The River Motif in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The River Motif In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huckleberry Finn… this is the very name that can sound familiar to almost everybody from pupils in elementary school through students at university to elderly grandparents. But the more astonishing is that the characters, the flow of events and the bunch of themes,symbols and motifs included mean for everybody something absolutely different. Till for an 11- year- old little boy it provides a real boyish story full of flabbergasting, enviable adventures of a peer, for a 21- year- old half grown- up student it already gives opportunity for deeper interpretation of the hidden signs within the novel (eg. about the serious problems society should tackle with) between the lines and so giving also opportunity to understand why has been so popular The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn during times among all generations. And finally the reason why this book is so dear for our grandparents is that it affords a chance them to remember their childhood when the world was totally different from today’s world, when people were far closer to nature, when those kind of adventures Mark Twain pictured were almost day- to- day; altough not on the River Mississippi but on the River Danube, not with a ’Jim’ but with a best friend and not deliberately to escape…

As it is mentioned above, the novel is abound with typical themes, motifs and symbols both of world literature and both specifically of American literature. First of all, the most characteristic from these are racism and slavery, altough the novel was written more than twenty years(1884) after the American Civil War in which the anti- slavery North won finally, the racial issues were still present and became crucial once again. This is why Mark Twain opted for such an antislavery theme for his new novel. Secondly, since The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can be discussed as a ’bildungsroman’, a novel of self- cultivation, education plays an important role, both intellectually and morally. The reader can witness the development and changes of Huck Finn’s point of view in connection with the teachings on race received from Miss Watson, sister of Widow Douglas who …”took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me…” The more event happen, the more Huck’s views alter thanks to his and Jim’s, the Negro intimate relationship. Time and again Huck gives evidence his growing ability to distinguish good and bad, enemy and friend and the nonexisting difference between black and white… and finally he reaches its climax saying: „I knowed he was white inside” . And last but not least the most significant and most commented symbol of the book is the journey of the two heroes- Huck and Jim- and the road itself, the River Mississippi. “As Pascal says ‘rivers are roads that move’, […] the road itself is the greatest character in this novel of the road, and the hero’s departures from the river and his returns to it compose a subtle and significant pattern.” (Lionel Trilling: A Certain Formal Aptness In. Graff & Phelan: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- A Case Study in Critical Controversy) This is not a kind of symbol which appears and disappears again and again but it is an overarching one; this is in the very focus of the story, events- both physical and both phychological- happen on the river, it has a kind of fate- determiner role. Anyway journey is one of the most important elements of human existence; adventures, unknown landscapes and countries give us knowledge. Knowledge about the unfamiliar and knowledge about ourselves. That is why poets and authors use this pattern to educate their heroes and their readers alike. Twain’s novel is not the first example using the journey and the road- here the river- for such purpose. We can find examples already in the ancient Greek literature- Homer’s Odyssey-, or in the Middle Ages- Dante’s The Divine Comedy- in the Enlightenment- Voltaire’s Candide- and also in the Hungarian Romantic literature-...
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