The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an impressive book featuring a comprehensive narrative that shapes the reader’s perspectives on the subject of slavery in White America. In this story, Mark Twain develops two different characters and allows them to experience the reality of racism and slavery in a context that is removed from the ‘real world.’ In addition, as the two get to spend time together, they are able to develop new perspectives and moral considerations towards the whole subject of racism. In order to appreciate the efforts of Mark Twain in the book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, this paper analyzes the novel’s structure by looking at some of the most memorable scenes in the book. In addition, the paper examine the characterizations within the narrative by looking at how Jim and Huck Finn change with time to find out if the book had any influence on the social constructs at the time as applicable to racism and slavery.
Structure and Memorable Scenes
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is told from the perspective of Huck Finn and the narrative is told in three different parts or sections. Generally, the story comprises of 43 chapters, each of which is told in first person. In the first part of the story, Huck Finn is living with Aunt Watson and his sister. In this part of the story, Huck Finn is trying to embrace civilization and Aunt Watson is trying to be of help in shaping the young man in the ways of the society (Twain 3). The second part of the book is then when Huck runs off with Jim and helps him to escape. This part mainly features the relationship between Huck and Jim and their interesting experiences as they travel on the river. This is a significant part in the story owing to how deep the author’s focus on Jim and Huck is and how much the two characters get to develop. Huck re-examines his perspective on slavery and racism, offering the author a chance to directly criticize the American society with respect to racial relations and slavery. It is also in this part of the story that a slave (Jim) is given a chance to develop a relationship that is based on relative equality and genuine affection with a white American. The third part of the narrative is when Huck and Jim get to Uncle Silas’ farm.
Regarding memorable scenes, it must be appreciated that the story of Huckleberry Finn comprises of countless adventures, each with its fair share of memorable scenes. The first memorable scene would be when Huck introduces himself as a character from Tom Sawyer. This generates some excitement especially for readers who have actually read Tom Sawyer. Another memorable scene would be when Huck fakes his death and runs away to Jackson Island after he is beaten by his drunkard father. This part is like a new beginning, with unknown potential for the story (O’Loughlin 216). Huck’s meeting with Jim then serves as an impeccable turn of events, as does the rest of their journey down the river until they get to Uncle Silas’ farm. Concerning the subject of racism and slavery, the memorable scenes include when Huck had to lie that Jim is a sick white man. The fact that Huck had to start lying despite his moral position and that he had to do it to protect Jim, means a lot to the reader.
Characterizations in the Book
Huck and Jim are probably the most relevant characters in this story when considering the subject of racism, race relations and slavery. Huck starts out as a boy living with his aunt and his sister. Huck is brutally beaten by his drunken father and thus has to fake his death and run from civilization. Similarly, Jim is treated unfairly as a slave and thus he needs to run away. Jim finds Huck and while originally Jim would not have trusted a white boy, Jim and Huck gradually develop a great relationship that sees them through the trip to Uncle Silas’ farm (Twain 34).
Huck starts out as a simple minded boy whose only form of self identity is the mild anarchy that leads him to shun authority. He hates the system, and simply tries to avoid as many rules as possible. Through the trip to Uncle Silas’ farm, Huck learns to appreciate that slaves are humans too, and that they deserve a bit of respect and affection too. Huck learns to weigh his decisions based on what he feels is right, although his conscience is ruled by social norms and the rules that he had initially thought didn’t apply to him (Wood 84). As the story progresses, Huck’s moral compass is directed more by what he feels than by what he knows. This is how much he grows in the story.
As for Jim, he starts out as a typical slave with justifiable fears and inhibitions in his relationship with whites. As he gets to spend time with Huck, he learns to appreciate the young man as a human being with fears and inadequacies like any other. Jim frantically tries to be a friend and mentor to Huck while they try to survive on their journey down the river. In the end, Jim trusts Huck Finn more than he would trust any other white person and while this is mainly because Huck was the only person he was with throughout the journey down the river, it still counts.
The author also seems to grow in his perspective of race relations and slavery during the trip down the river. At first, he presents the relationship between Jim and Huck in a structural and somber form, with Huck doing Jim a favor. But as the story progresses, the two characters are presented more softly, with some form of bond developing and being nurtured by the experiences that the two share along the way (Peltason 62). This generally shows that the more Mark Twain narrated about the interactions between Huck Finn and Jim, the more he got to appreciate that race relations do not always have to be so bad. The growing bond between Jim and Huck may be shunned for being in an isolated context but it presents possibilities that were previously not seen in the context of slavery and racism.
Influence of the Book
This particular book did not have much of an impact on the American society in as far as race relations and slavery is concerned. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was more of a children’s adventure story with a lot of humor and irony. The story told Mark Twain’s perspective on slavery and racism but it did not capture the essence of the problem in a real world (Smith 186). Hick and Jim get to interact and understand each other while on a raft going downstream, isolated from the mainstream society where the evil really is. If Huck had gone against the society to defend Jim while still living in town with Aunt Watson, perhaps the influence may have been felt in terms of how people perceive and treat slaves. With the isolation of the two individuals in this story however, it was difficult for Mark Twain’s ideologies on slavery and racism to be taken seriously. Rather than generate a change of heart on how people treated slaves or how they interacted with blacks, this book sparked a debate on what slavery really is. Compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, this book did not do much for the fight against racism and slavery other than just pointing out its existence and in some cases even making it funny. The most credit that this book can get is for simplifying the relationship between blacks and whites on neutral ground and presenting both sides as equally human when they need each other.
As a book meant to criticize the society on its attitudes towards slavery and race relations, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not successful. Mark Twain focuses on humor and irony and in the end; he may have managed to deliver his message. However, this author takes two characters out of the mainstream society and puts them in a situation where they need each other in order to survive. This book thus simply highlights that blacks and whites can work together within the right circumstances. Back in town however, blacks were simply slaves and whites were the masters. The whites thus had the power and they were continued to misuse it at will and at the expense of the blacks. Within this story however, it must be appreciated that the main characters grow significantly, as they get to spend time together. Huck Finn gets to appreciate Jim as a human being, and a possible mentor and confidant while Jim also gets to see beyond the threat of Huck’s skin color and grows to love the young man as a good friend and companion in their journey to freedom. Whatever Mark Twain’s story lacks in terms of influence, it earns in terms of irony, humor and memorable scenes. The story is noticeably filled with twists and turns and numerous climaxes owing to the numerous adventures that are interwoven within.