1.Basic Details: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. Given the name Samuel Langhorne Clemens at birth, Twain was born in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835, though he grew up in Hannibal, Missouri. Twain died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut. 2.Publishing Info: Published in 1885, 283 pages.
3.Setting: In the time before the Civil War, yet amidst the fight against slavery, both Jim and Huck weave and wander all through the Mississippi River and the land around thereof. The fluid, ever running water cannot be harnessed; it is a place where both Jim and Huck can be considered free. In contrast, the rough, hard land where they occasionally set foot upon is where Huck and Jim run into problems. (More on the Mississippi river in Literary Element section.) 4.Plot: Exposition: In the beginning of his story, Huck is living in the home of Miss Watson to become civilized. Though he wishes something, anything, would free him from school-work and manners, he didn’t expect his father, Pap, to be the one to do it. To his dismay, society turns their backs on him and allows him to live with his father. Huck is constantly abused by Pap. But by faking his own death with the blood of a pig, Huck escapes his captivity to Jackson Island where he meets Jim, a runaway slave. Though Huck doesn’t realize it yet, this is when Huck’s journey is no longer one of solidarity; he now has someone to lean on. They begin to travel along the Mississippi River. Moral Climax: Huck learns that he cannot rely on Jim’s company without allowing Jim to rely on him. In a moment of moral dilemma, Huck weighs the pros and cons of harboring a slave. He begins to write a letter to Jim’s owner telling where Jim is being held and how to find Jim. Huck soon tears the letter apart. He decides against the social norm and stays by Jim. This is the moral climax because it is the exact moment that Huck sides with his conscience and he refuses to conform. Resolution: From the moment that Huck has decided to be morally sound, the rest of his story is resolution. Although, there are many minor climaxes, such as the scene when Tom convinces Huck to help Jim escape in a bizarre and overcomplicated way. The book closes with Tom revealing that his escape plan wasn’t even necessary, Jim is already free. Tom’s Aunt asks to adopt Huck, but he refuses and decides to move to the west. 5.Characters: Huckleberry Finn: Huck is a thirteen year old child with the burdens of an adult. He is the protagonist, but there is not one specific person who is antagonizing him. Not only is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn centered on him, the story is also from his point of view. Huck is dynamic; when his journey begins his is naive and innocent, but near the end he is more independent. He realizes he can rely completely on his own self when he decides in the end to move to the west. However, near the beginning, Huck is less sure of himself. He is constantly second guessing himself and the society he was half-heartedly submerged in. Jim: Jim is Miss Watson’s slave. He can be quite cunning and practical, but his low social standing leaves other characters to view him as an object, and not a human. Because he is running from a form of captivity, he is literally and figuratively in the same boat as Huck. Once they meet each other on Jackson Island, they decide to stick together during their escape to freedom. Jim becomes a father-like figure to Huck during their journey, this is partly because of Jim’s burning desire to be back home with his family and Huck’s lack of family. Jim is a loyal and admirable friend to Huck . He likes to give advice, one time he says to Huck “Sometimes you gwyne to git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but every time you’s gwyne to git well agin (27)”, meaning that problems will always arise, but you can grow from them. This shows not only that Jim is far more intelligent than he appears, but that he can support Huck. Tom Sawyer: Tom is Huck’s best friend. His upbringing is more formal than Huck’s so he is higher up on the social ladder; however, he isn’t as intelligent as Huck. Huck has street-smarts, while Tom has book-smarts, and he was brought up to do everything by the book. Including, his ridiculous get-away plan he coined Huck into doing. He likes to follow “the rules”, but only the ones he reads about in his adventure books which focus mainly on appearance and approach, rather than efficiency or success. Because of this, he doesn’t seem to pay attention to other’s well-being, and is seen to have low morals. Miss Watson/Widow Douglass: The two are opposites; Widow Douglass is kind and gentle, while Miss Watson is a hypocritical religious nut. Both Miss Watson and Widow Douglass may seem like minor characters, but almost all of Huck’s actions can be linked back to them. Together, the wealthy sisters adopt and try to raise Huck in a formal setting. Widow Douglas gives him the means for a good social up-bringing, while Miss Watson (unknowingly) gives Huck a loyal friend, Jim. Jim is Miss Watson’s slave, and if she hadn’t been thinking of selling him, Jim and Huck’s fates may never have crossed. (Miss Watson can also be linked to Huck deciding to stick by Jim, when Huck tries to write her a letter saying where Jim is. However, he decides not to do that.) 6.Literary Element: In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain uses several literary elements, but the most predominant one is using the Mississippi River as a symbol for freedom and all that comes with that. As mentioned slightly before in the Setting section, the Mississippi river is timeless, it flows on forever. The river is bound to nothing and no one; it is free. It starts out as the only form of transportation to a place of freedom, Ohio, but becomes a new place of freedom all in its own way. Before boarding their raft, both Huck and Jim experience a form of confinement. Jim is bound by slavery and Huck is held in captivity figuratively by societal rules and physically by his father, Pap. Yet, when they are floating along the river, they are free and careless. They find peace, and this sits well with the both of them. Huck describes the experience, “So in two seconds away we went a-sliding down the river, and it did seem so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river, and nobody to bother us. (29)” In two separate ways he explains how being alone on the river with Jim is what makes them free, he says, “all by ourselves” and “nobody to bother us”, this is to stress that society and other people are the only thing working against them. The river, dissimilarly, is not alive; this lack of humanity is what makes it so easygoing. 7.Style: Mark Twain has an odd way of writing in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain took the first person perspective of an uneducated child, Huckleberry Finn, and described the story through his eyes, using his dialect and point of view. One example of this is when the “king and duke” join Jim and Huck on the raft: “It didn't take me long to make up my mind that these liars warn't no kings nor dukes at all, but just low-down humbugs and frauds. But I never said nothing, never let on; kept it to myself; it's the best way; then you don't have no quarrels, and don't get into no trouble... If I never learnt nothing else out of pap, I learnt that the best way to get along with his kind of people is to let them have their own way.” This quote says a lot about Huck. Twain uses diction such as “warn’t” and “humbugs” to not only give a regional flavor, but to also get the feel that this perspective is genuinely Huck’s. It is informal and has many grammatical errors. The multiple uses of double negatives such as “never learnt nothing” and “don’t get into no trouble” reiterate Huck’s lack of education and his social up-bringing, while the quote itself shows Huck is willing to play dumb in order to “have no quarrels”. It also points out that Huck is very thoughtful, he relates this experience back to when he was with his abusive father and shows that Huck is more mature and experienced than some of the other characters. Another example of Twain’s writing style is when Huck is describing his first thoughts of the Phelps’s farm: “When I got there it was all still and Sunday-like, and hot and sunshiny; the hands was gone to the fields; and the dronings of bugs and flies in the air that makes it seem so lonesome and like everybody’s dead and gone; and if a breeze fans along and quivers the leaves it makes you feel mournful, because you feel like it’s spirits whispering—spirits that’s been dead years—and you always think they’re talking about you (214)”. Twain describes the field through the eyes of Huck using experiences Huck relates to, “Sunday-like”, meaning everyone has gone to church, so no one is to be seen. He uses visual imagery to further describe the scene and get a feeling of the warm day saying, “hot and sunshiny”, but gives the feeling that it is not burning hot, because there is “a breeze [fanning] along”. Twain also sets the lazy and foreboding tone of the scene by using diction like “mournful, “lonesome”, “dead” and “spirits” that each have an ominous denotation. He then italicizes the “you” to personalize the gloomy feeling. This quote is one long, run-on sentence to emphasis the fact the Huck is only a child, and he easily gets carried away. The use of dashes shows that Huck had to interrupt himself just to get all his ideas out at once. The reader gets a sense that Huck is being carried away by his own imagination and he has a feeling something will go wrong. 8. Theme: Sometimes, what is socially acceptable is morally wrong and most times, society’s view of people is incorrect. Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck is only trying to find his place in society, but time after time Huck is out casted. He never seems to quite really fit in. This is because he is rather mature for his age, though society wrongly assumes he is low class because of his lack of education. In contrast, characters, like Tom Sawyer, are viewed by society as high class because of their high education. However, Tom is extremely less mature than Huck and his morals are very low. Huck has very high morals, though he is constantly second guessing himself, because he realizes he is out casted from society and is desperately trying to conform at all costs, even if it means hurting another person. Yet in the end, Huck chooses people over society and decides, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell (250)”. Here, Huck learns to follow his heart— or rather his conscience, rather than blindly follow the societal rules, such as slavery, that are placed in front of him.