Story of the Afterlife

July 25, 2019 by Essay Writer

The afterlife, in accordance to the underworld, includes manifold mythological characters and symbols in the form of the river Styx, Cerberus, Charon, and Hades itself. The journey into the underworld begins with a person’s death and journey for passage into hell, as they need to fulfill certain requirements. Greek mythology suggests the feral river Styx as the insidious river leading into the underworld. On the river souls float along until they meet the requirements, gaining admittance from Charon and Cerberus. The river Styx, “literally means ëhateful’ and expresses loathing of death,” and many Greek philosophers believe the water to be a form of poison (Encarta). Charon, the ferryman on the river Styx, leads souls across the river on his raft into Hades, admitting passage only to those corpses, “containing a coin” (Encarta). Charon also forces those souls lacking the coin to float continuously on the river Styx for one hundred years. In Greek mythology, Cerberus, or “hellhound,” a three-headed dog with a dragon like tail, keeps guard of Hades, admitting souls but letting none escape. The final characteristic of the afterlife, on the side of Hades, includes the description of Hades itself. Hades is the land of the dead where, “It was a dim and unhappy place, inhabited by vague forms and shadows” (Encarta). The characteristics of Hades also add to the atmosphere of death and hopelessness, which surrounds the river Styx. By including the characteristics of the afterlife throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain provides supportive details which present the novel as Huckleberry Finn’s journey through the afterlife and to the gates of Hades.The first and most important requirement for a novel of the afterlife is the inclusion of a deceased character. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain begins the novel by portraying the despondent Huckleberry Finn’s unhappiness in the current world, describing the afterlife and hell as a better home: “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 couldn’t stand it no longer, I lit outÖI felt so lonesome I most wished I was dead” (Twain 1, 3). After escaping from his home, the mercurial Huckleberry Finn returns, only providing his polemical father with an opportunity to take him away to his little edifice, where again Huckleberry Finn finds himself unhappy in his current surroundings. Finally, Huckleberry decides death to be the cure for all his problems and develops an elaborate scheme to “fake” his own passage into the afterlife: “Well last I pulled out some of my hair, and bloodied the ax good, and stuck it on the backside” (Twain 25). In reality, Huckleberry Finn takes his own life to escape life’s parsimonious problems and looks back on the event, as a soul listening to the cannon probing the river for his dead body: “They won’t ever hunt the river for anything but my dead carcass” (Twain 26). The events prior to his escape on the raft to the island develop Huckleberry Finn’s death and begin his journey as a spirit through the afterlife. By providing the novel with the first part of the afterlife, Twain begins to develop The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a novel of Huckleberry Finn’s death and journey through the afterlife and to the gates of Hades.The next requirement for the episodic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to represent Huckleberry’s quest for passage into hell and the afterlife is the inclusion of the river Styx. In the novel, Twain uses connotative phrases and negative imagery to characterize the river, as it includes and exhibits many of the characteristics of the tyrannical river Styx in Hades. Twain begins the description of the river to parallel the river Styx when he creates a sense of hopelessness and trepidation in Huckleberry Finn and Jim as they float down the river, allowing it to dictate their journey with its, “treacherous and capricious” ways (Smith 332). Just after passing St. Louis, Huckleberry Finn and Jim find themselves in the heart of a violent and heinous storm, with no protection as they float submissively down the unforgiving river. Sensing the perilous situation, Huckleberry Finn and Jim gaze in reticence at the surrounding walls of confinement which the domineering river produces: “When the lightning glared out we could see a big straight river ahead, and high rocky bluffs on both sides” (Twain 49). Lightning symbolizes evil and destruction, in association with an enumerable amount of wicked connotative phrases. The dangerous and evil connotative associations with lightning provide a perfect setting for an ominous predator, the daunting river, to lead its victims astray on a terrifying journey. As their journey continues, Huckleberry Finn and Jim encounter further danger as the rivers leads them on a path directly into a steamboat, smashing their raft. Twain describes the steamboat with the connotative phrase “black cloud” in order to illustrate it as a juggernaut in Huckleberry Finn’s path. The menacing river brings the infinitesimal raft and the immense steamboat together, forcing Huckleberry Finn and Jim overboard their shattered transport: “She come smashing straight through the raft” (Twain 71). By leading Huckleberry Finn into such a devastating force, the river displays its ultimate objective to terminate Huck’s quest for freedom and passage into the underworld. Twain’s use of the connotative associations with the color black and lightning, allows him to develop the river as a exasperating snag in Huck’s journey and effectively portray it to represent the river Styx. The representation of the river to be a paradigm of the river Styx, further develops the novel as a story of the afterlife.The next source that Mark Twain uses in, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, to develop the devastating nature of the river, are the illustrations from the first edition. In the first edition book, Mark Twain, “paid (E.W.) Kemble $1,200 and pushed him hard” to illustrate accurate portrayals of the characters and events in the novel (Webster). One of these illustrations includes the wrecked steamboat, containing dead bodies, Huckleberry Finn and Jim encounter. Through the breaks in lighting strikes, Huck spots the wrecked steamboat in the middle of the river: “I see that wreck laying there so mournful and lonesome in the middle of the river” (Twain 50). Through the lighting, connotative to death, Huck discovers the stranded and helpless steamboat, which resides in the middle of the relentlessly destructive river. The description of the marred steamboat provides yet another event Twain uses to develop the river as a destructive force present in the journey of Huckleberry Finn and Jim. Twain also instructs Kemble to include the immobile steamboat in the picture collection of the first edition novel, which creates an even higher elevation and air of destruction as he vividly depicts the destruction of the river (See Fig. 1). The illustrations by E.W. Kemble in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn allow Twain to recall the image present of the steamboat in his mind, thus allowing him to express the full level of destruction present in the corridor of the river. By using such a vivid image to display the steamboat and the death onboard, Twain further develops the river as not only a destructive force but also a merciless one as well. By including the negative images in the pictures, Twain again effectively represents the river in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as the river Styx and the novel as an afterlife story.As Huck continues his journey down the river, Twain again uses the vivid image a picture creates to aid the development of the cunning yet powerful nature of the river and continue its resemblance to the river Styx. When Huckleberry Finn and Jim float down the river, they again stumble upon another victim to the destruction of the river, in the form of a house and a dead man: ” here comes a frame house down [the river]ÖThere was something laying on the floor in the far corner that looked like a manÖ-he’s dead” (Twain 38) (See Fig. 2). Twain again continues to portray the power and destruction of the river, whether it be the destruction of a two-story house or a human being. Also, to show the merciless nature of the river, Twain reveals at the end of the novel the dead body in the corner of the wrecked house to belong to the maladroit Pap Finn as Jim explains to Huckleberry Finn at the end of their journey: “Doan’ you’ member de house dat was float’n down riverÖkase dat wuz him” (Twain 220). Huckleberry Finn’s abusive father serves as his bane and main motivation to stage his death and break from the bondage of life with his father and out for freedom. By later revealing Huckleberry Finn’s grueling journey to escape from his deceased father to be in vain, Twain continues to characterize the evil and stygian nature of the river. By using the connotative and descriptive images the pictures produce, Twain completes the parallel of the river in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the river Styx. By including the vital part of the afterlife, the river Styx, Twin effectively portrays the novel as one of the afterlife.The next requirement The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn needs to fulfill to represent a novel of the afterlife is the inclusion of the old ferryman, Charon and the copious amount of souls he ferries on the river Styx. In the novel Jim befriends Huckleberry Finn and although a slave, Jim encourages Huckleberry Finn to aid him in his search for money to buy his family: “He was saying how the first thing he would do when he got to a free State he would go to saving up moneyÖand when he got enough he would buy his wifeÖthen they would both work to buy the two children” (Twain 66). Jim encourages and joins Huckleberry Finn’s journey to acquire freedom, which would lead them and Jim’s family to freedom and in effect, end Huckleberry Finn and Jim’s journey on the river. By paralleling the river to the river Styx, the quest for freedom represents the quest for the coin the spirit of Huckleberry Finn needs to gain passage into Hades. The encouragement Jim provides in the quest for money and freedom parallels him to Charon as he accompanies Huckleberry Finn on his journey to Hades on the river Styx and reveals the journey’s end when they acquire money and freedom. The inclusion of the quest for a coin to gain entrance into Hades again presents the novel as an afterlife story.The search for a coin also becomes apparent when Huckleberry Finn passes two men on a raft in search of runaway slaves. Huckleberry Finn lies to them about catching small pox, a cover up for his journey, as a spirit, to obtain a coin for admittance into Hades. They believe the spirit’s story and unwillingly provide him with two coins, one for him and the other, ironically, for the ferryman of Hades himself, Jim: “I’ll put a twenty dollar gold piece on this boardÖhere’s a twenty to put on the board for me” (Twain 69). When Huckleberry Finn encounters these men, he obtains the coin he needs for passage with Charon across the river Styx. By including the acquiring of the coin by Huckleberry Finn, Twain provides another situation, which proves the novel to be a story of Huckleberry Finn’s journey through the afterlife.As the spirit of Huckleberry Finn floats down the river, he also encounters a cornucopia of rafts containing others in search of a coin for passage and some who drift hopelessly along for one hundred years: “A monstrous big lumber raft was about a mile up stream, coming along down, with a lantern in the middle of it” (Twain 27). The raft Huckleberry Finn passes also contains souls in search of the entrance coin, which unlocks the gates of Hades and allows them to pass. However, other souls remain destined to wander for one hundred years and Jim directly relates these “lost” souls on the river to spirits: “Once there was a thick fog, and the raftsÖJim said he believed it was spirits” (Twain 89). In the fog on the river Huckleberry Finn and Jim pass another raft and Charon, Jim, recognizes the sounds as spirits who also float along the river Styx. As Charon, Jim only accompanies one spirit on the journey down the river Styx, Huckleberry Finn, and because of it, they pass others who wait for Jim to guide them on their journey. By including Charon and the spirits, whether they obtain the coin or wander for one hundred years, Twain fulfills the requirement of including Hades’ ferryman to further provide support for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a paragon of the afterlife.The main example of passage into the underworld only to those who possess a coin occurs with the deceased Peter Wilks. Huckleberry Finn, the duke, and the king head ashore and impersonate the brothers of the late Peter Wilks and their servant. Recognizing the chance, as spirits, to obtain the coin they need to enter the afterlife, the duke and king formulate a plan to seize the inheritance: “bein’ brothers to a rich dead man, and representatives of furrin heirs that’s got left, is the line of work for you and me” (Twain 125). The duke and king soon learn the inheritance of three thousand gold now belongs to the brothers, which would be them through their impersonations. By seizing the inheritance, the king and duke appear to secure their passage into the underworld, thus ending their journey through the afterlife on the river Styx. Huckleberry Finn battles with his conscience in revealing the true identity of the king and duke, spoiling their plan to be the brothers or rightful inheritors. He then decides to steal the gold and ultimately places it into the coffin of Peter Wilks, and providing him with the coin he needs for passage into the afterlife: “the only place I see to hide the bag was in the coffin” (Twain 135). The next day the town buries Peter Wilks along with the money. The money allows his final burial and peaceful passage with Charon and to the gates of Hades by providing the coin. By burying Peter Wilks only after the coin is in place to provide his passage, Twain concludes the last event of a spirit resting and journeying on into Hades, providing additional support in viewing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a story of the afterlife.The last requirement for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be a representation of the afterlife is Cerberus, the hellhound and guardian dog of Hades. Many events occur in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which involve interaction between the gregarious Huckleberry Finn and dogs. Each time Huckleberry Finn encounters a dog or group of dogs, they chase him back by growling and howling, almost as if to warn him of danger at, for example, the bellicose Grangerford household: “A lot of dogs jumped out and went howling and barking at me” (Twain 72). The dogs prevent the pacifistic Huckleberry Finn from entering the property or house, potentially saving him from a Grangerford mistaking him as a belligerent Shepherdson and shooting. The dogs parallel to Cerberus guarding the gates of Hades, refusing entrance to those lacking the coin, which Huckleberry Finn needs in the form of freedom. By including the reference to dogs in the novel, Twain effectively portrays Cerberus as he stands guard at the gates of Hades. The inclusion of Cerberus effectively develops the novel as the story of Huckleberry Finn’s journey through the afterlife and to Hades.As the novel continues, the audacious Huckleberry Finn seals his fate and ultimate passage into Hades by vocally professing his destination at the end of his journey through the afterlife. Huckleberry Finn, before arriving at Aunt Sally’s domicile, finally recognizes his journey through the afterlife and its purpose, supporting the novel as an afterlife story with one important reference: “I’ll go to hell” (Twain 162). By professing his final destination and wish to go to Hades, Huckleberry Finn seals his own fate and the outcome of his afterlife. Only after professing his final destination as Hades, Cerberus, in the form of Aunt Sally’s dogs, appears at the gates of her home, which symbolizes civilization, the “Hell” in Huckleberry Finn’s life. As Huckleberry Finn enters the grounds of Aunt Sally’s residence dogs quickly surround him as he makes his way towards the house: “a circle of fifteen of them packed together around me, with their necks and noses stretched up towards me” (Twain 166). At first, Cerberus refuses Huckleberry Finn’s admittance into Hades, failing to sense his success in his quest to find freedom, the symbol of the coin he needs to enter. Only after realizing Huckleberry Finn’s acquirement of freedom, the coin, and voicing the final destination of his afterlife, Aunt Sally’s dogs, the stygian Cerberus admits him into civilization, and Hell: “half of them come back, wagging their tails around me and making friends with me” (Twain 166). Upon entrance into Aunt Sally’s home and freedom, Aunt Polly later arrives, taking Huckleberry Finn home into civilization, or as he describes civilization in the beginning, “the bad place, and IÖwished I was there” (Twain 2). Huckleberry Finn completes his journey through the afterlife and finally gains passage to the place he sought to be from the beginning, Hell. By including a parallel to Cerberus, the last element in the afterlife, Mark Twain effectively concludes and provides support to label The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a story of Huckleberry Finn’s journey through the afterlife and successful passage into Hades.The inclusion of the flagrant river, Jim, the dogs, and Huckleberry Finn’s death creates the setting of the novel. In the novel, each piece of the setting executes and depicts a part or idiosyncrasy of the afterlife. By portraying the elements to exhibit characteristics Greek philosophers believed to exist in underworld side of the afterlife, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn stands as an exemplary example of an afterlife novel.Works Cited”Hades.” Encarta Encyclopedia: Microsoft. 2nd Ed. 1998.Smith, Henry Nash. “T.S. Eliot” New York: w.w. Norton and Company Publishing, 1977.Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994.Webster, Samuel. Mark Twain, Business Man. Boston: Little Brown Publishing, 1946.For the 2 figures go here: 1. The Wreck, The Illustrious Huck From the First Edition; Kimble, E.W. Special Collections (Virginia: University of Virginia Library, 1995)Fig. 2. Jim Sees a Dead Man, The Illustrious Huck From the First Edition; Kimble, E.W. Special Collections (Virginia: University of Virginia Library, 1995)

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