Huckleberry Finn - the Controversial Ending

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The Adventures of Huck Finn-The Controversial Ending

The novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has stirred up much controversy over such topics as racism, prejudice and gender indifference, but the brunt of the criticism has surrounded itself around the ending, most notably with the re-entry of Tom Sawyer. Some people viewed the ending as a bitter disappointment, as shared by people such as Leo Marx. The ending can also be viewed with success, as argued by such people as Lionel Trilling, T.S. Eliot, V. S. Pritchett and James M. Cox in their essays and reviews. I argue that the ending of the novel proves successful in justifying the innocence of childhood through such themes as satire and frivolous behaviour. One of the underlying aspects of the novel is that it is a novel based mostly around adolescence. Jim and Huck are the two chosen by Twain, to set out on a wild adventure. This adventure saw murder, theft, lies and death, all aspects of life that youth is generally deterred from, deterred in a sense of misguidance and frivolous behaviour that leads them to concern themselves with other matters, matters circulating around innocence and light-hearted activities. For Jim and Huck, their various mishaps and adventures proved childish in a sense that they are taken generally lightly. Take for instance the discovery of the corpse in the floating house (Page 44). With discoveries like this murder, and other various mishaps the boys behave as they should, as boys. None the less, the two are not yet matured and ostracized of their real “boyhoods.” Within just the first few pages, we see that Huck is truly playful at heart, when he is sneaking around in the forest in search of a ghost, and runs into Tom; “Tom whispered to me and wanted to tie Jim to the tree for fun” (10). Although Jim is a young adult, his childish antics seem more prevalent then Huck’s. His silly superstitions of bad luck occurred more often then not backing up the notion of youth, “And Jim said you mustn’t count the things you are going to cook for dinner, because that would be bad luck. The same if you shook the table-cloth after sundown” (41). The boys are young, foolish and generally playful in nature. With respect to Jim’s and Huck’s lives, Jim has lived a life of slavery and Huck of brutal mishaps with a drunken father. The two are certainly not the poster boys for the stereotyped youth. I argue that this very adventure is some sort of escape from their real lives to experience a false sense of childhood and freedom thereby justifying the success yet heavily debated, ending. In tying this reoccurring theme to the ending, it sets the stage well for the re-entry of Tom Sawyer, perhaps the most childish of them all, to plan the great escape. Pushing simplicity aside and resorting to drastic, elaborate and foolish plots, Sawyer replaces the relative ease of success to that of immaturity and the reoccurring theme of youth and frivolous behaviour. For Sawyer it is a game, just as his idea for the band of robbers at the beginning of the novel (Page 12), Tom’s ideas run wild as Huck simply tags along for the ride deciding it best not to argue, but go with the crowd. When it came down to Tom’s ideas, “Everybody was willing….Everybody said it was a real beautiful oath.” (Page 12). Not once is Huck’s true will shown, just that of the others. The journey versus quest ideas appears more often then not when speaking of the novel as a whole. Are Huck and Finn simply on a trip with no destination, or are they truly in search of some common goal? Leo Marx’s general interpretation of the story is that the journey is really a quest (Page 326). He believes that Twain fails to take into consideration, the common goals and attributes associated with journeys. James M. Cox disagrees with Marx, saying; to see the journey as a quest, whereas it simply is not at any time a quest. A quest is a positive journey, implying an effort a struggle to reach a goal. But Huck is...
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