In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, what does "civilization" mean to Huck?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Huck, who phonetically writes "civilize" as "sivilize," is accustomed to living on his own without the rules of civilization to worry about. He is not worried about manners, about appearance, or about conforming to society. At the beginning of the book, he has just been made rich by the discovery of money at the end of the previous book, and so he is adopted by the Widow Douglas:

The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways...
(Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,

To Huck, civilization is far too restrictive to live in; he can't do what he wants without some sort of rule defining his behavior. He decides to escape, ends up going back, and is constantly at-odds with society. At the end of the book, he again goes on the run, refusing to be "sivilized" by Tom's Aunt Sally; he claims to have been in civilization long enough to know that he can't stand it. This shows Huck's individualism and his general isolationist tendencies; he doesn't need other people to be happy, and so he doesn't think that he needs their rules either.


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