Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chapters 32-End?

Something I found potentially problematic with the second half of Twain’s novel is the final adventure that Huck and Tom find themselves on. Clearly, much of the novel has to do with the ways in which Huck deals with racism, especially through the character Jim and their interactions. This part of the novel comes to its clear climax at the end of Chapter 31, when Huck decides that if allowing Jim to be a free man would send him to hell, then “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” (228). However, he immediately embarks on a final caper with Tom Sawyer to free Jim in which Jim is played around with as if he is once again isn’t human but an outlet for the boys’ need for adventure. I noticed in another post that someone mentioned that this may be Twain’s way of showing the differences in maturity between Huck and Tom, that Huck has learned throughout the course of the novel and would rather free Jim quick and easily while Tom wants to mess around and pretend he is in an adventure novel. This may be perfectly reasonable, but the explanation doesn’t sit well enough with me – with Huck’s ripping up off his letter to Miss Watson he is making a statement that he is going to decide what actions he is going to take on his own terms and convictions rather than letting others tell him what is right and wrong. By giving into Tom so quickly and putting Jim’s life at an unnecessary risk, he is simply relapsing and completely abandoning the morality of self-determination that he just made several chapters ago.
In my writing on the first of the Twain novel, I wrote that what might be deep down the reason why this book was banned was that Huck’s decision making process was reversed in such a way that his morality wasn’t that racism and slavery were bad things, but rather that they were the moral actions and that he was simply an evil person (or so he believed). However, the last section of the novel provides another level to this debate: namely, what its purpose is if Huck is only going to continue with his old ways once again. I personally find this section of the novel somewhat contradictory towards the morality of the novel overall and may understand certain unwillingness on the part of parents or special interest groups not wanting the book to allowed especially to be read by children in schools.

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