Realism in Huckleberry Fin

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Vashaun Parker

Mr. Nelson

American Literature

26 March, 2013

Reality Behind Appearance

Alfred Kazin states, “In every great novel of society….what counts is the reality behind appearance” (Kazin, 1981, 287). Though hard to distinguish, reality behind appearance is a central theme in many novels. It makes you look past what they convey and take deeper insight. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain about a southern wild boy Huckleberry Finn and his internal and external struggles as he travels along the Mississippi river with his buddy Jim. The novel Impulse by Ellen Hopkins is a dramatic story of three misguided teens, Vanessa, Connor, and Tony, whose fates intertwine as they meet in a mental institution known as Aspen Springs after their suicide attempts. In both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Impulse we see a reality behind appearance as the authors ask us to look deeper behind the text.

Miss Watson and Vanessa both look to be well ordered on the outside but on the inside struggle between right and wrong. As The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn starts we meet a woman named Miss Watson. She is Huck’s guardian, Widow Douglas, sister. Huck and Miss Watson are polar opposites. Miss Watson is very religious and has many rules. As Huck recalls them as, “‘Don't put your feet up there, Huckleberry’; and ‘Don't scrunch up like that, Huckleberry—set up straight’; and pretty soon she would say, ‘Don't gap and stretch like that, Huckleberry—why don't you try to behave?’” (Twain 2). This drives Huck Finn insane. We learn later on that Miss Watson owns a slave named Jim. But this makes us think how a woman so holy and domestic could do something as inhumane as owning a slave? The reality behind appearance there is that Miss Watson is not all that she claims to be. While she means well, she does not practice what she preaches. In the novel Impulse we encounter an unconventional beauty named Vanessa. She appears to have it all together, but in reality she hides her addiction: cutting herself. She recalls, “So I gave myself to knife, asked it to bite a little harder, chew a little deeper. The hot, scarlet rush felt so delicious I couldn’t stop there” (Hopkins 107). She struggles to find what is right and wrong. In the mental institution Aspen Springs she attends regular mass and prays for help. Vanessa fights with the demons. As her past catches up with her, she cannot help but to fall deeper into her blue depression. Her mother was an erratic woman, struggling with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Vanessa tells why she cuts, "I cut when I think I hear a baby crying. When I think I hear Mama calling. Knowing those things are impossible but hearing them just the same. And that’s something I’ll never break down and admit to anyone but myself. Bipolar crazy is one thing. Schizophrenic is another. Could I have inherited both?" (200). Vanessa cannot seem to find an alternative to harming herself until she finds the love of Tony. Both Vanessa and Miss Watson are stuck in bad habits.

Both Jim and Connor have a tough exterior but in reality are begging for love and understanding. Miss Watson’s slave Jim has had his challenges in life but always comes out on top of things. When he is the prime suspect in Huck’s fake death, he runs away and that is where he meets up with Huck. Though being separated from his family, Jim is still one of the kindest characters in the book. He respects and cares for Huck. When Jim says, ‘"No! W'y, what has you lived on? But you got a gun. Oh, yes, you got a gun. Dat's good. Now you kill sumfn en I'll make up de fire"’ (Twain 42), he shows that he has a profound friendship with Huck and they work well together. Through Jim’s character Twain references slavery and racism, saying that even though Jim is a slave, he has a higher respect for human life than most other white people. Huck is the only one to see that. Just like Jim, Connor is misunderstood and ignored....
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