How are fear and hope convincingly represented in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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

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In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck has his fair share of challenges to face. He has his own sense of morality but does try to relate to his surroundings and is prepared to make sacrifices - even going to hell- if it means that there can be more to life than the expectations and  constraints placed on him by society. For Huck and Jim, there can be no hope without fear and they must take risks in order to improve their lot. The raft, at least, gives them a sense of control - ironic as they cannot direct the raft and drift into territory they should definitely avoid. In reference to the raft, Huck reflects that,

"I never felt easy till the raft was two mile below there... I was powerful glad to get away from the feuds, and so was Jim to get away from the swamp. We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all."

This fact intensifies the hopelessness of their lives without risk and the associated fear. Some things are worth it.

Hope and fear are therefore represented in a realistic way as Huck and Jim both resist the restrictions that society imposes on them. They have no idea what their future may be but they both believe that there is more to life than the structure which confines them. Huck tries to make sense of the life lessons that others try to teach him but, when they do not make that much sense to him, he dismisses them and accepts his fate. Hell will surely not be such a bad place if Tom is also there! Huck's reasoning is logical and although his interpretations may be simplistic, his character is believable and his adventures are feasible.

The fact that Huck is not judgmental and accepts people at face value also contributes to the reader's understanding of how hope and fear are intertwined. He does not over-complicate situations and Huck's sense of justice and his realization that "human beings can be awful cruel to one another," helps the reader understand that doing the right thing will always be worthier than doing what is expected. Questioning society's motivations ensures that fear can serve a useful purpose when it is associated with hope for a better life.  

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