“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. ” -Twain Twain, despite being born and raised in the deep Southern atmosphere of the mid 1800s, was strongly against the way the society around him had become, in its corrupt ways of inequality and hatred amongst each other, and dedicated his writing to the act of countering such tyranny. In the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the reader is taken on an adventure with the young Southern boy, Huck Finn, on adventures down the Mississippi River and is able to see all aspects of life at this time.
The book is disguised as an adventure novel, but the true intention of the novel was for the author to criticize the unscrupulous hierarchy and to subtly show them the wrong in their ways, and the literate forms in which this constructive criticism is displayed is through the equivalence in person of the slave Jim, the evil that consumes of lives of the standard settlement that is more real than in paper at that time, and by using the protagonist Huck as a beacon of good and morality in the world of cruelty and abomination.
The first and perhaps the most subtle form of demonstrating the error of society’s ways is Twain’s use of Jim, a slave, by proving him as equal to that of white men in the novel. Right away, the reader is given a persona of Jim that is unintelligent, a follower, and nothing but a side character in this apparent adventure novel. But, rest assured, there is more to the slave than what meets the eye of the reader. At the point in the novel when it is just Huck and Jim floating down the river, they somehow get into a conversation about why the French people have a different language .
Huck tries to compare the situation to how cats and cows speak differently than they do, but Jim counters that claim by going on to say, ‘Well den, dey ain’t no sense in a cat talkin’ like a man. Is a cow a man? Is a cow a cat? ” (80). Jim, having no previous education like that of Huck, is able to provide an excellent argument to the claim of a boy who had gone to school and learned the rules of rhetoric, who then goes on to admit his defeat in the argument and gives in.
This small, rather ridiculous scene in the novel illustrates that Jim is truly an intellect in his own way, despite knowing nothing but slavery his entire life. In another situation involving Huck and lim on th raft after a storm which hindered the two separated for a period of time, Huck makes it back to the raft and finds the slave asleep, and decides it wise to play trick on Jim by pretending the entire scenario was but a dream of Jim’s. Jim goes on to see past Huck’s story and becomes upset with him for playing a prank after such a traumatic situation.
Huck then narrates, “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go apologize to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterwards neither” (86). Huck, who had been raised in a world where it is taught that African Americans are nothing but property to the Caucasians, gives in to the morality still inside him and apologizes to Jim. This act demonstrates that Jim is more than a something that can be owned or bought, but an equal to every other human on this planet.
And to condense, the scenes that prove Jim to be an equal human being conveys that the novel’s purpose is to censure the population. Another exhilarating theme in the entire novel is the true horridity of the people themselves. The novel would have never come to be if it had not been for the actions taken by the people of this deranged society that would lead to a world where not all men are created equal, abuse of all kinds are acceptable, and the concept of morality is but a subject of fiction.
An example of this starts at the time when Huck and the two fugitives were receding at the home of Mary Jane and her siblings, and Huck mentions that “When it was all done me and the hare-lip had a supper in the kitchen off of the leavings, whilst the others was helping the niggers clean up the things” (172). This standard American family, fairly wealthy and pure of heart, would not allow their own family member to eat at the table with the rest for a physical disability she was born with. And to add on to the true indecency of the situation, nobody says a word except for Huck.
This is normal, traditional behavior for the community, and this kind of segregation is perfectly acceptable to the tainted minds of this society. Another situation which perfectly demonstrates the backwardness of the people’s lives is the Grangerford and Shepardson family feud. There’s a point in Huck’s visit with the Grangerfords when two of the family’s boys are running from the Shepherdsons, they are said to have “Jumped for the river -both of them hurt- and as they swum down the current the men run along the bank shooting at them and singing out ‘Kill them, Kill them! (115). The result of the bloodshed was the death of the Buck Grangerford, a lad about the age of Huck who he had befriended. Huck held the boy in his arms as he died. Besides the fact that the utterly ridiculous feud caused the death of a small child with potential to do so much in the world, the true irony of the entire scenario is that the feud would likely go on to continue for the loss of Buck, as though more death would somehow bring him back. And with that, the dense corruption of this society is used by the author to show society just how foolish they had become.
Throughout the entire novel, through the bloodshed and wickedness of the way society had grown to associate itself with, one theme remains consistent and rather blessed, and that is that Huck is shown as a beacon of light in the world of darkness. Similar to Twain himself, Huck too was born and raised in the thick culture of the Antebellum era, but broke from the tradition in pursuit of his own morals and his own values and to not associate himself with society ever again. To find this in the novel one would have to look later in the novel, at the point when both Tom and Huck were at Aunt Sally’s home.
Tom reveals to Huck that the King and the Duke had been captured by the townspeople and been tarred and feathered, a rather cruel and humiliating punishment, and upon hearing this, Huck narrates, ‘Well, it made me sick to see it; and I was sorry for them poor pitiful rascals, and it seemed like I couldn’t ever feel any hardness against them anymore in the world” (231). These two individuals, whom Huck had witnessed swindle tens, if not hundreds of individuals, including himself, had just received exactly what fate had destined for them on account of their deception and fraud.
And Huck felt sympathy for them. He is truly a person of pure heart to regret punishment most suitable for people of treachery. Another instance that stands out that also proves Huck’s intentions of being humane is found when he and Jim were rapidly approaching Cairo, where Jim would be free. Huck goes on ahead to greet two individuals looking for escaped slaves, that ask Huck of Jim’s race. He narrates “I see | was weakening; so I just give up trying, and up and say ‘he’s white” (90). This entire trip to Cairo had been, literally, a guilt trip for Huck.
His morals and been tampered by the society that raised him to believe that freeing a slave is wrong and and an act of abomination. When he must finally decide the fate of his friend, he gives in to his morals, turns his back of society and tricks the two men into believing he is white. And these principles of his personality shows that Huck is a pure individual in a world of impurity, which contributes to indisputable affirmation that the sole purpose of this novel is not to entertain people with stories of adventure and findings, but to educate society on the sins by which they live by and how how to find themselves once more.
After a full historical analyzation of the novel, and comprehending where this book is from, the perhaps most logical conclusion is that the most profound purpose of this novel is to lecture the people of the late 1800s of the iniquitous ways by which they have lived for the many generations they have lived there. What is found most intriguing about the way in which the author uses the novel for this manner is the subtlety by which he does it.
To outright demand that the population changes their ways would be political suicide, and perhaps literally at that. What he does instead is disguise this condemnation as a children’s adventure novel, fun for all ages. But truly, he had found a way to preach to a people who are very unwilling to listen. And by that, he had changed the world without the world discerning.