The Meanings of Huckleberry Finn
“The finest clothing made is a person's own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.” – Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a bildungsroman that conveys to the reader a deeper insight to human nature and behavior. The novel picks up after The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and we are reunited the protagonist Huck Finn. Throughout the course of the novel we watch Huck mature through his experiences as opposed to a “formal education”. The places and people that Huck encounters along his journey down the river were all able to teach him something new, or give him a new insight about life, and the different effects that different values have on people. Through his responses, the responses of the people he meets and the way Mark Twain writes, we understand the messages within the text as to why they make The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn one of America’s greatest novels.
Huck is a boy who comes from the lowest levels of white society. His father, known in the novel as Pap, is a dilapidated drunk who disappears for months at a time. Without parental guidance, Huck lacks a home and is not aware of society’s expectations upon him. Although the Widow Douglas attempts to change Huck, her attempts are in vain and he continues his merry way. The community has failed to protect him from his father, and though the Widow provides Huck some of the schooling and religious training that he had missed, he does not mkae social values in the same way a middle-class boy like Tom Sawyer has been. Huck’s distance from mainstream society makes him skeptical of the world around him and he questions the ideals passed on to him.
In the beginning of the novel, we meet Jim. Jim is the slave of Miss Watson, the sister of Huck Finn’s caretaker, known as The Widow. At first glance, Jim appears superstitious to the point as to where it makes the reader question his sensibility. Upon careful analyzing of the time that Huck and Jim spend on Jackson’s Island reveals that Jim’s superstitions conceal a deep knowledge of the natural world and represent an alternate form of “truth” or intelligence. Jim is not merely a common foil, but is particularly important in terms of showing the deeper, more adult themes inside the story. Instead, he can be considered as a moral catalyst, and is significant in the portrayal and illumination of the character of Huckleberry Finn. Huck Finn makes a choice to help Jim escape, but he is not ‘perfect’, especially in his language nor intention. We can see him reevaluating his choice as to whether or not it was wise to help Jim escape.
Over time, we see Huck and Jim form a bond. We can see in the text how Jim is over joyed to discover Huck’s wellbeing.
Goodness gracious, is dat you, Huck? En you ain' dead—you ain' drownded—you's back agin? It's too good for true, honey, it's too good for true. Lemme look at you chile, lemme feel o' you. No, you ain' dead! you's back...