Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Huck Finn: a rapscallion?

Like most young boys, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer constantly seek to rebel against accepted society. They want to be different; they want to be outsiders, misunderstood and without the love and care of a family. Lack of structure is what they crave. But this is merely how they wish to be perceived, and although they come off as such, these boys very much want to be a part of the society they simultaneously want to be estranged from. They yearn to be tough and full of adventure. The boys want to go against the grain; they do not want to be simple or ordinary, and so they are left living in a sort of in-between, they live in contradiction.
This is why Tom is always looking to make simple tasks more difficult for himself. He is looking for adventure and excitement. He wants a challenge, and will create obstacles if none come about naturally. He invents difficult situations intentionally so as to add to his fun. Huck observes that entering the house through the back door is not “romantical enough for Tom Sawyer” (244), so he climbs up the lightning rod instead. All of Tom’s heroes are figures who must face daring obstacles and face near death experiences. He is happy when he is shot in the leg! Tom (of course he knows that Jim is already free which allows him to carry out his romantic adventures in trying to “free” him) wishes there were more dangers and risks, hardships and problems involved in trying to free Jim. Tom Sawyer needs to feel as though he is living a dangerous, adventure-filled existence, ostracized from society. Huckleberry Finn, on the other hand, is a little more tied to society. He wants to be like Tom, in fact, he idolizes his peer. And while Huck tends to serve as a double for Tom (he goes by Tom’s name, not accidentally, once he gets to Aunt Sally’s), he is a separate individual with a personality all his own. While I would absolutely argue for Tom Sawyer’s conscience, we get to see much more of Huck’s throughout the entirety of the novel. Huck is a boy pulled in two directions. He is essentially split between society and the wilderness. He yearns to take up a position in both worlds. Though Huck hopes to be free and wild, we see how society has made quite an impression on him. He even undergoes the act of confession when he tells his story to Mary Jane or when he writes Miss Watson a letter. In a revealing moment, we see Huck turn his back on his social conscience in order to be true to his own sense of self and his own morals. Huck’s life experiences as well as his relationship with Jim have opened his mind up from society. He has influenced himself to live well, and he has taught himself well. Huck writes a letter to Miss Watson informing her about Jim’s whereabouts, but after thinking things over, he rejects what he ought to do according to society and he chooses what he ought to do according to what is right. He is adamant as he tears up the letter: “All right, then. I’ll go to hell” (223). Huck makes an informed, conscious decision to do what is right. Huck, the individual, is something completely separate from society while he is a part of society as well. Although a time in history, or a generation may be summed up by a given movement or a given way of life, this is not to say that there is no individuality. It does not mean that that way is right. Society has surely been wrong before. In fact, it still is wrong today. Huck is a brave young boy for being able to be an individual amidst the society around him. Huck’s double perspective as a member of society as well as an outsider has afforded him the ability to examine things more clearly for himself. But just as much as Huck is willing to go against society and act as his own, free-thinking individual, he wants to feel connected to society. We see this desire many times as well, for example, when Aunt Sally tucks him into bed and expresses her desire for him to stay in bed for the night. Huck honors her wishes. At the close of the novel, when we learn Aunt Sally will adopt and “sivilize” Huck, he acts as though it will be an annoyance to him, but by now we as readers know he will be happy to be attached to a caring family. He is just a young boy after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment