The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Huckleberry Finn

Huckleberry Finn, a small-town boy living along the banks of the Mississippi River before the American Civil War. Perhaps the best-known youthful character in world fiction, Huck has become the prototype of the boy who lives a life that all boys would like to live; he also helped to shape such diverse characters as Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams and J. D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield. He makes an adventurous voyage with the slave Jim, drifting down the Mississippi on a raft. When he contrasts himself with his flamboyant and wildly imaginative friend Tom Sawyer, Huck feels somewhat inadequate, but deep inside he has a triumphant reliance on the power of common sense. Thus the world of Huck’s reality—his capture by and escape from old drunken Pap; the macabre pageant of his townsfolk searching the Mississippi for his supposedly drowned body; his encounters with the King and the Duke, two preposterous swindlers; his stay among the feuding Grangerfords and Shepherdsons; and his defense of the pure, benighted Wilks sisters—is proved to be far more imaginative than Tom Sawyer’s imagination. Yet Huck is not some irresponsible wanderer through adolescence; he has a conscience. He knows it is illegal to be harboring a runaway slave, but his friendship with Jim makes him defy the law. His appreciation of the ridiculous allows him to go along with the lies and swindles of the King and the Duke until they seem ready to bring real harm to the Wilks sisters, and he himself will fib and steal to get food and comfort; but his code of boyhood rebels at oppression, injustice, hypocrisy. Mark Twain has created in Huckleberry Finn a magnificent American example of the romanticism that rolled like a great wave across the Atlantic in the nineteenth century.

Jim

Jim, the black slave of Miss Watson. Believing that he is about to be sold down the river for eight hundred dollars, he runs away and hides on Jackson’s Island, where Huck also takes refuge after faking his own murder in order to escape from Pap. Ignorant, superstitious, gullible, Jim is nevertheless, in Huck’s words, “most always right; he had an uncommon level head, for a nigger.” He will laugh at everything comical, but he suffers poignantly when he thinks of the family he has left in bondage. He protects Huck physically and emotionally, feeling that the boy is the one white person he can trust, never suspecting that Huck is struggling with his conscience about whether to turn Jim in. When the two companions...

(The entire section is 1033 words.)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Character Analysis

Huck Finn
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
Jim is a paradoxical figure in Huckleberry Finn – he is at once...

(The entire section is 984 words.)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Characters

Aunt Polly
Tom Sawyer's guardian. She arrives at the Phelps's farm and reveals Tom and Huck's true identities.

...

(The entire section is 2096 words.)