How do ideas of 'space and place' relate to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Space and place play a central role in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The entire premise of the novel is one in which the main characters seek to escape a temporal condition of space and place that is synonymous with repression. Huck Finn years to break free from conformist reality that people like Widow Douglas represents.  Huck repudiates this construction of space and place, articulating that he feels "so cramped up and sivilized [sic] as they call it."  At the same time, Jim yearns to break free from enslavement.  This becomes his primary motivation as both of them navigate the river in their raft:  "Jim said it made him all over trembly and feverish to be so close to freedom." The mere prospect of moving into a new and transformative notion of space and place causes him to be "trembly."  Space and place are shown to be fluid constructions, capable of both rejection and escape.

Space and place are not rigid and fixed.  Huck alludes to this in the development of the raft.  The raft on which they sail is not something that has a defined course to plot.  It does not have a chartered course and absolute definition to it. Space and place, including the vehicle that Huck and Jim, are shown to be subject to change:

we… let her [the raft] float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kinds of things—we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitoes would let us!

Space and place are qualities that exist "wherever the current wanted her to" go.  Freedom is shown to exist in a setting where space and place are not constrictive and limited.  They are wide- ranging and expansive, like the Mississippi River.  Confining notions of space and place are shown to be temporal, seen with the Widow Douglas and Pap, can be overcome in favor of a more transcendent notion of space and place, as seen on the Mississippi and the raft.  Twain might be suggesting that in the midst of a changing nation, space and place are qualities that have to be flexible and subject to individual freedom.  Twain understood that the ability to envision what can be as opposed to what is becomes dependent on constructions of time and space that are not rigid, fixed, and subject to being "sivilized."  In this light, space and place have a strong relationship with Twain's work.

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