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Mark Twain Describe The River As A Symbol In "The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn"

1244 words - 5 pages

In the story of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses many different types of symbols to get Twains numerous messages across. Twain signifies the Mississippi river as a symbol to get away from society for Huck and Jim. Twain also criticizes the way society runs and the things it teaches everyone to be. The river vs. land setting in Huckleberry Finn symbolizes Huck's struggle with himself versus society; Twain suggests that a person shouldn't have to conform to society and should think for themselves.Throughout the novel, Mark Twain shows the society that surrounds Huck as just a little more than a set of degraded rules and authority figures. When the new judge in town allows Pap to keep custody of Huck, the judge privileges Pap's "rights" to his son as his natural father over Huck's welfare, "He said he'd cowhide me till I was black and blue if I didn't raise money for him [...] When [Pap] got out the new judge said he was going to make a man of him. So he took him to his own house, and dressed him up clean and nice, and had him to breakfast and dinner and supper with the family" (16). Even though Huck is being mistreated, the new judge overlooks that and treats Huck as though he is a piece of property, like a slave. In comparing the condition of slaves to Huck's situation at the hands of Pap, Twain suggests that it is impossible for a society that owns slaves, to be right, no matter how "civilized" that society believes and proclaims itself to be. Huck encounters people who try to change him or civilize him throughout the book, one in the beginning of the novel was the Widow Douglas, "The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back" (1). Huck's problems with civilized society are based on observations an adult should have of this time about the worth of the society he lives in. Under the influence of his friend, Huck gives in and returns to the Widow's, but as the novel goes on, his dislike for society reappears and motivates the important decisions he makes. The land represents a part of man that is corrupt and feels as though must change or "perfect" what Mother Nature made imperfect and savage.For Huck and Jim, the Mississippi River is the ultimate symbol of freedom. Alone on their raft, they do not have to answer to anyone. For Jim, the river carries him toward the free states; for Huck, he's carried away from his abusive father and the civilizing of St. Petersburg. At this point in Chapter XVIII, Huck has just escaped from the Grangerford-Shepherdson feud and is extremely sickened by society, "I...

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