The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Civilization and Freedom

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Civilization and Freedom
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“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” depicts the the contrast of civilization and freedom. Mark Twain utilizes several such contrasting scenarios and concepts to emphasize Hucks personal journey in his escape from civilization (Boughn 31). Huck believes that civilization would limit the possibilities of his spirit, and refuses to be confined within the rules and expectations of the society. For Huck, freedom is the ability to do anything one wants without being restricted by the rules set by those who are considered superiors in the society. In Hucks conscious choice of freedom, author Mark Twain utilizes land, which is associated with the shore or the civilization, and water, which is associated with escape and journey, as representations of the conflicts in Hucks search for freedom and solitude (Raelin 523). Twain also explores the idea that this search for freedom and solitude is hindered not merely by societal conditions, but also by Hucks unconscious acknowledgment of the societal norms (Boughn 31).

The land and water of the Mississippi River represents Hucks quest to acquire freedom (Raelin 526). Twain writes: “I was powerful glad to get away from the feuds…Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery… You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft” (124). In is clear that Huck feels the freedom while on the raft, compared to how it is on shore. Here, Huck is able to express himself freely without the society eyeing him. Huck says: “Its lovely to live on a raft…and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them [stars], and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened” (Twain 125).

Land and water also represents Hucks quest for solitude (Raelin 526). Solitude here is acquired when Huck is able to escape from the memories of all those related to the realities of civilization like Widow Douglas, Miss Watson, and even Pap Finn. For him, everything related to land, or the shore for that matter, is about restrictions, limitations, and rules. For example, Huck feels the restrictions on land when he eats berries for three days to survive on an island: “by-and-by it got sort of lonesome…there aint no better way to put time when you are lonesome;” (Twain 62). Huck also says: “I wish I hadnt ever come ashore that night, to see such things” (Twain 123).

Furthermore, Twain depicts how freedom and solitude can sometimes only be acquired if giving up important things (Raelin 532). For example, Huck needs to give up his relationships within the neighborhood, showing the freedom and solitude have a price. Aside from these limiting societal situations, everything should come from the inner self. With Hucks unconscious acceptance of the conditions set upon him by the society. Huck gets affected, and thus gets constrained too due to this. He has to go through both physical and self-journey (Raelin 533) in order to fully acquire his much desired freedom and solitude.

In conclusion, one can learn that public norms or restrictions should not define an individuals values. Huck portrays a free-spirited individual who does not want to be corrupted by the so-called civilization that, instead of pushing for individual progress, is setting more and more limits to the natural instincts and desires of the inner spirit. Twain effectively uses a seemingly simple symbolism of land and water, wherein the civilization is established on land, and the water is the means for going away from it (Boughn 31).

Works Cited
Boughn, M. “Rethinking Mark Twains Skepticism: Ways of Knowing and Forms of Freedom in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The Arizona Quarterly. 52.4 (1996): 31. Print.
Raelin, Joseph. “Emancipatory Discourse and Liberation.” Management Learning. 39.5 (2008): 519-540. Print.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2011. Print.