Friday, September 4, 2020

Freedom and Slavery

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a book about the harsh environment and immoral ways of the southern lifestyle. Huck, although being white, feels that the ways of the south are wrong and wants to escape, too. Hence, Huckleberry Finn is a book that shows the journey of two friends of contrasting characteristics fighting the problems in their life and the corrupt ways of the south.

Huck Finn is a boy who is only thirteen years old. Huck is from the lowest levels of white society, and his father is a drunk who disappears for months at a time. He is dirty and is constantly homeless. Huck is an outcast boy who gets into trouble and has different beliefs from which the society he lives in. Many critics agree with the statement, "At the heart of Huckleberry Finn lies a story about real human figures with genuine moral and ethical problems and decisions" (Lane 441). At the beginning of the novel, Widow Douglas is trying to reform Huck. The Widow Douglas "took [him] for her son, and tried to civilize [him]" (Twain 6). However, Huck remains a marginalized member of society. In this novel, Huck fails to get the protection he deserves from his father. His dad is a severe alcoholic and beats Huck. One critic even states, "Huck's relationship with his father is melodrama" (O'Connor 444). Huck's caretakers try to school him and give him the religious training that he has missed, but Huck is not indoctrinated with the same social values as a normal middle-class boy. Huck becomes skeptical of the world around him, and constantly looks to distance himself from it. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn "is the story of a boy who will not accept the kinds of freedom the world is able to offer, and so flees from them, one after another" (Leary 476). Hucks natural distrust because of his childhood, and his experiences as he travels down the river force him to question the things taught to him as a child. Huck leaves his hometown to go on a journey to find a better life, hide from his dad, and also find freedom for his companion named Jim. Huck feels that many ways of the south are corrupt. According to the law, Jim is Miss Watson's property. Huck knows that he would be "stealing a poor old [woman's] slave" (Twain 04). Huck believes that it is acceptable and also morally good to help Jim. Therefore, Huck risks both of their lives by going on a journey for freedom. Although Huck knows that most people think that he has done "a low down thing" by helping Jim escape for this long, he stills believes that it is the right thing to do (Twain 05). Huck's natural intelligence, his own personal morals, and willingness to think through a situation on its own merits lead him to some contrasting conclusions. In a certain context, they are right, but in others it would shock society's normal beliefs. One example of this is when Huck and Jim meet a group of slave-hunters; he determines that telling a lie is sometimes the right course of action. Throughout their journey, Huck uses his own judgment to figure out what to do and not what he has been taught as a child in the south. This shows that he is an independent person and that he feels that many ways of society are wrong. Hence, he goes on a necessary journey. When the Duke and the Dauphin sell Jim, Huck is about to write to Miss Watson saying where he is. However, Huck rips up the letter and thinks to himself, All right then, Ill go to hell (Twain 186). He believes that going to hell, if it means following his gut and not societys hypocritical and cruel principles, is a better option than going to everyone elses heaven. In this story, "Huck represents what anyone is capable of becoming a thinking, feeling human being rather than a cog in the repressive machine of society" (Pearce 174).

Jim plays the role of a Negro slave in this book. Jim, as well as Huck, is searching for a place of freedom and a new life. Jim is the slave of Miss Watson and becomes friends with Huck. "Jim becomes a surrogate father, as well as a friend, to Huck, taking care of him without being intrusive or smothering" (Smith 474). Jim and Huck develop and special love for one another. The book Huckleberry Finn "has a vindication not only of freedom, but of loyalty and decency, kindness and courage" (DeVoto 465). Jim is treated poorly in this story just because he is a Negro slave and yet endures him as a "the submissive sufferer" (Eliot 46) throughout the story. Because of this, Huck and Jim decide to go on the journey for a new, better life. Jim wants to go north and buy back his family. Jim says, "Po" niggers can't have no luck" (Twain ). However, they still decide to take a chance and go on the journey. In this book, Jim is constantly suffering and having a hard time due to the wrong doings of the southern ways of life. Many people treat him wrongly because of the color of his skin. Jim and Huck try to escape and go on the journey down the river to find a new place for life. Jim desperately wants freedom from the immoral ways of the south and just wants to get back with his family. During the journey down river, Jim is still treated unfairly by the white people. In one instance, Huck and Jim's supposable friends, The Duke and The Dauphin, sell Jim to a white man. Jim and Huck trusts those two people, yet they are betrayed. Huck, referring to the king and duke, says, "these liars warn't no kings nor dukes, at all, but just low-down humbugs and frauds" (Twain 15). Huck then knows that he is "the only [friend] [Jim's] got now" (Twain 06). One critic even states that this book "describes a flight and a struggle for freedom" (DeVoto 465). Jim and Huck's journey was very necessary. The many accounts of harsh behavior towards Jim in this book prove the unacceptable behavior of the southern people. Huck and Jim help each other out and survive the long journey. Many people feel that "Jim [can] be described as the only real adult in the book, and the one who provides a positive, respectable example for Huck to follow" (Lane 44).

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel that expresses the feelings that many white people have in the south during that time period. Many Negroes, who are slaves, have been treated terribly. This book is full of corruption in society and bad treatment towards blacks. An example is all the bad things that happen to Jim because he is black. Many whites do not respect him, he is forced to do certain things, and he is treated wrongly. Jim has been sold around and is not treated like a human being. One critic states that this book is full of "the typical American prejudices and easy generalizations about Jim" (Lane 44) because Jim is a Negro. This book teaches the reader of the reality of what happened in our country. Racism occurred throughout the south and was a major problem. In this novel, Huck and Jim express the attitude in which all people should have towards one another, "mutual love of a white man and a colored" (Fiedler 467). The journey that this whole story describes starts when "[Huck] discovers the corruption of society, a process that comes to climax when conscience itself is exhibited as the creature of society, embodying its most cruel mandates" (Warren 448). Huck tries to escape with Jim to find a better place with freedom. They are best friends floating down the river and Jim tells Huck that he was the best friend a guy could have (Twain 6). Mark Twain expresses one aspect of the harshness of the south by constantly using the word "nigger". The southerners show no respect for Negroes and do not give them enough respect to call them by their first name. Also, many people had the opinion that black people were not equal to white people. This is proven when Huck's dad criticizes the government for letting blacks to vote and says, "And they call that govment" (Twain 58). Another example of the harsh attitude towards blacks in this novel is when a little boy from a family shoots a man. Everyone asks if everything is okay and the kid replies, "No'm. Killed a nigger" (Twain ). This shows how poorly the white people thought of the blacks.

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Huckleberry Finn is a book that illustrates the journey of two friends searching for freedom from the immoral ways of the south. In this story, there is constant struggle between freedom and slavery. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn emerges as a novel that explores the racial and moral world of its time, but also, the controversies that continue to surround it.

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