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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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What are the symbolic values in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by M. Twain?

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains several values of our national history.

1. RELEVANCE OF BOYHOOD/CHILDHOOD: Twain writes this book from a child's point of view. Thus, we readers catch every silly misconception that a child might have about society or they way things are, as well as every lie and the human emotions that accompany lies. We find the creativity of Tom Sawyer at work that demonstrates the imagination of children, and the contention between Tom and Huck's different approaches that demonstrate how some little kids think irrationally and others practically. For each, it is a matter of continuing to grow. The morality of children comes through in Tom's determinations of when to pay for a crime or item, and when to just steal.

2. IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN DIGNITY FOR ALL RACES: Huck views Jim from the beginning as a toy or object. As time goes on, he grows a love for Jim that forces kindness and sacrifice. When he considers continuing to help Jim, he considered how his efforts for aiding Jim are against the law, but to Huck, it didn't seem right. This is where morality begins to strike Huck. He even finally decides he'd rather go to hell and help Jim instead of turning Jim in. Huck didn't live the finest childhood a kid could have by any means, but he comes to value Jim and see his humanity as Jim cares about his kids and experiences pains and ultimate frustration at the Phelps' farm. I believe when Jim risks his freedom for Tom's health, Huck gains even further respect for Jim.

3. TRUTHFUL REPRESENTATION OF HISTORY: In the news right now, there is a publisher considering changing some of the language of Huck Finn for a "cleaner, less offensive version". Although there are many sides to the debate, Twain, in his own interviews and writings about the book claims that he set out to represent the truth of life along the river in terms of slavery and children. No pains are spared to show the evil of Pap. The chances for Jim to get caught occur endlessly.

4. COMMENTS ON RELIGION, EDUCATION AND FREEDOM: Twain uses his book to satirize the acts of religious people. Although Miss Watson is a contagious Christian, she also takes snuff in private. At other moments, Huck mocks prayer or Providence. In the long run, I think he still hopes for forgiveness, but remains a child nonetheless doing things wrong. The education he receives on the river with Jim may be of more value than he would receive at school because he learned morality, something he struggled with in the classroom or under Miss Watson's control. Jim's freedom granted in the will wasn't enforced until the ability to control it was given up by Tom. Although we say we want things in our society, we don't always actually put them into play until years later.

This book SYMBOLIZES hundreds of years of AMERICAN HISTORY. Whether he intended it to or not, it touches slavery, humanity, rights, dignity, childhood, abuse, imagination, and many other topics that are truly American ideals.

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