Why is nature an important theme in Huckleberry Finn?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nature is important in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it is inextricably tied to his narrative about a young boy and an escaped slave in the antebellum South.  The Mississippi River is not just a major detail in Twain's narrative, it is a character every bit as central to the story as Huck and Jim.  There are three main characters in Huckleberry Finn, and one of them is the river down which the raft carries the two human characters on their journey. The Mississippi represents Huck and Jim's freedom, tenuous though it may be, and Huck, the novel's narrator, repeatedly emphasizes the river's importance as the two individuals continuously escape perilous situations and encounter all manner of eccentric characters along the way.  Towards the end of Chapter XVIII, for instance, Huck attributes his and Jim's escape to the river's vast expanse, as in the following comment:

"I never felt easy till the raft was two mile below there and out in the middle of the Mississippi. Then we hung up our signal lantern, and judged that we was free and safe once more."

And, towards the end of Chapter XXIX, as the pair flee yet again, Huck states:

"So in two seconds away we went a-sliding down the river, and it did seem so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river, and nobody to bother us."

Nature is an important theme in Huckleberry Finn because the Mississippi River is so central to the culture of the region depicted and because Huck and Jim are only truly free when they are on their raft gliding down its length. 

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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