The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Is Not a Racist Work
In spite of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn being the source of so much controversy, one can assume that no other piece of American literature has been discussed as heavily as this piece. Mark Twain’s novel has been regarded by many as the greatest literary achievement America has yet produced(Novels for Students), written in 1885 during the regionalism movement, this novel is probably one of the most analyzed books of our time, as well as Twains. Regionalism is a branch of realism that it is sought to portray life realistically, but through dialect and setting. (Mullis).
In Twains art, specifically with Huckleberry Finn, he chose to write a novel that did not conclude with racism, slavery being accepted, instead, through satire mixed with realism, he concludes with this is how bitter and cruel it really is and I hope you see how ridiculous and unjust this reality is (Weebly). With Twain choosing to use regionalism as an approach to reflect what was happening during his time period, he decided to view life in its unpolished, ugly existence(Weebly) and did not try to convince himself that there is [was] a reason slave-owners [made] their slaves suffer (Weebly). He opted to use his own perspective to conclude the corrupt and unethical lifestyle and attitude many people had. The issue of slavery threatened to divide the nation as early as the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and throughout the years a series of concessions were made on both sides in an effort to keep the union together. One of the most significant of these was the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The disturbance began when Missouri requested to enter the union as a slave state. In order to maintain a balance between free and slave states in the union, Missouri was admitted as a slave state while Maine entered as a free one. And although Congress would not accept Missouri’s proposal to ban free blacks from the state, it did allow a provision permitting the state’s slaveholders to reclaim runaway slaves from neighboring free states.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was an American author who wrote two novels that are significant to American Literature, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain displays his experiences and feelings toward racism and slavery as well as his childhood suffering through the characters in the novel. Twain was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri and died April 21, 1910 in Redding, Connecticut (Mark Twain). He is best known as a famous American humorist and for his realistic views of America in the nineteenth century, through his novels and its characters. (citation) He had the whole world captivated through his expert writing and lectures(Finn). “”I never let my schooling interfere with my education””(Seybold), said Mark Twain. Twain recognized that educational achievement was not a product of schools, and it is not always guaranteed by them(Seybold).
In 1839, at the age of four, Twain and his family moved to a nearby town called Hannibal, Missouri, located next to the Mississippi River(Mark Twain), and this is where Twain grew up as a boy. Most of the inspiration for his books came from here, he witnessed things that made him the great author we know today. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a key aspect to American Literature, All American literature comes from one book called Huckleberry Finn,’ Hemingway declared (Churchwell).Without this period in his life, a huge chunk of literary history would be missing from American Literature. Twain lived a pleasant life until he was twelve, at that age his father died and is life fell apart from there (Samuel Clemens). As expected, he was shocked to lose his father at such a young age, but he wanted to do whatever he could to help his family (Mark Twain). Twain dropped out of school around the age of 12 and found employment as an apprentice printer at the Hannibal Courier, which paid him with a small ration of food (Mark Twain).
With the characters and the setting of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn being based off of Twains childhood, one cannot tell if they are real or symbolic. There are multiple characters and events that happened in the book that resemble Twains life. There was an examination of the biographical and historical context surrounding the novels composition [that] reveals Twain was influenced both socially and personally by the declining moral and social conditions of his family in the late 1800s which persuaded him to voice his concerns, cautions, and beliefs through the innocence of a young boy and his adventures. (Shrum).
Twain based his character Huck off one of his childhood friends, Tom Blankenship. Paine says that Tom, was the son of an indigent family, exactly as pictured in [The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn]: a ruin of rags, a river rat kind of heart and possessing the priceless boon of absolute freedom. (23). This description is clearly noticeable in Huck after he escapes from Paps cabin in the woods. Furthermore, Tom Blankenships father was known as old drunken Ben Blankenship (Paine 23), the same as Hucks father in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Shrum). Moreover, Jim: Hucks Negro friend, is in regard to a former slave named Uncle Danl that Twains uncle John Quarles owned. Twain knew him in his boyhood and this is who made him appreciate the black race (Shrum).
In 1851, he began assisting his older brother, Orion, in the production of a newspaper, the Hannibal Journal (Mark Twain). Twain started working at a newspaper called the Daily Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, which is where he first adopted the pen name “”Mark Twain””, by signing a humorous travel account with his new name (Samuel Clemens). He later began contributing his poems, reports, skits, and even humorous sketches to the newspaper for several years (Samuel Clemens). This adding to his education, it was an important piece that made Mark Twain the great American author that he is today (Mark Twain).
Huck Finn was a young boy who had been living with Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, in St. Petersburg, Missouri. The two have been trying to cultivate him with proper manners, religious outlooks, and dressing. Huck soon detects the compelling authenticity in the people around him and would rather be wild and free. When Huck inherits a large amount of money, his father kidnaps and locks him in a cabin across the river. To avoid his father and the beatings he gives him, Huck stages his own death to escape to Jackson Island. Once he meets Miss Watsons runaway slave, Jim, the two of them decide to hideout and undertake a series of adventures together. As the story progresses the duo exploit an array of episodic enterprises, while Huckleberry slowly changes his views of bigotry. Along the way, Huck and Jim meet the King and Duke, who ultimately send the protagonists towards a different route on their journey. Huck deters from their plan to swindle Wilks family out of their inheritance, but the king and the duke escape, and decide to sell Jim to Toms uncle, Silas Phelps. While visiting his aunt and uncle, Tom convinces Huck to join his ridiculous, intricate plan to free Jim. Huck disagrees with this, but he follows behind Tom, as he always does. Upon the conclusion of Toms plan being played out and Jim getting recaptured, Tom reveals that Miss Watson actually freed Jim just before she died, which was months earlier. Huck is faced with the moral dilemma between the world’s prejudice that he grew up with, and the stories Jim has told him and the lessons he taught him about slavery throughout the story as he begins to distinguish right from wrong.
Being one of the most controversial books to ever be published, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first introduced December 10, 1884. Out of all of Mark Twains books, this novel had the greatest success. It is often looked upon as a work of art and as a cultural artifact others see it as degrading. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was one of the earliest pieces of American literature written relying heavily on regionalism. This novel has been the object of controversy since the day it was published, some may argue that Huckleberry Finn is a racist work, and that the novel has no place in a highschool classroom, but the overall story and the meaning behind it is the exact opposite.
Ever since The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first introduced, it has been looked down upon. “”Those who first condemned the novel as being trash objected to it on grounds of both literary merit and racial, social, and economic class.””(James) But, That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they dont know nothing about it. (Twain 2). When the book was released, it was banned by multiple libraries across the south because of its portrayal of African-Americans being seen superior to caucasions and that is not what the story is even trying to tell. Granted the novel does describe white people as violent, stupid, or selfish then portrays Jim to be strong, brave, generous and wise but he is just one character being descried that way, the others are not. Some African-Americans see Huck Finn as a racist novel, others do not agree, the book came under fire from African-American groups for being a strong critism of racism and slavery.(History).
Considering the time this book was written, Jim and Huck should not be associated with each other definitely should not be helping each other out. Huck used to only thought of Jim as an item and never as a real person until their travels together. Huck felt as if he were so full of trouble [that] [he]didn’t know what to do.(Twain 161) because he was helping Jim escape.
Despite Huck feeling guilty for helping Jim, he always does the right thing when it comes to him. Throughout the novel, an intimate relationship is built between the two. Jim states that he couldn’t ever ben free ef it hadn’ ben for Huck; Huck done it. Jim won’t ever forgit you, Huck; you’s de bes’ fren’ Jim’s ever had; en you’s de ONLY fren’ ole Jim’s got now.””(Twain 67). Huck always does the right thing when it comes to Jim, whether he feels guilty about it or not. He is honest and keeps his promises with him also. Loyalty is one of the most important, if not the most important quality when it comes to being friends with someone.
Aside from this novel and all of its controversy, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been viewed as a masterpiece Looking back on Mark Twain, his life, and his novel, one could easily see how they intertwine with one another. Twain lived during a time where racism was still at large, yet he highly disagreed with the lifestyle and he showed this in his novel. His irony makes it hard for some to recognize how he really felt about slavery as well as racism, considering when and where he lived. This piece of American Literature has been objectified since its existence. Some may argue that Huckleberry Finn is a racist work, but its meaning is the exact opposite.
A Webliography and E-Anthology. Virginia Agriculture 2007, www.longwood.edu/staff/lync
Realism. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, huckleberryfinnib.weebly.com/realism.html.
Mark Twain. Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 28 Apr. 2017, www.biography.com/people/mark-twain-9512564.
Seybold, Matt. The Apocryphal Twain: I Have Never Let Schooling Interfere with My Education.””. Center for Mark Twain Studies, 16 Nov. 2017, marktwainstudies.com/the-apocryphal-twain-i-have-never-let-schooling-interfere-with-my-education/.
Finn.””, “”The Adventures of Huckleberry. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed, Encyclopedia.com, 2018, www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/adventures-huckleberry-finn#Author_Biography.
Churchwell, Sarah. Mark Twain: Not an American but the American | Sarah Churchwell. The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Oct. 2010, www.theguardian.com/books/2010/oct/30/mark-twain-american-sarah-churchwell.
Samuel Clemens. Ohio River – New World Encyclopedia, New World Encyclopedia, www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Samuel_Clemens.
Shrum, Heather M. “”Mark Twain’s Portrayal of Family and Relationships in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”” Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse 6.03 (2014).
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