What's the Big Deal with the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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Alecia Aylward

What is the big deal about "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"?

In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain envisioned a book that was to be taken as a satire (Hearn on Twain 355). Huckleberry Finn was not intended to be judged by its grammatical content but instead stir up unjust social norms of the post-civil war era (Arac 1). The novel itself serves to inform the reader of a small account of what slavery was like prior to the Civil War and how the treatment of the freed slaves did not change after it was published in 1884 (Chwast 1). When it was published Huckleberry Finn was so poorly accepted, that even the public library in Concord, Ma banned the novel due to its immorality, and vulgar use of the English language (Idol-Kaplan 11). Another vulgarity was felt in 1999, when the NAACP Pennsylvania chapter filed a motion demanding that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn be eliminated from the required reading in the local school districts (Hentoff 1). The chapter also stated that tax money should not be used to perpetuate a negative African American stereotype as it does with Jim the slave (Hentoff 1). Huckleberry Finn continues to be a beacon for white society to use the “N” word because Finn has been projected to an idol status over the past one hundred years (Arac 1). Many have said that Huck Finn encourage young adults as young as fourteen (the same age as Huck was in the book) to think critically about the abolitionist undertones that Mark Twain conceptualized while writing the novel (Hentoff 1). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel about a young boy's adventure with the prejudices of the time. With the help of a slave named Jim, both attempt to float to on the Mississippi River that ran south to freedom in the northern states. With murders, abuse, and civilization; Huck must overcome inner turmoil he feels about helping a runaway slave, and the bigger idea that slavery itself is wrong. Mark Twain has put the satire in satirical irony by including so many examples that the novel is “bursting as the seam”. Twain satirizes religion with Huck and Jim's litany of superstitions (Chapter IV). Twain satirizes greed; Huck's pap returns, only for the sole purpose of trying to take Huck's new found wealth (Chapter V). Twain pokes fun at 'sivilization' throughout: Huck can't bear to return to the widow's house to wear those uncomfortable clothes and fussing’ of supper (Chapter I & II). The purpose for Mark Twain’s use of satirical irony is lost in the mind of a thirteen or fourteen year old which the novel was written for this age group (Hentoff 2). Next, Jim tells Huck he's going to help his wife and kids escape, causing Huck to comment, "I was so sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him." (Situational irony), meaning that Jim has a plan and Huck is unsure of its success (Chapter VIII). Huck consistently comments on how doing right makes him feel bad, mainly because what he's been taught as right is wrong. (Situational irony and dramatic irony Chapter VI, VII, IX, XI, XVI). The novel has been compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the sense that it was produced to ignite society to see that the newly freed slaves as human beings, not the sub humans the white culture depicted (Chwast 2). The novel does not help to explain the harsh realities that slavery invoked. Jim is portrayed as an ignorant man, who deserted his family in pursuit of his freedom, only to be used as a pawn in Huckleberry's and Tom Sawyer's playtime (Lester 1). Due to the lack of reality within the novel, the reader cannot see Jim as the man that he is only the boy that Mark Twain portrayed him as (Lester 1). Jim is crucial to the message of Huckleberry Finn because he is a direct representation of how the white society saw slaves (Gregory 50). The other characters are simply just an “embodiment of the world” (Gregory 50). Then later on in the novel, Jim has become like a surrogate father...
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