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Reports & Essays: Literature - Novels

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Mark Twain and Huckleberr
In 1884, Mark Twain wrote one of the most controversial and remembered novels in the world of literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain was the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He was born in Florida, Missouri, Nov. 30, 1835. Twain was one of six children. This contributed to his family being poor. Twain often had to find inexpensive forms of entertainment. Twain made Huckleberry Finn represent him fictionally in this book. Huck did the same typical boy things as Twain. ^Now, we'll start this band of robbers and call it..." was one of the things Huck said (Twain 9). When Twain was four years old, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a small town on the west bank of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River and the towns along it were used as the setting in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. "We judged that three nights more would fetch us to Cairo, at the bottom of Illinois, where the Ohio River comes in^^ (Twain 106). Huck and Jim were trying to reach a town named Cairo. It was located in a free state, Ohio. Cairo was just one of the many towns Twain referred to in this novel. Twain even used familiar dialects in his novel. He stated at the beginning of the novel, "the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary Pike County dialect... are used to wit..." (Twain 1). In this book, as they traveled down the Mississippi River, the values of Huck and Jim were contrasted against those of the people living in the southern United States. Huck (the narrator and one of the main characters) and Jim(another main character) were both trying to reach freedom. Twain based this book on things that were happening during this time in his life. Huck was introduced without a father in his life. Twain's father had died when he was about Huck's age in the book. Twain portrayed religion and the morals of the southern society with satire. "The men took their guns [to church] ... and kept them between their knees...^ (Twain 142) was just one example. In the time of Twain's life that he wrote this novel, the Civil War had just ended. The war had tested society's morals. The issue of slavery was important to Twain which was the reason morals were portrayed in this way. The freedom and peacefulness of the river soon gave way to the deceit, greed and prejudice in the towns on the bank of the river. Huck stated, ^ It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars^^ (Twain 86) and ^We had mighty good weather as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us at all-that night, nor the next^^ (Twain 86). One day, Huck and Jim were separated while on shore. Huck was told by another runaway slave, ^those old fools made a trade and got forty dollars^^ (Twain 274). This quote showed the greed and prejudice of Southerns. They actually sold slaves for money. It was as if people were not regarded as humans unless they were white. Many of the towns Twain described were based on his hometown and nearby towns along the Mississippi shores. "I rose up, and there was Jackson's Island..." (Twain 47) and "...why mama, struck out for this town of Goshen..." (Twain 80)were a just few quotes from the novel, which were based on real places. Jackson^s Island was located just a few miles down the Mississippi River from Twain^s childhood home, Hannibal. Goshen was also a town located a few miles down the river from Twain^s home. These two runaways, a beaten boy and a slave built a place to escape to on their raft. Eventually though, the values of the people on shore found their way into Huck's and Jim's thoughts. This became a major theme in the novel. During the Civil War, many people were divided on the issue of slavery. Even when they tried to ignore the problem, it crept its way into their minds. While traveling down the Mississippi River on the raft, Jim, the "runaway nigger", was free (Twain 76). Although Twain used the word "nigger" approximately two hundred and thirteen times in his novel, the message he was sending was anything but racist. Twain wrote, "Miss Watson's big nigger..." (Twain 6). He also wrote "... hardly notice the other niggers... (Twain 8)" and "Niggers is always talking about..." (Twain 8). Around the time this novel was written, "nigger" was thought to be the appropriate word to use when referring to an African American. Everyone in town thought Huck had been murdered and thrown into the Mississippi River. In reality though, he was alive on the raft. Huck and Jim lived a life that was as Huck stated "...it's lovely to live on a raft" (Twain 72). Later, when the Duke and Dauphin joined them on their raft, and they all became friends; Huck was relieved and thought everyone should "...feel right and kind toward the others..." (Twain 161) while they lived on the raft. As long as they were on the raft,honesty was kept, but whenever they touched shore they found deceit and greed in the rural Southern United States. While on the raft, the men discussed how they had helped someone. They stated ^^[he] begged me to help^^ (Twain 156). When they reached shore, they made plans to swindle people out of money. These plans included ^^runnin^ a little temperance revival ^ and takn^ as much as five or six dollars a night^^ (Twain 156). Twain contrasted life on the raft with the ideas of the people on the Mississippi shores. Two feuding families, the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons, were used to show what lives of Southerners and their religion were like. The families had been fighting for thirty years, but no one knew the reason. When Huck asked if it was caused by land, Buck Grangerford replied, "I reckon maybe - I don't know" (Twain 140). Both of the families took guns to church and discussed the sermon reported by Huck to be "^a pretty ornery preaching-all about brotherly love, and suchlike tiresomeness^" (Twain 142). Twain used satire to make the society on the Mississippi River appear as a greedy place where values were twisted and church was more of an entertainment than a religion. Huck and Jim's perfect life on the raft was cut short when the two frauds came aboard. The Duke and Dauphin continuously lied and took advantage of the people on shore. These two caused many unwanted encounters with the towns' people along the Mississippi River. Huck, unlike Jim, quickly realized the men were "...just low-down humbugs and frauds" (Twain 161). Huck was finally able to slip away from the Duke and Dauphin and continue with Jim on their journey. Huck said, "it's so good to be free again" (Twain 260). The freedom did not last long though. The Duke and Dauphin soon returned. Huck "...Wilted right down to the planks... and [gave] up..." (Twain 262). He told them that he did not like what they were doing. Mark Twain contrasted the values of the people on shores against those of Huck and Jim in a way that Huck's and Jim's were positively portrayed. The values of the rural Southern United States were negatively portrayed with satire. Buck Grangerford stated, "^they don^t know what the row was about in the first place^^ (Twain 141). No one could even remember what had caused the feud. This was just one example of the negatively portrayed values. The Duke and Dauphin ended up selling Jim for money. Huck became very angry when he discovered this. Huck eventually met up with a good friend of his, Tom Sawyer. They were able to create an elaborate plan to free Jim from the barn in which he was being held. After being recaptured after escaping, Jim was released because a Southern white man put in a good word for him. The journey ended as the war did. Jim received the freedom he deserved and had waited so long for. At the end of the novel, Huck also found freedom. He decided to head out West in search of more adventures. Jim decided he would try to buy his wife and child out of slavery. He wanted to give them a chance to live a life of freedom. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain gave freedom to Huck and Jim and showed readers that all humans, no matter what race, share the same feelings and should be treated equally. Works Cited Clemens, Samuel L. The Adventures of Hucklberry Finn. New York City: Harper and Brothers, 1948. Railton, Stephen . Mark Twain in His Times. 23 Sep. 1998. 10 Feb. 1999 . Robinson, Robert. Samuel Langhorne Clemens. 28 Aug. 1998. 8 Feb. 1999 . Salwen, Peter . Mark Twain in Cyberspace. 26 Jul. 1996. 1 Jan. 1999 . Titta, Rachel. Mark Twain and the Onset of the Imperialist Period. 3 Jan. 1998. 12 Jan. 1999 . Vitale, Joe. How Mark Twain Might Write Online. 7 Jul. 1997 . 12 Jan. 1999 .

"For complete summary and analysis of literary works, please visit NovelGuide.com

 



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