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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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How does the storm inspire Huck in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and why isn't he afraid?

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Huck and Jim have no homes, and thus their journey makes them vulnerable to many things, including bad weather. There are two storms in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one at the beginning (Chapter 9) and one near the end of the book (Chapter 29), that are useful to analyze. Twain uses his full powers of poetic description to describe these storms. And yet the tone in these passages depends on the very different circumstances that Huck finds himself in. In the first storm, Huck is feeling happy and content with Jim. He says, “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here.” Considering the fact that Huck has just faked his own death to escape his abusive father, this is quite a transformation in Huck’s situation from previous chapters. He is not afraid in this “rumbling, grumbling, tumbling” storm. He has Jim to look after him, and his needs are satisfied. He stays dry in their shelter, eating fish and hot cornbread as he is entertained by the wildness of the storm. He is safe; he is in control.

There is another storm near the end of the book. Huck has been trapped along with the king and the duke. He thinks that he may die; he fears that the townspeople will hang them for being frauds. The evidence to prove them frauds lies buried in a coffin in a graveyard, and so all the townspeople, who drag along Huck, the king, and the duke, go to the graveyard in the middle of the night to dig up the coffin in order to find out the truth. The storm that hits while they are in the graveyard is not entertaining; rather, it enhances the menacing tone of the scene. The wind, instead of revealing the “pale underside of the leaves,” now “thrashes” around. The lightning, instead of being “bright as glory,” now is a “perfect sluice of white glare.” Instead of being a familiar summer storm that thrills the soul with its natural beauty, the storm now terrifies Huck as it highlights his predicament: “the most awful trouble and most dangersome I ever was in.” There is nothing lovely about this storm like there was with the first storm. The storm emphasizes that Huck is incredibly vulnerable and fearful when he is on his own and does not have Jim looking out for him.

When the townspeople are shocked by what they discover in the coffin, Huck uses their distraction in order to escape. While the thunder booms and the lightning crashes all around him, Huck runs as fast as he can, away from danger and back to the safety of the raft, where his friend and father figure, Jim, is waiting, overjoyed to see him again. Jim is the one who can provide safety for Huck, transforming the darkest storms.

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Huck has never really been part of so-called civilized society. He's always felt more comfortable and at home in the natural world. He respects nature; he understands it—it provides him with a kind of practical wisdom that he simply can't get living in St. Petersburg or any other town. In chapter 29, for example, when the mob's digging up Peter Wilks's coffin, a sudden flash of lightning illuminates an unmoored boat that Huck can use to make good his escape. It's significant that the other folks don't notice this, as they're too wrapped up in their own business. Huck has a sense of oneness with the natural environment that most adults simply don't share.

To Huck, nature is a friend, not a foe. So even though the storm in chapter 9 is absolutely ferocious, Huck's not concerned. He feels safe and secure in the natural shelter of the cave with his good friend Jim by his side. The only wise thing to do in the midst of such an almighty downpour is to attune yourself to nature's rhythms and wait for the storm to pass. When that happens, and Jim and Huck finally venture outside of the cave, it's the various bits of flotsam and other human artifacts they find that instill fear, rather than the Mississippi River down which they float.

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In asking this question, I'll assume you're referring to the storm that occurs in Chapter 9 ("The House of Death Floats By"). When the storm begins in this chapter, Huck and Jim are sitting in the shelter of a cave, watching the tumultuous spectacle. However, as intense as the storm is, Huck seems to be primarily inspired by the raw, wild beauty of the weather and nature. Take, for instance, the following passage:

It was one of these regular summer storms. It would get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and lovely;... and next, when it was just about the bluest and blackest---fst! it was bright as glory, and you'd have a little glimpse of tree-tops a-plunging about away off yonder in the storm, hundreds of yards further than you could see before... (55)

From this passage, we can see that Huck is inspired by the wild beauty of the storm that he's witnessing. There's a kind of freedom out there in the natural world, it would seem, that is exemplified by the chaotic power of the storm. Moreover, it seems that Huck is not afraid of said storm because he recognizes the free nature of its beauty. By including this section, Mark Twain introduces us to an important theme in the novel: the freedom of the natural world. Though it is at times dangerous and unpredictable, the natural world becomes a haven for both Huck and Jim, offering them a break from the petty disputes and corrupt ways of civilization. 

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