Huck Finn is a loner, an adventurer, and the protagonist and narrator of the novel. We see the events of the book through his eyes and learn as he learns about his world and his place in it. Huck is a no-nonsense boy who rebels against the restraints of his society, both in word and in deed; part of his rebellion has racial overtones, making this book controversial both at its time and today.
Huck is the 13-year-old son of St. Petersburg, Missouri’s town drunk, an abusive man who seems to care little for anything but the bottle. After one beating too many, Huck finally leaves their shack on the banks of the Mississippi River to find another world. But despite his “street smarts,” Huck is vulnerable to the characters he meets on his journey down the river – only Jim, the escaped slave who is vulnerable in his own way, treats Huck as an equal. The “schooling” Huck has received is spotty at best, unlike that of a Tom Sawyer. Although the Widow Douglas tries to “civilize” him, it’s in Huck’s nature to be wild, at least within the confines of his world. Out in the “real world,” Huck is forced to think for himself and make difficult choices, often outthinking the adults who seem to be taking advantage of his youth and inexperience.
Huck’s youth is what enables him to get away with his actions and the change of attitude he undergoes in the novel – an adult like Mark Twain couldn’t question his society and its morals without social stigma and closed minds. Through the voice of a child, wild though he may be, Twain is allowed to challenge accepted norms of power, race, religion and humanity in his society. Stealing Jim is a crime, yet freeing him, from Huck’s perspective, is the right thing to do. When Huck lies to the slave-hunters he is forced to reevaluate his position on lying – is it always wrong, or does the morality of helping Jim find a normal life make it all right?
Huck’s imperfections offer a model for readers – if he can resist “civilization” and become a fully realized human being, perhaps we can, too. His questions become our own, and although he is very much a product of his time, Huck is a symbol of sorts for the kind of future Mark Twain imagines.
Jim is a paradoxical figure in Huckleberry Finn – he is at once...
(The entire section is 984 words.)
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