Wednesday, September 9, 2009

the link between authority and powerlessness in "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

Throughout Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the main character, Huck, persistently chases a feeling of complete freedom. He catches vibrant glimpses of this much desired liberty, but he can never seem to fully grasp it--there always seems to be some kind of demon chasing him, threatening to steal his free reign, attempting to "sivilize" him. In the second half of the novel, "the Duke," "the Dauphin," and Aunt Sally all serve as challenges to Huck's freedom, which expose the feeling of powerlessness Huck endures when authority figures come into play.
With the introduction of "the Duke" and "the Dauphin," we see that if you are thought to have a title in Huck's time, people will respect your word. When the two cons beg Huck and Jim to save them from armed bandits and allow them onto the raft, the pair feel powerless to refuse--these are two white adults, after all, and Jim is a slave with no societal esteem. Huck, equally powerless, is merely a child. Huck grows to detest this feeling of powerlessness more and more as the novel continues, especially when he sees how the same feeling affects Jim.
As the story of "the Duke" and "the Dauphin" continues to unfold, they become more symbolic of nobility than actual examples of nobility, however they are just as important. The two continue to scam various groups of people in the towns along the river, which reinforces Huck's belief that authority cannot be trusted. In one of the scams, the King convinces a religious community to supply him with money for the purpose of "converting" a group of pirates. This instance, in a sense, makes a connection between cons and religion, saying that it is difficult to tell what is true and what is manipulation. In other words, when authority figures are involved, we are powerless to know the truth. Huck, jaded by the hands of authority, shows his pessimistic attitude about nobility, saying simply, "All kings is mostly rapscallions." Why, one might wonder, does Huck feel so strongly that royalty is mostly corrupt? The answer is that Huck despises the idea that a king can take away a person's freedom, making them powerless.
At the very end of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer's Aunt Sally volunteers to adopt Huck, but he refuses. He sees this, once more, as a threat to his precious freedom, which he works so hard to preserve throughout the novel. He longs for the feeling he had when he was on the raft with Jim."We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all," he explains. "Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft." Huck knows that on a raft, he doesn't need to answer to anyone. He has no feelings of powerlessness when he is so far away from adults empowered by titles, jobs, or simply their superior ages.
By the end of the novel, it becomes obvious that in instances where Huck's freedom is challenged, he begins to feel paralyzed and rebels. This debilitating powerlessness is something despises and fights to avoid--in fact, one could even go so far as to say that Huck spends the entire novel running away from it. Huck's goal, everything he chases, revolves around feeling free. Any figure that tries to exert power over Huck serves as a detriment to his one true love and, in Huck's eyes, must be defeated.

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