeply disapproves. In the above description, morality references the principles that one follows to provide him a sense of right or wrong (Bennett, 1974). Conscience on the other hand refers to the feeling in one’s consciousness that determine if an action taken is good or bad. In presenting a case where the issue of morality is rife, Bennett uses that story of Huckleberry Finn by mark twain. Its main significance in the book is to show how sympathy and morality are interconnected. He showed, in choosing sympathy over one’s morality, that Finn did the good thing and that morality can be wrong if it conflicts with one’s conscience.
Bennett compares the morality of Himmler to Edward’s and concludes that Edward’s is worse. However, I am of the opinion that Himmler’s morality is of a worse variety when compared to Edward’s. This is because Himmler’s morality conflicts sympathy for other human beings. This is because Edward’s morality might not always lead to cruelty. This is because one is capable of doing something good in respect to a correct and rational moral principle even if one is apathetic and emotionless (Bennett, 1974). Sympathy is therefore a non-issue if one seeks to have a good morality since one can act against it. Even though Bennett believes that intentions have a greater bearing than actions when considering the consequences of morality, I am of a different stance. I believe that men’s morality should be judged upon their actions and not the intentions behind them. This is because all examples that history serves us about times where immorality happened among people, it pays precedence to the cruel things people did to each other and not to what they thought about each other.
While dictionary definitions of morality and cruelty have given us conventional meanings, as Bennett and Hallie demonstrate, there is more to the two concepts. Institutionalized cruelty is worse that cruelty as a result of inflicting pain. While there is a relation between sympathy and morality, sympathy is not a prerequisite for the presence of morality. This is because paying credence to sympathy while judging morality can produce three examples of bad morality as demonstrated by Bennett.
Historical and Social Benefits of Mark Twain’s Novel the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
For those who are responsible for educating the next generation to abandon realism and shy away from controversy is a shame. Yet this is slowing becoming our reality in America. A timeless staple in American literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is currently wrapped up in a flurry of debate about whether it should remain a part of school curriculum, as it is in 70% of American high schools (PBS). In Twain’s novel, Huckleberry Finn, a Southern boy, runs away from his abusive father along with a runaway slave, Jim. During their misadventures through the 1800’s South, they encounter racism and other hardships. Often hailed as “The Great American Novel”, Mark Twain’s critically acclaimed masterpiece carries with it an extensive array of controversy such as coarse language and racial stereotyping. Despite many critics pushing for the revocation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a required reading due to coarse language and racial stereotypes, Twain’s novel is an essential part of any high schooler’s education on the issues of racism, past and present, and therefore should remain a required reading.
Those who oppose The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn being a required reading in schools almost universally cite the novel’s coarse language, saying that it is much too inappropriate to expose to students. In fact, according to writer Dean Rader’s count calculations, the word ‘nigger’ appears in the novel 219 times. This racial slur remains the main focal point of critics’ arguments. They insist that the excessive use of this term was unnecessary and offends many people while soiling the minds of children. This belief that the book insults certain groups and causes discomfort in the classroom is certainly not new. In fact, the dean of a school that recently pulled Huckleberry Finn from its curriculum defended their decision by saying, “We have all come to the conclusion that the community costs of reading this book… outweigh the literary benefits. [Some students] found the use of the N-word to be challenging, and [the school is] not being inclusive” (Hall). Without the use of this word however, Twain’s novel has decisively less impact. Many students continue to believe that the literary benefits of reading such a novel stretch far and wide. After reading Huckleberry Finn, Tom Jan, a high school senior, wrote his reflections on the novel. “[The book] has values that students need to be taught. [Also], this book can help students mature and grow in life. It’s the kind of book that makes you really think about what [Twain] was trying to say” (Jan). From this novel, students are able to learn history, but not just the type of textbook education one receives in history class. From Twain’s novel, students are able to grasp the true reality of the time period. As students read Huckleberry Finn, the sudden realization that the oppression and discrimination going on the in novel are not just a hypothetical scenario but rather the reality of the 1800s turns their world upside down. PBS interviewed high school students who read Huckleberry Finn, and one eleventh grader recalls, “Racism was always part of the conversation… until this unit I didn’t really realize how much racism continues today” (PBS). The reading of Twain’s novel widens students’ historical perspectives on racial issues and opens their eyes to this issue that continues to fester today. While students may not feel comfortable with the topic at first, they cannot argue with the fact that racism was a huge issue plaguing the country in the nineteenth century and has evolved to live on in present day America. Not everything in life is cream and sugar, and Twain certainly doesn’t sugarcoat any events in the novel. Near the beginning of the novel, Huck’s abusive and racist father known as Pap sprouts a drunken rant about blacks and voting. “There was a free nigger there, from Ohio… They said he could vote when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to?… when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote… I says I’ll never vote agin” (Twain 36-37). For a high schooler to read this and to understand what this time period was really like is eye opening. The very idea that this kind of language and these ideas were not only tolerated but widespread throughout the area at the time truly stuns students and progresses their knowledge of history and racial issues. Without using such radical language, Huckleberry Finn would be nowhere near as impactful for students as it currently is. Twain’s usage of this type of language is a harsh wake-up call for students and instantly exposes them to the true histories of current racial divides. The entirety of Huckleberry Finn is something that could truly have happened in the 1800’s and from that, students get a valuable lesson in the realities of life.
Another common point brought up by those who wish to see the removal of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from school curriculaum is that the racial stereotyping and racist scenarios scattered throughout the novel may make it difficult for students to read. An example of racial stereotyping critics bring up is Jim’s ignorance about the world. While sailing on their raft, Huck and Jim get into an argument about languages. Jim appears to be unable to grasp the concept that different languages besides English exist. He ponders, “Well, then, why ain’t it natural and right for a FRENCHMAN to talk different from us? You answer me that… why doan’ he TALK like a man? You answer me DAT!” (Twain 92). Critics point out that this debate between Huck and Jim highlight the depiction of blacks as ignorant and uneducated. However, what they fail to realize is that Jim, as a former slave, would receive minimal to no education to begin with and therefore it is only logical for him not to understand many basic concepts readers today might. Jim’s lack of education also further highlights racism from an educational inequality standpoint. Since the colonial era, blacks were often times not educated, which just perpetuated the cycle of slavery, poverty, and ignorance, hence the reason why these stereotypes exist today. The stereotypes are not a result of ignorance on the part of non-blacks but rather a result of the inaction or oppositional action that whites take when faced with issues of racial inequality. Thus, another invaluable talking point is brought into the classroom and yet another reason emerges as to why The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should continue being taught in the classroom. Jim’s argument has sense to it, and is a very good point for someone who has received the little education he has had. This is a direct contrast to the arguments and other racially charged speeches by many of the white characters in the book. Pap’s rant on blacks’ right to vote, for example, is groundless and completely irrational. Twain confirms this very shortly after Pap’s rant, as
Pap was agoing on so he never noticed where his old limber legs was taking him to, so he went head over heels over the tub of salt pork and barked both shins… he let out with his left foot all of a sudden and fetched the tub a rattling kick. But it warn’t good Judgment… now he raised a howl that fairly made a body’s hair raise, and down he went in the dirt, and rolled there, and held his toes. (Twain 37)
Pap gets so fervid while rambling on about why America shouldn’t let blacks vote that he trips and hurts his leg, then injures his toe while bemoaning his injured leg. Pap proceeds to ironically hop around like an animal, right after comparing all blacks to animals. Add this humorous turn of events onto such an ignorant diatribe and it is clear that Twain intended this scene to be a satirical depiction of many Southerners’ thoughts on African Americans. When compared to Jim’s thoughts on languages, Pap’s tirade is completely absurd and devoid of sense. Those who believe that Twain is trying to paint Jim and other blacks in a negative light typically only look at the surface of the scene and not the deeper meaning. Twain pounces on this opportunity to make people who believe whites are inherently smarter than blacks look foolish. In addition, critics fail to see the parallels between Jim and Huck’s dialogue and slavery in general. Jim can’t believe that people speak different languages, since everyone is supposedly the same. However, if everyone is the same, why are some people enslaved while others free? This theme of racial inequality is presented all throughout the novel and, contrary to opponents’ beliefs, not because Twain’s novel is based on a racist core. Instead, Twain is using his novel as a basis to promote discussion on racial issues, which is a crucial lesson for teachers to explore in the classroom.
In conclusion, Twain’s novel should be kept a required reading in schools due to the literary, historical and social benefits it can bring students. Twain’s novel requires careful analysis to understand the issues he is trying to bring to the table by using irony and satire. Students are more aware of racism today after having read about racism in the nineteenth century and drawing their own parallels regarding segregating behavior then and today. After reading Huckleberry Finn, students are made more aware of racial issues. Mark Twain’s eye-opening words put into their hands the tools they need to shape a better, more equal tomorrow. History is harsh, but there’s no use sugarcoating it. It is unalterable. The only thing humans can do from it is learn and change the future.
How Huck Has Changed During the Novel
Huck vs. Tom, a Show of Maturity
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Huck’s level of maturity and overall independence drastically changes throughout the novel. Huck begins the novel very immaturely with a misdirected moral compass and even less intellectual independence. As he travels down the river, his experiences vastly improve his maturity, morality, and most importantly his intellectual independence. The slow but steady change is almost imperceptible while the novel unfolds but becomes clear when Huck rejoins with Tom and their now very different personalities clash. . . .
In the final chapters, Tom and Huck arrive at a compromise that makes clear that Huck is no longer the immature character he was in the beginning. At the end of the novel, Huck and Tom are breaking Jim out of jail. Tom wants to use a case-knife like he read about in the books he has read, but Huck disagrees with him and wants to use the proper tool for the job, the pickaxe:
‘It might answer for you to dig Jim out with a pick, without any letting on, because you don’t know no better; but it wouldn’t for me, because I do know better. Gimme a case knife.’ He had his own by him, but I handed him mine. He flung it down, and says: ‘Gimme a case-knife.’ I didn’t know just what to do—but then I thought. I scratched around amongst the old tools, and got a pickaxe and give it to him, and he took it and went to work, and never said a word. He was always just that particular. Full of principle.’ (Twain 247)
Even though Huck gives Tom a pickaxe when he asked for a case-knife, Tom just pretends it is a case-knife. Tom goes right to work and does not say anything like he is aggravated by Huck’s foolish behavior. Huck says Tom is “full of principle” this is just Huck calling Tom stubborn; however, he uses the word “principle,” which has a positive connotation, instead of the word “stubborn,” which has a negative connotation. Huck does this because he understands that if he calls Tom stubborn he will get angry. Huck carefully measures the words he uses with Tom so both of them are not sidelined by a futile verbal argument.
At the beginning of the novel, however, Huck would not have been this mature, he would not have reacted very differently instead of taking Toms word as gospel. Before the scene below, Tom had formed his so-called gang of robbers that were going to rob a stagecoach, But there was no stagecoach, just kids playing, Tom imagined the whole thing. Huck describes the whole incident as follows.
‘I didn’t believe we could lick such a crowd of Spaniards and A-rabs, but I wanted to see the camels and elephants, so I was on hand next day, Saturday, in the ambuscade; and when we got the word we rushed out of the woods and down the hill. But there warn’t no Spaniards and A-rabs, and there warn’t no camels nor no elephants. It warn’t anything but a Sunday-school picnic, and only a primerclass at that. We busted it up, and chased the children up the hollow; but we never got anything but some doughnuts and jam, though Ben Rogers got a rag doll, and Jo Harper got a hymn-book and a tract; and then the teacher charged in, and made us drop everything and cut. I didn’t see no di’monds, and I told Tom Sawyer so. He said there was loads of them there, anyway; and he said there was A-rabs there, too, and elephants and things. I said, why couldn’t we see them, then? He said if I warn’t so ignorant, but had read a book called Don Quixote, I would know without asking. He said it was all done by enchantment. He said there was hundreds of soldiers there, and elephants and treasure, and so on, but we had enemies which he called magicians; and they had turned the whole thing into an infant Sunday-school, just out of spite. I said, all right; then the thing for us to do was to go for the magicians. Tom Sawyer said I was a numskull.’ (Twain 21)
In this incident, Huck hesitates to attempt to talk sense into Tom, but gives up as soon as Tom pushes back. Huck says “I didn’t see no di’monds, and I told Tom Sawyer so.” This shows how Huck was not able to imagine the whole scene and he told Tom so. Huck then says “He said if I warn’t so ignorant, but had read a book called Don Quixote, I would know without asking.” This means that Huck attempted to tell Tom that he was being stupid but Huck looked up to Tom so much that Tom was able to simply tell Huck that he was wrong and Huck just went along with it. Tom talks about the book Don Quixote a satire on the adventure novels of the middle ages.
The way Huck reacted to the Case-knife incident and the Stagecoach incident shows how Huck developed from the beginning to the end of the novel. Huck shows a significant amount of intellectual development from the beginning to the end of the novel. Huck had a contradictory personality in which he was very immature and only acted to better his self-interest without any thought for those around him while treating Tom like a god. Even when he saw that Tom was being foolish he did not doing anything about it because he saw Tom in rose-tinted lenses. Tom tells Huck about the book Don Quixote, which tells the tale of a man who was obsessed with chivalrous adventures, he decides to put them into action. This book was a satire of these novels; however, I don’t believe that Tom understood this. The book’s attitude closely patterns Huck’s mature vision at the end of the book then he realizes that Tom is bewitched by imaginary delusions of grandeur. This is how Huck is making a satire of Tom at the end of the book. Just like how Don Quixote was a satire on the chivalrous action of the knights in the middle ages.
The contrast between the original Huck and the mature Huck is exemplified by the fact that Huck says that he does not want to go to heaven because he wants to be with Tom in hell, but by the end of the book Huck is disagreeing with tom — something unthinkable at the beginning of the book but he is mature enough to keep this quiet in order to help Jim escape. This shows just how attached Huck was to Tom. He was willing to go to hell just to be with him. Jumping ahead to the end of the book Huck is disagreeing with Tom and is able to stay quiet and go along with Tom foolishness so they can help Jim. He calls Tom “full of principle” because Tom would view it as a compliment and not stop digging Jim out, however, this was the equivalent of Huck calling Tom stubborn. By saying this he was able to vent his feelings and control his emotions in order to complete his goal of getting Jim out. This is a clear show of maturity because a common trait of children is that they are unwilling to let things go. In addition, it is considered a good personality trait to pick your battles and not argue with everyone especially if it won’t accomplish anything productive. Huck was able to just allow Tom to act out his fantastical adventures because it will be quicker than if Huck was to get into an argument with Tom.
Twain uses the character Tom from his previous book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a less ambitious adventure novel, to contrast with Huck and show a much deeper understanding of the development of maturity and moral understanding that Huck gains throughout the novel. Huck learns to think on his own and make logical decisions that cause Huck to have major intellectual developments as he becomes independent not longer bound by the ideas and decisions of others.
In the beginning of the novel, Huck is just as immature and childish as Tom and looked at Tom as if he had unchecked power. As Huck went down the river he had many new experiences along the way and over time drastically changes into the mature person we see at the end of the novel. Twain brings Tom back at the end in order to show the reader just how much Huck has changed. It is very difficult to see Hucks progression because there is no one moment that Huck changes, it’s much more gradual. When Huck and Tom reunite it allows Huck to be contrasted with Tom, who has not changed at all, and it becomes clear the immense and drastic change that happened to Huck along his journey.
The Idea Of Moral Development in The Novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” By Mark Twain
Maturing and developing a set of moral standards is a difficult process for young individuals; independence is often sought after, but the realization of being truly alone has a drastic impact on a person’s decisions. In the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain explores the idea of moral development through the character Huckleberry, who is a young teenager battling with the ideas of right and wrong. One of the many dilemmas Huck faces on his journey is whether or not he is right to be assisting the slave Jim in his escape from bondage. The moment at which Huck makes the decision to free Jim at all costs is representative of one of Twain’s most prevalent themes, morality; the main character undergoes an extreme transformation of character when he debates over the right step to take regarding Jim.
Huck’s struggle to find the right action to take reaches a peak near the end of the story; this is also where his character comes a profound realization that shapes the way he sees the world. This moment is the most pivotal point in Huck’s ethical progression; he is finally challenging the societal rules dictating his and Jim’s lives and attempting to formulate his own standards. After escaping a strict household where his life was essentially controlled by the Widow Douglas, he finds it difficult to break the law and help a runaway slave escape. However, Huck finds it ironic that even though the Widow is a devout Christian that preaches love and mercy, she and her equally faithful sister have nothing against slave ownership whatsoever.
Upon reaching a conclusion, he tears up a letter written to Jim’s owner about the runaway’s whereabouts and simply says, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” Huck recognizes that his former guardians, who attempted to instill Christian values within him, would recognize it as immoral, but he believes that what he is doing is proper. Assisting a runaway slave in the mid-nineteenth century is not a simple matter, but Huck is willing to take an extreme risk and do so. By tearing up the letter, Huck is in effect tearing the societal institutions that deem his actions improper. At this point, Huck realizes that he is in control of his own life; he should not rely on any higher power or older person to tell him what to do or how to live. After being forced to live in a “civilized” manner for so long, he finally got the chance to experience life away from his previously mundane one. The fact that he is willing to “go to hell” shows quite a bit about his personality at this point; he dictates the rules of his own life and he will do whatever he wants.
A drastic difference is seen between the rebellious, uncivilized boy at the beginning and the upstanding individual near the end of the novel. Huck began by mindlessly following in the footsteps of his friend Tom Sawyer without thinking twice about his decisions. At one point, he even suggested that the rest of his gang should murder his guardians if he broke one of their agreements. His lack of compassion in the beginning sharply contrasts with how empathetic Huck is at the end. Throughout his journey, he feels sympathy for all manner of people: thieves, drunks, robbers, swindlers, murderers, and even the wealthy; interestingly, Huck rarely shows concern for Jim’s situation as a runaway slave. Although he once showed regret after pulling a prank on his friend, he hardly considered what Jim might have been going through. Huck then recalls how Jim would care for him and protect him under all circumstances without fear.
When Huck makes the final decision to free Jim, he also realizes how much he has neglected the slave; up until that point, he had shown less care for his friend than he had for other, more well-situated groups of people. This is the moment where Huck becomes aware of the nature of society he was raised in; the rules that are enforced by the people around him are fundamentally flawed. While others may see Jim as a criminal or piece of property, he sees him as a friend and a unique human being. This is perhaps one of the most crucial pieces of his character development; after all the time he spent with Jim in the cruel outdoors, he finally sees his companion’s value in his own life. Huck’s understanding of right and wrong is drastically changed by this single moment in the story. He knows that society is wrong for upholding such fallacious rules, and he refuses to abide by them any longer out of love for Jim.
Twain’s entire novel shows the slow progression of an ignorant juvenile as he is molded into a wise young man through his experiences away from civilization. Refusing to be a pawn of society, Huck wholly represents what Twain perceives as a true American: a proactive individual that independently distinguishes between right and wrong, living life according to his own laws.
Slavery in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and in The Piano Lesson
Was the lasting effect of slavery in America over by the 1930s? In The Piano Lesson, August Wilson illustrates that blacks in America, specifically in the 1930s, are still haunted by the poverty that slavery left them in. There are many similarities and differences between slavery in the 1840’s in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and slavery in the 1930’s in The Piano Lesson.
The Symbol of Strong Bonds
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain uses the raft that Jim and Huck are sailing on across the Mississippi River as a symbol that the relationship between them is unbreakable as they are escaping to freedom. As Twain writes, “Jim and me was pretty glad to see it. It took away all the uncomfortableness and we felt mighty good over it, because it would a been a miserable business to have any unfriendliness on the raft; for what you want, above all things, on a raft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind towards the others (Chapter 9, page 5).” Huck and Jim were able to work their little fight out on the boat which gives Huck some relief. Huck and Jim friendship is so strong that they can work things out even out on a crowded raft. Similarly, in The Piano Lesson, August Wilson uses the piano as a symbol of the Charles’ family bond that the family holds within themselves and is worth everything to them. In both, Twain and Wilson use the raft and the piano respectively, to represent themes of the story. The raft with Jim and Huck on it represents the strong bonds of friendship, and the piano represents strong family relationships.
Additionally, in both The Piano Lesson and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn we see the theme of religion (specifically Christianity) playing a key role. Huck is always being told to go to Sunday School and Church. Even though Huck does not like civilization, the book still emphasizes Christianity and the religious life as the proper way of living. In The Piano Lesson Christianity is felt in the play, mostly through Avery, a black minister who is trying to grow his congregation.
The Rights of Black People
Prior to the Civil War, the time period that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes place, it was unthinkable for a black person to buy land. Throughout the novel, Jim, who has no rights, is consistently on the run and is always scrapping for money. On the contrary, it is evident from The Piano Lesson that although blacks were still suffering from slavery, it was still very different than when they were actually enslaved. August Wilson is trying to show this through Bernice, a single, black woman who owns the house that the movie takes place in. A single, black woman owning a house was unthinkable in the 1840s.
Additionally, another difference between the piano lesson and Huckleberry Finn is how the main characters in each values their family relationships. We see In Huckleberry Finn that Huck really doesn’t get along with his father and his father even kidnaps him once he finds out about the large sum of money. As it says “Pap he hadn’t been seen for more than a year, and that was comfortable for me; I didn’t want to see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on me; though I used to take to the woods most of the time when he was around”. This is showing that Huck wanted absolutely nothing to do with his drunken, lost father. However, in The Piano Lesson the whole opposite thing occurs. Bernice refuses to sell the piano because of the family bonds that the piano represents. We see that Bernice and Huck have a totally different representation of what family means to a individual.
Many people believed that slavery was a thing of the past in the 1930s. However, The Piano Lesson shows us that slavery was still very much present. Although slavery is illegal in the United States, racism is unfortunately still very much a part of the American experience.