In what ways does Huck face adversity and how does this make him a more mature character throughout the book?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Huck's maturity comes as a result of his facing adversity.  From the opening of the novel, Huck faces adversity in the form of being at odds with the world around him.  Huck does not find himself able to fully immerse himself in a world accepting of he and his independent streak.  Confronted with the Widow Douglas trying to "civilise" him, Huck realizes quickly where adversity lies:   “Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.”  Huck thinks and speaks in an honest and non- contrived manner.  Doing so creates the conditions of adversity because it places him at odds with the world around him.  

Such adversity continues in regards to Huck's relationship with his father.  The relationship is adverse in the cruel and almost sadistic way in which Pap treats Huck.  Bitter and resentful of his own life, Pap externalizes this on Huck. Words such as Pap going to "take it out" against Huck and false promises of his reformation create more adversity for Huck. Emotional and physical abuse help to define further adversity for Huck.  Through this, Huck recognizes that there is a level of adversity in both worlds he inhabits.  The world of "civilised" society is inauthentic and fradulant. Its hypocrisy is something that offends Huck.  At the same time, Huck recognizes that there is no future in staying with his father.  The court system has already awarded Pap custody of Huck, reflecting how Huck recognizes adversity even in the institutions around him.  In acknowledging the difficulty of living with his father, Huck knows that he must escape.  Before he escapes, Huck sees Pap "standing over" him "looking sour and sick."  It is indicative of the adversity that will be experienced if Huck remains with him.  Escape is the only option.  Understanding such a reality is where Huck's maturity is evident.

In both settings, Huck responds to the adversity he faces.  This helps to foster maturity in Huck by forcing him to become more self- reliant.  Huck's maturity is recognized in how he understands that the existing system around him will not assist him.  He becomes mature in accepting that he must help himself.  Huck gains maturity in recognizing that he must rescue himself or take an active stance against the adversity that surrounds him:

I got to thinking that if I could fix up some way to keep pap and the widow from trying to follow me, it would be a certainer thing than trusting to luck to get far enough off before they missed me; you see, all kinds of things might happen...he dropped down and went to sleep again; but what he had been saying give me the very idea I wanted. I says to myself, I can fix it now so nobody won't think of following me.

Escaping from both Pap and The Widow becomes elements of adversity to which Huck responds by leaving.  Huck's actions show maturation. Huck recognizes that he possesses a spirit of freedom and ability to rise above adversity.  In this, there is maturation. He does not allow his conditions of adversity to poison and victimize him.  Maturity is evident precisely because Huck is able to define himself against such conditions.  Such actions of maturity is how Huck comes to become more self- actualized throughout the narrative.

Wiggin42 | Student

Huck faces adversity from his uneducated father. Pap is always after Huck and his money. Huck has to resort to odd measures: faking his own death, dressing up as a girl, etc, to avoid his father. This desire to escape becomes Huck's central motivation. The lack of a truly caring figure (until he meets Jim) is a part of his adversity.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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