Alcoholism in Huckleberry Finn

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. He is better known by his pen name “Mark Twain”, which is a nautical term which means two fathoms deep. As a child he learned to smoke and led a gang, leaving school at age 12 to become an apprentice at a printing shop. He became a free lance journalist and traveled around country until age 24, when he became a river boat pilot on the Mississippi, his childhood dream. During the Civil War, Twain joined the Confederate Army, but left and went west in search of gold. When that failed him, he became a reporter and comedian. His book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in 1885. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is narrated from Huck’s perspective, a delinquent 14 year old, who was previously seen in Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The story takes place in Missouri and the Mississippi River, but progress into the Deep South. Huck stumbles upon Jim, a slave, who is running away before he is sold to New Orleans. They take a raft down the Mississippi River and plan to take the Ohio River north so Jim can be free. They miss the Ohio River and continue on down south. Along the way they face many conflicts. As their friendship develops, Huck realizes that Jim is not an emotionless slave; he is a genuinely good person who he comes to love. The reason their adventure started was because Huck to escapes his alcoholic and abusive father, and does so by faking his own death. Children of alcoholics often have poor relationships with their parents, their morals and personalities are negatively affected by their parents’ alcoholism, as exemplified by Pap Finn and his interactions with Huck. Throughout the story Twain makes comments indicating his view of the ill effects of alcohol.

Due to the effects of alcohol, a parent who abuses alcohol and their child often do not have a good relationship, exemplified in the harsh and abusive relationship Pap has with Huck. Dennis Milroy was a child of alcoholics. They were there physically, but he felt as if they were not there at all. He felt as if he never received any attention. While he was young he often ran off, not seeing his parents and his parents not caring. When Milroy was in court and needed his parents, they were drunk (24). Throughout a child’s young life they desire attention and need to be taken care of. With the intervention of alcohol the parent cannot meet the child’s needs, creating a barrier between them. In Northern Ireland’s newspaper Sunday Life a boy Calum, the son of an alcoholic father, wrote a letter to his father describing how he knew that his father had loved him, but he was disappointed that he never showed it. He is saddened to think about the things they missed from the possibilities that could have come from a relationship. He wishes he could have gotten his father help, and is hurt by the fact that they cannot have a loving relationship at his father’s side as he gets older (Dear Dad…). This letter shows the disappointment from the lack of affection and the lack of a relationship due to the barrier that is constructed by the use of alcohol. Martina Tomori noted in a study that, “Children of alcoholics…have very low educational aspirations” (Tomori). Similarly Pap and Huck don’t have much of a relationship; Pap is very critical, and even abusive. Pap shows up at random and takes Huck, just to take the six thousand dollars Huck found. He doesn’t pay very much attention to Huck, as he is often out drinking, while Huck is allowed to wander off in the woods. Pap tells Huck of he should not think he is important, because he is dressed in nice clothes. He also tells Huck that he’s going to knock Huck’s self esteem down that he has gained through many frills while he was away. He accuses Huck of thinking he’s better than him, because he is going to school and can read and write, and Pap cannot (Twain 28). Pap is unable to show any support and...
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