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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, how would you compare and contrast life on the raft to life on shore?


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Life on the raft represents freedom for both Jim and Huck. On dry land, they feel restricted in their movements—especially Jim, who, as a slave, has no freedom in so-called civilized society. As for Huck, he's always been a child of nature, preferring to spend his days wandering around fields and woods, going fishing, or enjoying a nice swim on a hot summer's day. This is his natural habitat, the place where he feels most comfortable, and the place where he can be himself.

Traveling down the Mississippi on a raft means that Jim and Huck never have to spend too much time in any one place, and that's how they like it. To both of them, freedom means being able to control your own destiny and that, in turn, means choosing where you live and for how long. On dry land, this wouldn't be possible. But out there on the raft, in the freedom of the open air, Jim and Huck can live life on their own terms in a way that would be unthinkable back in society.

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The comparison/contrast between the raft and the shore boils down to one issue: freedom. On the river, Huck and Jim are liberated from the legal, societal, and cultural strictures that otherwise would be applied to them on the shore. On the raft, the two characters are, for however brief a period, truly free.

Once they set foot back on shore, all the laws of man once again rear their ugly heads, and Huck and Jim are forced to comply. The similarities between raft and shore are mostly natural in comparison: Both are geographical features, and both are part and parcel of one another (you can't, for instance, have a shore without a body of water). Outside the literal nature of the two elements, however, few similarities exist, as life in the two separate locations is so vastly different for the characters in question.   

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The main difference is that when Huckleberry and Jim are on shore, the rules of society are imposed upon them.  These rules change the relationship of Jim to Huck, as well as the moral code.  On the raft, Jim has no labels, prejudices, etc. attached to him while Huck, too, can follow his conscience and not be forced to act according to the standards of his race and area.

In order to compare/contrast the way in which Huck's and Jim's lives are affected in each situation, you need to review key incidents and passages in the novel which point out similarities and/or differences.

See the writing lab for tips. You may wish to visit the sites below. Good luck!

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In the story The Adventures of Hucklebery Finn, how can you compare life on the river to life on the shore?

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