Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
All children have a special place, whether chosen by a conscious decision or not this is a place where one can go to sort their thoughts. Nature can often provide comfort by providing a nurturing surrounding where a child is forced to look within and choices can be made untainted by society. Mark Twain once said “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” Twain states that this education which is provided by society, can actually hinder human growth and maturity. Although a formal education shouldn’t be completely shunned, perhaps true life experience, in society and nature, are a key part of development.
In the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain throws the curious yet innocent mind of Huck Finn out into a very hypocritical, judgmental, and hostile world, yet Huck has one escape–the Mississippi River constantly flowing nearby. Here nature is presented as a thought provoking environment when experienced alone. The river is quiet and peaceful place where Huck can revert to examine any predicament he might find himself in: “They went off, and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low…Then I thought a minute, and says to myself, hold on,- s’pose you’d a done right and give Jim up; would you felt better than you do now? No, says I, I’d feel bad…” (p.127). Only a few weeks with Jim and still feeling great ambivalence, Huck returns to the river to think. Twain tries here to tell the reader how strong the “mob” really is, and only when totally alone is Huck able to make the morally correct decision. The natural flowing and calm of the river cause this deep-thought, show!
ing how unnatural the collective thought of a society can be.
The largest and most obvious test of Huck’s character is his relationship with Jim. The friendship and assistance which he gives to Jim go completely against all that “sivilization” has taught him; at first this concept troubles Huck and causes him a great deal of pain, but over time, through his life experiences and shared times with Jim, Huck crosses the line upheld by the racist South and comes to know Jim as a human being. Huck is at a point in his life where opinions are formed, and by growing on the river, Huck can stand back from society and form his own. Eventually he goes as far as to risk his life for Jim:”And got to thinking of our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time, in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t see no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind…I studied a minute sort of holding my breath, and then I s!
ays to myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’…” (pp.270-271). After a long and thought-provoking adventure, Huck returns to the raft one final time to decide the fate of his friend. Symbolically, Huck makes the morally correct decision away from all others, thinking on the river. Although it might not be evident to himself, Huck causes the reader to see that “sivilization”, in their treatment of blacks especially, is not civilized at all. Every person Huck and Jim come across seems to just be following someone else blindly, as the whole country were some sort of mob.
In the last few chapters, Tom Sawyer is re-introduced and the reader is left to examine how different environments: “sivilization” and nature (the river), have affected the children’s growth. It is distinctly evident that Huck has turned out to be the one with a clear and intelligent mind, and Tom, although he can regurgitate worthless facts about Louis XVI and Henry VIII, shows no real sign of maturity. “The first time I catched up to Tom, private, I asked him what was his idea, time of the evasion?- what it was he planned to do if the evasion worked out all right and he managed to set a nigger free that was already free before? And he said, what he had planned in his head, from the start, if we got Jim out, all safe, was for us to run him down the river, on the raft, and have adventures plumb to the mouth…” (p.360). Huck has always thought of Tom as more intelligent than himself, but he cannot understand how Tom could toy with Jim’s life in such a way. For much time, Huck is!
without the river and it is though his mind clouds; he follows along with Tom playing a sick game until the end when he is once again threatened with being “sivilized”. “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before” (p.362). Huck’s adventure, if nothing else, has given him a wary eye towards “sivilized” society. When the prospect of settling down with Sally is presented he light’s out for the Territory to distance himself from a restrictive, formal education. Twain ends his novel by setting Huck up for a new experience and personal growth.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn taught an important lesson, one that showed the importance of the self in the maturing process. We saw Huck grow up by having the river as a place of solitude and thought, where he was able to participate in society at times, and also sit back and observe society. Through the child’s eye we see how ignorant and mob-like we can all be. Then nature, peace, and logic are presented in the form of the river where Huck goes to think. Though no concise answer is given, the literature forces the reader to examine their surroundings, and question their leaders.