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American literature is filled with books that people like to read and books which informed and enlightened public ought to read. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of those rare examples which engulf both categories. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer might have been less controversial if it tackled much lighter issues which did not criticize an entire society and alienated a segment of the population upon its release.

However, as entertaining as that book was to millions of people, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a more important contribution to the literary world as well as the world in which Huck Finn lived as it teaches the reader in ways that other conventional means might have failed; that people must not be judged by the assumptions that are connected with the categories that society placed on a gender, age or race but that the individual must be seen as just that; an individual with human motivations, dreams and pain.

” The transition that the character of Huckleberry Finn makes in a single book, America needed centuries to copy and some would argue, we are still in the process of that leap from the oppressions of the past to the treating everyone as equal Huck said early in the book when describing the freedom that his lifestyle gave him: “It was kind of lazy and jolly, comfortable all day, smoking and fishing, and no books or study. ” His lifestyle also gave him the ability to see people as the individuals that they are and not the oppressive category which society placed upon them and forced them to adhere to.

However, the book and the attention of Huck shifts to a weightier issue. The main problem with this story plot is subsequently the main problem in American life and in our history: race. Huck Finn has been taught one ideology by his father, an ideology which was reinforced by many of his friends as well as seemingly good people who he respects like Miss Watson who help to reinforce the notion that African Americans are inferior in a number of ways and as a result, slavery is only a natural condition for these people.

This belief was not all too unfamiliar to most Americans in the 19th century. African Americans were kept out of education on almost every level and as a result, were not allowed to have their skills cultivated in order for their full talents to come to a complete fruition of their possibility. Therefore, one who rejects the aforementioned belief, must do so only after sifting through all of the lies that he has been told and the evidence which he sees with his own eyes. Huck is faced with breaking the law if he does not turn in his friend Jim.

In order to appease the South and to avoid a Civil War, an oppressive Fugitive Slave Law was passed which said that all slaves who escaped to the North, the Union would be obliged to return these slaves to their masters. When first confronted with this problem, Huck Finn realizes that there are no easy answers here. “Conscience says to me “what has poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you, that you could treat her so mean?… I got to feeling so mean and so miserable I most wished I was dead.

” Where will Huck find the source of assistance in which he knows that he must make the right decision, not necessarily the most popular decision? The examination of the friendship between Huck and Jim is the obvious central theme to the book and is the source of the conflict within the lives of these two characters. “In the end, it is to the advantage of Huck Finn that he was born outside of “civilized society. ” This is made more apparent when we see the foil that Tom Sawyer is in comparison to Huck. Tom is well looked after and taught morality of the day while having his needs and wants met.

He is in many ways, a lot like Huck and this likeness was so apparent in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Both like adventure and too easily find themselves in trouble. However, in The Adventures of Huck Finn, the similarities seem to cease. In the end, Tom embodies the role and expectations that his family and society have placed upon him and Tom embodies it: to be a well to do gentleman, a man of leisure who is only to be concerned about him. “Despite the fact that Huck has rejected civilized society because in part, society first rejected him, Huck still feels a loyalty to the establishment.

” Upon recognizing the moral dilemma that now faces him as he ponders whether or not he will report Jim to the authorities, Huck comments: “Conscience says to me “what has poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? He is under no expectation of loyalty from this society. They have had nothing to do with him, made no attempt to protect Huck from his abusive father and therefore, would not miss him if her were to escape from the face of the earth.

Huck feels the same for the society which cast him off and the desire to run free and unfettered on the Mississippi River, is as close to heaven as Huck feels he will ever come. However, so powerful is the grip of his environment that Huck cannot escape its poison immediately. He feels that this self discovery which has been imposed upon him by the present circumstance, is very troubling indeed and one which he would have preferred to have avoided. However, once it is realized that this cannot be avoided, Huck will continue to be unsure of what he will end up doing.

The main problem within this story and in many problems within America is race. Huck Finn has been taught one ideology by his father and seemingly good people who he respects like Miss Watson who help to reinforce the notion that African Americans are inferior in a number of ways and as a result, slavery is only a natural condition for these people. This belief was not all too unfamiliar to most Americans in the 19th century. African Americans were kept out of education on almost every level and as a result, were not allowed to have their skills cultivated in order for their full talents to come to a complete fruition of their possibility.

Therefore, one who rejects the above mentioned belief, must do so only after sifting through all of the lies that he has been told and the evidence which he sees with his own eyes. Huck is faced with breaking the law if he does not turn in his friend Jim. In order to appease the South and to avoid a Civil War, an oppressive Fugitive Slave Law was passed which said that all slaves who escaped to the North, the Union would be obliged to return these slaves to their masters. When first confronted with this problem, Huck Finn realizes that there are no easy answers here.

“Conscience says to me “what has poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word. Where will Huck find the source of assistance in which he knows that he must make the right decision, not necessarily the most popular decision? Huck Finn chooses not to turn in Jim because through the process of their travels together, Huck is able to replace Jim the slave, the beast of burden to be used only for work and to yield a profit to his master, to becoming Jim the person, the individual who cries at night for his wife and children whom slavery has separated.

In one of the most climatic lines in all of American literature, Huck Finn, from the realization that Jim is a man, an individual with feelings, desires and goals, just like he, comments that: “I guess Jim misses his folks the way white folks miss theirs… It don’t seem natural but I guess it is so. ” Towards the end of the story, Huck also comments: “I know he was white inside. ” In the telling of the friendship that Jim and Huck forge together speaks to the feelings on race and racial inequality which America was all too plagued with during this time in our nation’s history.

Clemens is disillusioned with the failure of Reconstruction and his belief that those African Americans who he grew up with and who he had befriended since, are to be treated as less than the individuals that they are inside. All those who would continue this belief, government, society and certain Christian denominations, would only further increase the confusion that stemmed from the hypocrisy of these above mentioned institutions of American life.

WORKS CITED

Burns, Ken Mark Twain New York: Time Warner & PBS 1997 Clemens, Samuel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn New York: PF Colliers 1942

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