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In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, how does Huck's identity evolve from what it...

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alli00 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 7, 2012 at 2:20 AM via web

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In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, how does Huck's identity evolve from what it is at beginning of novel to what he created for himself as the book progresses?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 7, 2012 at 6:46 AM (Answer #1)

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The developing and changing identity of Huckleberry Finn in this excellent story is something that is well worth focusing on. The change in Huck's character can be detected most clearly and obviously in his attitude towards Jim, the runaway slave who is his companion. Initially, Huck treats Jim in a way that we would expect of a white boy at that time: he tricks him, placing a dead snake where he sleeps, which results in Jim being bitten by the dead snake's mate. He bullies Jim into getting involved in dangerous scrapes such as when they visit the floating boat, even though Jim does everything he can to persuade Huck to keep out of danger. He also lies to Jim when they are separated by fog in Chapter Fifteen. However, one crucial moment that represents the beginning of change in Huck is when he realises in this same chapter how much Jim cares about him and how worried he was. Jim speaks some very strong words to Huck expressing this love, but also expressing his sense of disappointment and anger that Huck could only think of tricking him and making him look stupid. Note how Huck responds:

It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn't every sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'd a knowed it would make him feel that way.

This comment, for a white boy growing up in the context of the novel, is revolutionary, as it shows Huck is beginning to see Jim as a human being rather than simply viewing him simply as a slave. This is something that we see more and more of as the novel progresses and Huck gets to know Jim more deeply.

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