Huck's Conflicted Nature in Mark Twain’s The Adventures Of Huck Finn
Continuing what he had started in the first eleven chapters, Twain further develops Huck Finn's character through a series of events where Huck's decisions indicate his moral struggle. Adventures shows the dynamic movement of Huck's internal difficulty, illustrating his conflicted nature.
As juxtaposition to the fantasy of Tom Sawyer's gang, Huck encounters real robbers and murderers on the wrecked Walter Scott steamboat. After hearing their plans, Huck tells Jim, “If we find their boat we can put all of 'em in a bad fix -- for the Sheriff ’ll get 'em” (262); despite his developing nihilism , Huck decides to trap the men by stealing their boat. Here Huck has drastically affected the fate of the men, whether it be dying or being arrested, and eventually he realizes his responsibility: “I begun to worry about the men...I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix” (263). To remedy the situation in response to his sudden guilt, Huck employs (deceives) the captain of the ferryboat to rescue the men. Huck applauds his altruism, saying “I was feeling ruther comfortable on accounts of taking all this trouble for that gang, for not many would have done it” (265) but fails to realize his irony: “not many [people] would have” boarded the wreck in the first place, much less trapped the men. Regardless, Huck has shown he can act freely, but not free from his conscience, which will prove important later in the novel, specifically at the climax.
Prior to chapter twenty-five, the king and the duke had committed mild schemes, towards which Huck had been indifferent; once they plan to swindle the Wilks girls’ inheritance, however, Huck begins to view them as antagonists. This transition begins when Joanna Wilks apologizes to Huck, compelling him to consider the girls the king and duke are victimizing: “I says to myself, this is another one that I'm letting him rob her of her money...I felt so ornery and low down and mean” (336). Clearly the Wilks girls serve as the motivation for Huck’s actions; after telling Mary Jane that he had recovered their inheritance, Huck confesses, “It made my eyes water a little, to remember her crying there all by herself in the night, and them devils laying there right under her own roof, shaming her and robbing her” (345). By this point in the novel, Huck has noticeably developed his inclination to help others: he is the Wilks girls’ champion, and though he could have disclosed the king and duke’s fraudulence, he escapes without incriminating them.
After fleeing the townspeople, the king and duke further establish themselves as a severe source of external conflict for Huck. Huck laments, “after all [I'd] done for them scoundrels, here was it all come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, because they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave again...for forty dirty...