Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Happy Ending? It's Not What it Seems.

Huck’s journey in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a long one, but full of subtle changes in Huck’s personality that show his vulnerability as a young adult. Since this novel was written so long ago, it’s easy for a modern audience to push it aside or even worse, simply read it at face-value. Twain uses imagery, metaphors and many other sophisticated literary devices. In my opinion, the underlying meaning that struck me most was the “journey” that Huck took with Jim, and how this “journey” of self discovery, in fact, didn’t change Huck’s views much at all.

The easiest example of this would be the evolution of Huck’s view of Jim. He begins the novel thinking of Jim as a slave, the property of Miss Watson, and someone obviously inferior to him. As the story progresses, Huck begins to think of Jim as equal (at least in the value of his life), as well as a confidante and even a friend. At the emotional pinnacle of the novel, Huck makes a big leap and decides he will help Jim escape from slavery, even though he might “go to hell”, because he believes Jim is more than just someone's property. However, as Siobhan mentioned earlier, in the end Huck and Tom end up treating Jim as nothing more than a mannequin in the boys' final “adventure”, when they help Jim escape. Though Huck seems to have changed his views of his world and society, sadly he really ends up right where he began.

This is another trend in Huckleberry Finn that Twain uses often. Many of his characters start of one way and end another—that is, not really being quite who they seem, whether that is ultimately good or ultimately bad. The Duke and Dauphin, for instance, start out as characters who are comic and funny, and almost entertainment to Huck as well as the reader. However, as Huck gets to know these two con artists better, he realizes they are very dark and cunning people who will do almost anything for their own advantage, even resorting to one brother impersonating a disabled person to inherit money. Surprisingly, Tom Sawyer is also a character who isn’t quite who he seems to be. Tom, from the beginning, has been shown as a carefree boy who Huck enjoys. At first, the boys get along very well, and Huck enjoys being the sidekick in Tom’s crazy adventures. However, by the end of the novel we see just how naïve, sheltered, and disconnected Tom is from the real world. He is a classic southern boy, who doesn’t realize the impact and importance of freeing Jim. Tom uses Jim’s escape as a plan for just another adventure. In fact, Tom knew the whole time that Jim had been a free man ever since the Widow’s death, which had happened months before.

The point here, at least for me, is that in our world, some things never change. Though Huck realizes Jim’s humanity and has other realizations about society and morality, he ends up right where he began, afraid of being “sivilized” and going out West with Tom to fight the “Injuns”. I agree with Siobhan in that Huck is still a white, southern boy, and his view as a narrator is skewed. However, he does differ from Tom in that he did realize that Jim is a human being, and more than just someone's property. Huck realized it, and knows it, even if he cannot apply his experience with Jim to other peoples.

On the other hand, though Huck saw Jim, as a black man, as his equal, he still obviously considers Native Americans as a strange and alien race. I can only hope Huck's experience with “Injuns” would be his chance to change his views for good.

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