Stories have existed since the beginning of mankind. Going back as far as ancient Greece in history, or even further back, one can examine the many different types of stories that have been passed down to us. The ancient Greeks wrote about gods and developed drama; the Romans passed down biographies of Caesars containing their life achievements as well as their failures; numerous stories questioning the institution of slavery were produced here in America; and finally, due to the development of technology, stories have transformed from merely writings into movies in our society today. Why have tales such as these intrigued us since the beginning of time? Was it merely due to the entertainment aspect, or was it something else? Usually by reading a work of an author, one is able to find a message or moral hidden beneath the storyline. Although Mark Twain?s Adventure of Huckleberry Finn deals with the immorality of slavery, by delving in deeper one can clearly see that Twain is a Realist who despises Romanticism.
One can clearly see Twain?s strive for Realism by examining the dialect used in his book. Even before the story of Huck Finn starts, Twain has an explanatory section explaining his use of dialects. He states that ?[the] shadings have not been done in a hap-hazard fashion, or by guess-work; but pains-takingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.? By examining Pap?s famous speech about the ?govment?, one can see that Twain?s use of dialect brings life into his story by making the reader feel as if he/she is actually there in the cabin listening to Pap speak. ?Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful?There was a free nigger there, from Ohio?they said he was a p?fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain?t the wust. They said he could vote, when he was at home?they told me there was a State in this country where they?d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I?ll never vote agin? (Twain 20). Not only can the reader actually hear Pap?s southern dialect but the reader also becomes aware of his ignorance and his prejudice towards African-Americans. Furthermore, Twain amplifies Pap?s ignorance by using misspelled words and poor grammar such as ?and knowed everything? and ?govment? making the reader believe that this would be the way Pap would actually write the word ?government? if he could write at all.
Jim?s dialect is another epitome of Twain?s realistic writing at work. After Huck returns from being lost in the fog and Jim finally figures out that Huck had played a trick on him, Jim responds the following: ?What do dey stan? for? I?s gwyne to tell you. When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin? for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos? broke bekase you wuz los?, en I didn? k?yer no mo? what become er me en de raf??En all you wuz thinking ?bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck dah is trash? (Twain 65). Once again, Jim?s dialect portrays him as if he is a real character and his dialect shows his lack of education due to his social status as a slave. One can also argue that this passage is quite significant because it also portrays Twain?s realistic views of slavery by making the reader realize that Jim, too, is a human being who has feelings contrary to the popular belief at that time that all slaves weren?t capable of feeling as whites felt. Similarly, when Huck continues and says, ?I wouldn?t done that [trick] if I?d a knowed it would make him feel that way? (Twain 65), the reader is able to realize that Huck is merely an ordinary and innocent boy who has not been brainwashed by society and its views of slaves.
Not only does Twain proclaim that he is a Realist by his use of dialect but he also states to the reader that he is an anti-Romanticist by ridiculing Romanticism in his story of Huck Finn. For example, at the beginning of the book (page 9) before Huck Finn?s river adventure starts, Huck tells the readers about an incident he experiences with Tom Sawyer. Tom states that he has spotted Spanish merchants and rich ?A-rabs? who were traveling with elephants, camels, and ?di?monds? and is able to convince his fellow friends that they should attack them and steal all of their goods. However, it turns out that this group of ?travelers? is merely a Sunday school picnic and after the raiding of these ?merchants?, Huck tells Tom that he didn?t see any camels or elephants. Tom then explains to Huck that he wasn?t able to see any of them due to the magical powers of the genies. Huck?s final remark is the following: ??I reckoned I would see if there was anything in it. I got an old tin lamp and an iron ring and went out in the woods and rubbed and rubbed till I sweat like an Injun, calculating to build a palace and sell it; but it warn?t no use, none of the genies come. So then I judged that all that stuff was only just one of Tom Sawyer?s lies. I reckoned he believed in the A-rabs and the elephants, but as for me I think different. It had all the marks of a Sunday school? (Twain 11). Although this passage is extremely hilarious to the reader due to the baby-like innocence of Huck, it does not only serve that purpose. It is Twain?s obscure way of ridiculing Romanticism. He symbolizes Romanticism through Tom Sawyer?s fantasies and contradicts and humiliates its ideas through Huck?s sense of Realism as well as his innocence.
Furthermore, Twain ridicules Romanticism by using two major characters of the plot?the king and the duke. These two con artists are always busying themselves thinking of ways to scam the poor and make money. Their biggest plot is against the Wilk?s as they try to steal away Peter Wilk?s hard-earned fortune. Nevertheless, Twain?s ridicule can be seen when the king tries to learn a heinously warped version of Hamlet?s famous soliloquy:
To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin
That makes calamity of so long life;
But that the fear of something after death
Murders the innocent sleep,
Great nature?s second course,
And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune
Than fly to others that we know not of? (Twain 103).
This mess continues on as the duke places familiar words or phrases anywhere he pleases as well as other phrases that he invents and has nothing to do with the context. Similar Tom Sawyer, both the duke and king live in an imaginative world where they bring the books they have read to life. Their pathetic imitation of Shakespearean plays and their pitiable claims of being a duke or king bring laughter to the readers. However, one must understand that underneath the laughter there is once again the hidden ridicule of Romanticism.
Some claim that Twain himself uses Romantic ideas in his novel such as when he portrays the care-free life on the raft as well as on the island when Jim and Huck catch man-sized fishes and spend the day in laughter. However, this aspect of the novel exists only in order to portray life on the river as accurately as possible to the reader. The facts might have been exaggerated, but the facts are accurate. Furthermore, its significance is extremely minute compared to the other anti-Romantic characteristics in the novel. Twain was a Realist and an anti-Romanticist; he believed that fiction should be as realistic as possible and ridiculed those who thought otherwise by his own cunning methods. Through the adventures of Huck, Twain preaches to the reader his opinion of slavery. However, what one might assume to be merely entertainment, he catches the reader by surprise when one realizes that in fact these hilarious passages are his way of ridiculing Romanticism.