Literary Time Period:
Realism, in the form of writing, is when the author uses characters to depict subjects the way they are in everyday life. Realism describes what the world is like without using embellishment or exaggeration. The main point of Realism is to give a truthful and accurate representation of a certain subject even if that emphasizes the horrible ways of society. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a work of Realism and because it is written in this form, it reveals the truth of the time period. Many works during the time of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used realism, like Mark Twain, as a way to show life and society the way they were without the opinions of the author themselves. The work reflects the time period by showing one character’s point of view at a certain time in history. Huck Finn’s time period takes place before the Civil War. Thus, the viewers can read a middle class person’s point of view of the world at the time. Readers can see small details of life and society at the time and can conclude a small glimpse of why one event occurred in history. Because the novel takes place before the Civil war, Huck always describes how the south had so many slaves and how society viewed their place by degrading them.
Point of View:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is written from the view of Huckleberry Finn, the main character in the novel. The views of the novel might not reflect the opinions of Mark Twain. With Huck being the narrator of the story, the readers are shown a literal side to the nineteenth century without judgment. Mark Twain may or may not have put his own opinions in the book, but if they are his opinions he put them into the book in a practical and literal way with the narrator.
It seems that Mark Twain’s purpose of the novel is to simply show what life was like in the south during the nineteenth century. Mark Twain uses Huck as the narrator so he can state simply what he observes in the environment that surrounds him to give a realistic description of the time period. Also with Huck’s point of view for the novel, Twain is able to illustrate to people the negatives of society. He shows what people thought was the right way of living. For example, Miss Watson tried to civilize Huck to what society expects a person to be, with education, manners, and religion. By using this point of view to the novel, Mark Twain adds satiric elements to the novel because of Huck’s naïve and practical view of the world around him, which accomplished the point of the novel. Character:
There are three main characters in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Two characters are more obvious, Huck and Jim, and the last character being Tom Sawyer, who is not prominent in the novel, but does have a major effect on the plot line.
Huckleberry Finn is the most important character of the book and he happens to be the narrator. Huck comes off as a very practical and literal thinker as he simply states what he sees without adding his own judgment. Huck decides what he wants to believe in and chooses not to be swayed by what Miss. Watson considers acceptable behavior for him. As the book progresses, Huck makes his own choices about how to help Jim get down the Mississippi River even though he is going against the views of society. Huck then comes to a crucial decision he must face by deciding to help Jim or turn him in. “I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I'll go to hell.’ –and tore it up (pg. 214).”
Jim is one of Miss. Watson’s slaves that, along with Huck, travels down the Mississippi River. Jim is a simple and trustworthy man who helps himself and Huck on their journey by using common sense. Throughout the novel Jim is able to observe and predict what he and Huck should do next. By making decisions for both him and Huck, Jim is established as more of a father figure to Huck, which Huck has never experienced. Jim also protects Huck from seeing the face of the dead man on the houseboat, which was later learned to be Huck’s own father. "Doan' you 'member de house dat was float'n down de river, en dey wuz a man in dah, kivered up, en I went in en unkivered him and didn' let you come in? Well, den, you kin git yo' money when you wants it, kase dat wuz him (pg. 292)." This showed how Jim did not want to see Huck in pain and helped to establish Jim as Huck’s protector.
Tom Sawyer is the best friend and foil to the character of Huck. While Huck takes a literal approach to life, Tom has an emotional attachment to things around him. Tom, unlike Huck, wants things to be extravagant like the way people did things in the novels he has read. Tom wants to be able to change his life and the life of his friends, such a Huck, to be more adventurous and complex like the books he has read. Because of Tom’s upbringing and what intelligence he has, Huck does not question any of Tom’s actions, even when they are unfit for the situation at hand. “Why, hain’t you ever read any books at all?- Baron Trenck, nor Casanova, nor Benvenuto Chelleeny, not Henry IV., nor none of them heroes? Who ever heard of getting a prisoner loose in such an old-maidy way as that (pg.238)?” Tom is surprised at the lack of reading Huck has done and tells him they have to come up with a clever way to free Jim, which Huck first disagrees with, then decides to go along with the scheme. Symbolism:
One of the major symbols in The Adventures of huckleberry Finn is the Mississippi River. Not only is the river the source of transportation for Huck and Jim, it is what is ultimately taking them both to freedom. The Mississippi River is taking Huck to a life without the worry of what society or Pap thinks of him. For Jim, it is taking him to a life of freedom from slavery. The obstacles the two encounter along the river are showing the characters what freedom brings and the responsibilities that life puts upon them. By having freedom Huck and Jim have to face what the river takes them to starting with the burglars on the steamboat and loosing their raft down the river and eventually leading them to the Phelps.
The raft is also a symbol in the novel. While on the raft Jim and Huck are free from the views and criticism of the society on land. They are able to control the raft and it does not persuade them to do other things. While on land though, Huck questions things that he has done and is sometimes persuading into the ways of the society almost jeopardizing his relationship with Jim. Whenever Jim and Huck successfully escape from dangers from society, they always take relief when on the raft. The passage, “…we was free and safe once more… We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft,’ shows the feeling of security the raft brings (pg. 116).” Tone:
One of the many sets of tone Twain represents in the novel is a humorous side. Establishing humor into the novel lightens the seriousness of the conflicts the characters get into and adds to the satiric style Twain wanted to portray in the book. Twain creates this tone with informal and slang conversation that was used during the time period. The statement, “Ain’t you a sweet-scented dandy, though? A bed; and bedclothes; and a look’n glass; and a piece of carpet on the floor… I never see such a son. I bet I’ll take some o’ these frills out o’ you before I’m done with you (pg. 20).” This quote demonstrates some of the humorous slang used through parts of the book.
As the story progresses, the novel takes on a more serious tone. Huck and Jim run into dangerous situations and the tone is able to express that more clearly. Twain is able to make the tone more serious through descriptive, strong language in the event. “So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do… I’ll go write the letter… the way I felt… my troubles all gone… I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’-and tore it up (pg. 214).” By having Huck question the choices he has made and what he should do next, Mark Twain is able to add seriousness to the novel through Huck’s contemplation.