Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a sequel to his previous work The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in the late nineteenth century. The main character Huckleberry Finn is struggling to follow the standards set for him, through this novel the author advocates that some individuals, like Finn, struggle to follow mainstream society and its expectations. Huckleberry Finn questions the teachings of slavery, race, and class of the society surrounding him.
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Finn has a series of adventures throughout the novel in which he struggles between the ways in which society expects him to act, and the things he wants to truly believe in.
The novel begins with a continuation of the previous work by Twain in which we find out that hes been living, still in St. Petersburg, Missouri, with the Window Douglas and Miss Watson while they attempt to educate him and civilize him in the ways of school, religion, and manners (Godin). Huckleberry has no intentions of staying with these two ladies, and receiving a proper education as expected of him. His friend Tom Sawyer, from Twains previous novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, convinces Huckleberry to stay and learn what he can for the purpose of appearing respectable. After living with Widow Douglas for a time Huckleberry becomes accustomed to the idea of a proper education, until his father shows up. His father is notorious drunk who abuses Finn. Upon his return, Finns father puts him in a cabin and beats him after coming home drunk. It is after this he decides to travel where his father cannot find him. It is at this point that Huckleberry realizes that living in mainstream society is not for him. He and Miss Watsons runaway slave escape on a raft floating down the Mississippi River.
With all the things he has experienced in his short lifetime, Finn acts in a much older manner than expected, and has picked up some inappropriate behaviors such as swearing and smoking. Mark Twain writes this novel in a plain and unabridged manner which had never been used before. A little boy would never be allowed to conduct himself in the Old Southern society as Finn is portrayed throughout the story. This character goes against all the traditions of conduct and behavior of the pre-Civil War era in the South. A theme throughout the story is the fact that Huckleberry Finn and Jim went against the norms of society in the way in which they befriended each other.
Although Finn attempted to conform to the ways of society around him, there was a feeling of mistrust from the treatment he received from those around him. As a poor, uneducated boy, Huck distrusts the morals and intentions of the society that treats him as an outcast and fails to protect him from abuse. The uneasiness about society, and his growing relationship with Jim, leads Huck to question many of the teachings that he has received, especially concerning race and slavery (Relationship). Finn and Jim show the society around them how to look past the color of their skin, and see the individual for who they are. There are many instances in the novel that Huckleberry is faced with the decision of whether to turn Jim over to authorities as a runaway slave, but he ultimately decides that Jim deserves his freedom. Through these experiences Huckleberry realizes that what society teaches him about slavery and race is not the way in which the African-Americans should be treated.
Throughout the story Mark Twain advocates that Huckleberry Finn is much better off learning lessons through adventures, rather than in a traditional school setting. At the beginning of the novel Finn finds a stash of gold that was hidden after a robbery. He is torn between taking the money and leaving the two ladies who he has been living with, or giving the money back to the rightful owners. With the help of his friend Tom Sawyer, he decides to place the money in a trust with a local judge.
While traveling down the Mississippi River with Jim, they come upon two characters by the name of King and Duke. It doesnt take Finn and Jim long to realize that they are in the company of two criminals who do not have good intentions. The conmen scheme to sell Jim to a local farmer, and Huckleberry is faced with the decision of whether to help Jim escape or leave him behind. Huckleberry feels a moral obligation to his friend Jim, and ultimately decides to help him escape no matter what it takes.
Through this and other series of events, Huckleberry Finn learns through what would be known as the school of hard knocks. Although the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson desired to see him learn the ways of society through a proper education, Huckleberry uses his life experiences to aid him in the decisions that he makes. He struggles to accept the typical thoughts and behaviors of the society in which he was raised, and is now living all alone.
In conclusion, Huckleberry Finn disregards the teachings of society and sets out on his own to search for what he believes as right and wrong. He stands by his friend, although a runaway slave, throughout the novel as a voice against the teachings of slavery and race. Mark Twain uses the character Huckleberry Finn to contend against the standards of race and class during this time in American society.
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