November 5, 2012
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Genre: Fiction, Adventure Novel
Historical Context: First published in England in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. Naturalism (c.1865-1900) A literary movement that used detailed realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment had unavoidable force in shaping human character. Protagonist: Huckleberry Finn was young boy in the late nineteenth century coming of age. He viewed is surroundings practically and logically without judgments. His socially simple-minded self gives the novel a satirical humor. Antagonist: The rules and laws of Society in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn makes Huck think it’s ways of life are the right way and when he doesn’t follow them he is doing wrong. By doing so Huck declares himself a traitor and villain, and says if this is wrong then I will go to hell for it because I think it is right. Huck follows his conscience and what he thinks is right by lying, cheating, and stealing throughout the novel. Plot Summary: Huck Finn has been adopted by the Widow Douglas, who lives with her sister, Miss Watson. Both of the women try to “sivilize” him by sending him to church and school and teaching him cleanliness and manners. Huck’s drunken father Pap returns to town demanding Huck’s money. Judge Thatcher and the Widow try to get legal custody of Huck. Pap kidnaps Huck and keeps him in a cabin across the Mississippi River form St. Petersburg, Missouri. When Pap leaves the cabin he locks Huck in and beats him when he returns drunk. Huck escapes Pap and the cabin by faking his own death. He hides on Jackson’s Island in the middle of the Mississippi River. Huck runs into Jim, Miss Watson’s slave in the woods and they stay together. Huck and Jim find a raft and house floating down the river. A dead body is in the house but Jim refuses to let Huck see the man’s face. They start downriver in the raft and run into con artist, slave capturers, and many other situations. Jim is sold, Tom and Huck try to get him back, and Huck finds out Pap is dead. Huck decides to go West. Themes
Racism and Slavery
Conflict between civilization and “natural life”
The Mississippi River in the novel represents freedom because as Huck and Jim travel alone on their raft, they have no one to answer to but each other. The river can also symbolize the delights and dangers of life because Huck and Jim also encounter evils from people of the towns along the river. The fog as Huck and Jim travel along the Mississippi represent the complex problems that make it difficult to achieve life’s goals. Motifs
Childhood: Huck’s childhood excuses him from some of his actions throughout the novel. In some cases he tends to know right from wrong more than the adults in the novel do even though he lacks the guidance that a family and community should have provided. Lies and Cons: Throughout the novel Huck lies and cons many people. He soon realizes that lying can be good, depending on its purpose. Huck also realizes that some things he has learned contradict what is right. Superstitions and Folk Beliefs: Jim tells Huck many superstitions and folktales. At first they seem crazy but end up having some basis of reality. Jim’s superstitions serve as a different view of social teachings and assumptions that provide a reminder that mainstream is not always right. Point of View: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is in first person as Huck narrates the novel. Structure: The plot of the story flows around bends, through darkness and fog, and into bright sunlight just like the Mississippi River itself. The novel is full of surprises and stories that brings the character’s values to light for the reader.
“The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize 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...
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