In 1884, Mark Twain wrote what is arguably the most controversial and memorable novels in America and the literature world, 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. Twain comes out clearly as the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Born in Florida, Missouri on 30th November 1835 twain was one of six children born in a poor family. Due to his humble background, twain had to get accustomed to inexpensive entertainment forms. Twain intentionally made Huckleberry Finn his fictional replica in his book. In the book, Huck does the same stuff that twain did as a young boy. From the book, Huck said, "Now we'll start this band of robbers and call it...." (Twain, 9). When Twain was only four years old, his family moved from Florida to Hannibal, Missouri which is a small town located on the wet bank of Mississippi River (Clemens, 1948). Most of the adventures of Huckleberry Finn have their settings in Mississippi river and the small towns that are situated along it. "... We judged that three nights more would fetch us to Cairo, at the bottom of Illinois, where the Ohio River comes in..." (Twain, 106).
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Huck and Jim made efforts to try and reach a town named Cairo. The town in question was located in a free state, Ohio. Cairo is just one of the many towns that Huck visits during his major adventures in the book. Twain employs the use of very familiar dialects in his novel. At the beginning of the novel, he states, "the Missouri negro dialect; the extremist form of backwoods southern-western dialect; the ordinary pike county dialect ..... Are used to wit...." (Twain, 1). As Huck and Jim made their numerous travels along the Mississippi river, their values were notably in contrast with those of the other people who lived in the southern states of America. This can be attributed to the fact that Huck and Jim were trying to gain their own freedom so to say (Railton, 1998). The events kin the book are mainly based on the many things that happened in the life of twain both as a kid and an adult. In the book, Huck is introduced to the audience as a child without a father in his life. The same can be compared twain who lost his father as a young child, an age which is similar to young Huck's in the book.
Twain uses satire as a stylistic device to portray the religion and moral practices of the communities that lived in the Southern United States. He said that the men used to take their guns to church with them and kept them in between their knees (Twain, 142). This is just but an example of the many things that Huck joked about when he talked of the 'southerners'. He was in some sense trying to bring out the men from the south as peculiar cowards who carried guns to safe places such as the church. Twain chose to write his novel at a time when the civil war in America had just ended. It is therefore quite understandable that most communities still appeared to feel unsafe.
The war brought with it a real test of morals to the whole society. The idea o slavery was a major sector that captured most of twain's interest. It was also the major focus on which morals in the book were portrayed. The final liberation of the entire community of the river indeed appeared to be another big huddle to the society in disguise (Robinson, 1998). The freedom brought with it deceit, prejudice and general corruption among the communities that resided in the towns along the Mississippi river. The society changed to one which basically became hungry to satisfy their individual needs and not the interests of the community at large. In the book, Huck states, "... it was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up the stars ... and we had mighty good weather as a general thing and nothing ever happened to us at all that night nor the next ..." (Twain, 86).
The whites were very greedy as portrayed by Twain in his book that they sold black people as slaves and did not regard other people as humans if they were not white. One day Huck and Jim were separated while they were on shore and Huck met up with one runaway slave. The slave told him about how much money he had been sold for. He said, "... those old fools made a trade and got forty dollars ... "(Twain, 247). This was just to show how much greed and prejudice had spread among the whites in America at that time. When one reads the book, they get a clear picture of America being a country whose racist roots are deeply rooted in the society. Whites definitely would not want to be portrayed as so and blacks take this as a constant reminder of the dark times of slavery that their fore fathers went through.
The author is not afraid to mention real names of places and towns in his book. He mentions all the events that happened to him when he was growing up in his novel. It can be mentioned that the towns along Mississippi river were the ones that were most affected by prejudice and greed from the Twain's sentiments. Places such as Jackson's island are mentioned in the book which is in real sense located just a couple of miles from the Mississippi river which also happens to be Twain's childhood home, Hannibal. Goshen also happens to be located just a few miles down Mississippi River and also Twain's home town. The two runaways, the slave and the boy who had been beaten up, finally managed to find a way to escape from their grievances and sorrow by building a raft which they would use to escape. This clearly points out at how the oppressed people in the society viewed the towns along Mississippi River as unlivable to them due to the cruelty they were subjected to by the Whites. It is quiet ironical that the values of the people who resided along the river soon found their way into the thoughts of Jim and Huck. This eventually formed the major theme and the direction that the novel took which was slavery.
Slavery, which was the norm during the times of the civil war, had people having different opinions about it. No one could pretend that the problem never existed. Jim having attained his own freedom was nick named the "runaway nigger'', went down the Mississippi river according to twain. In the novel the writer used the word nigger very many times and it is approximated to be more than two hundred instances though his idea was not to use the word in a prejudicial manner. There are several statements in which the author had the word appearing like, ''Miss Watson's big nigger'' (twain 6). Also "hardly notice the other niggers..." (Twain, 8) and "... niggers is always talking about..." (Twain, 8). During those times the word "nigger" was widely used while addressing African Americans and all thought it was appropriate. It was clear to everyone around the place that Huck was killed and his corpse thrown into the Mississippi river. However Huck wasn't dead and was living on a raft floating on the river. He was living with Jim and it is clear that Huck enjoyed his life on the raft. He once said, "...It is lovely to live on the raft" (Twain, 72).
After some time two other people came to live with them on the raft. These were Duke and dauphin. The four became very close pals and it was shown by what Huck later said about accepting to live with the other two on the raft. He said "...feel right and kind towards others..." (Twain, 161) during the time they spent on the raft. While they were out in the water on the raft they stayed honest to one another but they came face to face with vices such as greed every time they reached the land. They were portrayed that they would always discuss how they would lend out a hand to a person in distress. They said "...begged me to help..." (Twain, 156). However when they arrived at the shore they strategized on how they would con the people of their money. They included holding a function as quoted "...running' a little temperance revival 'and taking' as much as five or six dollars a night" (Twain 156)
Twain took two contrasting views of life on the raft and that of the ideas of people on the Mississippi shores. The Grange Fords' and the Shepherdson's were two families at loggerheads that Twain used to illustrate lives of Southerners and their religion were like. The feuding between the two families had been running for thirty years but none knew what the cause was. On Huck's inquisition if the fighting had been caused by land, Buck Graford replied, "I reckon maybe - I don't know" (Twain 140). The two families took guns to the church and the sermon reported by Huck was deemed to be "^a pretty ornery preaching-all about brotherly love, and suchlike tiresomeness^" (Twain 142). Twain satirically implied that the society on the Mississippi River was a greedy place with twisted principles and the church was more of a pass time activity than religion.
When the Duke and Dauphin came aboard the raft Huck and Jim's smooth riding life came to a halt. The two frauds lied through their teeth and took continuously took advantage of the people on the shore. Many unwanted encounters between the town's folk were caused by the two along the Mississippi River (Salwen, 1996). Jim bought into the two fraudsters scum but Huck on his part was quick to realize what the men were "...just low-down humbugs and frauds" (Twain 161). He finally slipped away from the Duke and Dauphin and carried on with his planned journey with Jim. Huck commented later that it was so good to be free again (Twain 260). He apparently had spoken too soon as his perceived freedom did not last long. Huck's two nemeses, the Duke and Dauphin also came back. Huck "...Wilted right down to the planks... and [gave] up..." (Twain 262).He straight up went and told them that he did not like what they were doing.
The characters of Huck and Jim were distinct from those of the other southerners in the rural southern United States. The two are represented in such a way that they have a positive character while the other southerners are portrayed negatively. As Buck Grangerford said, "... They don't know what the row was about in the first place..." it wasn't open to what exactly caused the quarrel in the book and thereby showing how the author brought out the negativity in the characters. In the end the other two ended up trading Jim for some amount of money. Huck was very angry when he came to learn about what happened. Later he was able to meet Tom Sawyer who helped him create a plan to free his free his friend who was by then languishing in captivity. A southern white man helped Jim to be released by telling good things about his character. Jim's freedom came as a coincidence because it was around the time which the war ended. Jim got what he had yearned for so long; his freedom.
Huck also found his freedom as it was illustrated towards the end of the novel (Rachel, 1998). After achieving this Huck had to do something useful with his newfound freedom, he decided to journey to the west of the country in search of new adventures. Jim also had something useful left to do; free his wife and child. He was able to do this by buying them from their master thereby getting them out of slavery. His desire was to see them living their own life free of bondage. The main idea that the author had in mind towards the end of the book was shown by freeing the two main characters who were Huck and Jim (Vitale, 1997). This was meant to show all those who read the book that all humans needed to be treated the same way with respect no matter what their background was. This book showed clearly that the whites in America really mistreated the African American community during the era of slavery and showed the extremes the African Americans had to go in order to achieve their freedom of which is a natural necessity for any mankind.
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