Huckleberry Finn Freedom Quest
At the end of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” The Widow Douglas adopted Huck Finn. She tries to give the boy a good education and teaches him good manners. However, Huck’ father stole Huck and the boy had to escape. He met Jim, a black slave, who also escaped from his master in order not to be sold. Together they organized a journey across Mississippi river. The both want to find freedom: Jim wants to become free and Huck wants to get rid from the society, which wants to change and educate him.
The kind of freedom sought by Jim is quite understandable as his main goal is to become free from slavery. Huck’s desires are much more complicated and need to be analyzed. Huck’s mind is free of romantic cliché and his temper is formed by reality. He does not have any outer ostensible virtues, however, he has all the essential qualities. It is essential to draw a parallel between Huck Finn and Thomas Sawyer. Tom is a charming guy, but he is a child of his epoch, his town, who got used to have a double life. When it was necessary he could play the role of a boy from a decent family.
Huck is quite different, he is a son of a drunkard, he does not have to go to school and, thus, he is a master of his own life. He is far from pretense and all the rules of civilized life are really unbearable for him. He is attracted by the games thought out by Tom, but he values high his freedom and independence. If he looses his freedom he feels himself in a wrong box. That is why he escaped from a kind widow: “she put me in them new clothes again, and I couldnt do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldnt go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals” (p.6).
Nature presented Huck with strong, faithful heart that is opened to all humiliated and reject impudent force in any its manifestation. Huck possesses the feeling of inner independence that makes him run away from comfort and full satisfaction The Widow Douglas offers to him: “the Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would civilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied” (p.5). He escapes to the wide and cruel world. His love to freedom means the rejection of sanctimony, bourgeois welfare and legalized lie. Huck understands the realities of life. The romantic journey across Mississippi, when the both Jim and Huck feel the same freedom, Huck does not make him forget about the real life with all its cruelty and banality: “it was a close place. I took . . . up [the letter I’d written to Miss Watson], and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming” (p. 220).
In comparison to “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in Huck’s character we can see a new, very essential feature that is the civil courage. He is the defender and concealer of a fugitive slave. Saving Jim from slave-traders, he risks to loose his own freedom. However, Twain emphasizes that Huck really needs to fight for Jim’s freedom. He needs to fight against social injustice and his fight has deep social meaning.
Both Jim and Huck understand social realities but they understand them differently. Jim understands freedom as a chance to be a master of his life with the help of good job and his own property. Only abolition of slavery can bring these benefits to him. Huck in his turn wants to be free from all the rules of feigned society. It is Huck’s ability to think about other people makes his image attractive. That is why Mark Twain saw in him the hero of XX century, when there would be no racial prejudices, poverty and injustice.
Baym, Nina, et al (eds) The Norton Anthology of American Literature W. W. Norton & Company; Eighth Edition edition, 2011