The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: a Picaresque Novel

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been labelled as a picaresque novel. A picaresque novel is an adventure story that involves an anti-hero or picaro who wanders around with no actual destination in mind. The picaresque novel has many key elements. It must contain an anti-hero who is usually described as an underling(subordinate) with no place in society, it is usually told in autobiographical form, and it is potentially endless, meaning that it has no tight plot, but could go on and on. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has moulded itself perfectly to all these essential elements of a picaresque novel. Huck Finn is undeniably the picaro, and the river is his method of travel, as well as the way in which he wanders around with no actual destination. This is due to the fact that the river is in control and not Huck. Furthermore, it is the picaresque style that has also aided in highlighting the escapades that Huck experiences through his travels as those crucial to the novel, but also crucial to such a character as Huckleberry Finn. Huck is the perfect example of a young boy with adventure on his mind, and thus the characterization of Huck as a picaro is done flawlessly. Additionally, as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains all the vital aspects of a picaresque novel and picaro hero, it is these crucial traits that mark it as one of Mark Twain's most successful novels, and one of the world’s most famous adventure stories. One of the most important aspects of the picaresque novel is the fact that it must contain a picaro, otherwise known as the anti-hero of the novel. Huck is obviously the picaro in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A picaro is defined as, "a low-born but clever individual who wanders into and out of various affairs of love, danger, and farcical intrigue. These involvements may take place at all social levels and typically present a humorous and wide-ranging satire of a given society" (The Gale Group). Huck fits this definition perfectly. Huck isn't accepted by society and doesn't even want to be. He is most comfortable out on his own in the frontier. Furthermore, when the Widow Douglas takes him in and tries to provide him with a good life he doesn't want any part of it: “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 when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied.” (194) Huck finds civilized life intolerable, but instead prefers to live the life of a free spirit, but he isn't able to do that when the Widow is trying to civilize him. The Widow wants to refine Huck's lifestyle to match hers, but Huck can't stand that type of life and resists it. Huck wants to keep his independence, and he believes that the frontier is the only place where he can do that. Therefore, Huck's unaccepted presence in society, and his unwillingness to fit in is one that proves his existence as a picaro in the picaresque novel. Another characteristic of the picaro is the fact that he is a wanderer, which means that he is the type of character who roams from place-to-place with no set destination in mind. Huck's wandering occurs within the form of his raft on the Mississippi river. The river is an important aspect of Huck's wandering because the river continuously changes course, and there is no way for Huck to direct the river and his raft. If Huck passes a place or location there is no way for him to turn the raft around, but instead he has to continue on down the river. An example of this is when Huck and Jim pass Cairo, which was the one specific destination they had in mind because it's where Jim would have been free, "It wouldn't do to take to the shore; we couldn't take the raft up the stream, of course. There warn't no way but to wait for dark and start back in the canoe and...
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