Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn Essay

1458 words - 6 pages

Freedom is an important concept in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The two protagonists of this novel, Huck and Jim, are both searching for freedom in their escape down the river. Critic Julius Lester claims that the view of freedom in this novel is a puerile one of escape from responsibility and restraint. However, Mark Twain's notion of freedom in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not one of freedom from responsibility but of freedom to think independently and of freedom from oppression.
Throughout the novel, Huck is searching for freedom of thought to escape from a dogmatic society whose ideals and morals he has come into conflict with. One issue which Huck has with the society he lives in is the religion that is forced upon him. This is shown when he disregards the Biblical teachings of Moses when he is being taught by the widow , because he, “ don't take no stock in dead people” (2),. This shows that Huck is not interested in the ideas of the past and does not believe in following religious authority just because he is told to. Also, when Miss Watson tells him about Heaven and Hell, he, ”wishe[s] [he] was there (in Hell)” because he, “wanted … a change” (2). Huck's desire to go to Hell as opposed to Heaven shows that he wants to be free from the falsely moral view of the world espoused by the people forcing religion upon him. Another reason why Huck wants to leave the society he is in is the rampant hypocrisy he sees in it; he wants to be able to come up with his own ideals and follow them instead of blindly following what he is told. Huck observes the widow's moral hypocrisy when she tells him that smoking is “ a mean practice,” but then she goes on to take snuff, which Huck points out is alright to her “because she done it herself” (2). Huck also sees this hypocrisy when Miss Watson sells Jim farther south even though she had promised Jim she would not, and through these experiences Huck begins to question the morals promoted by people who do not adhere to them themselves. The most important discovery Huck makes as a result of breaking away from society is that the societal view that all blacks are sub-human is false. This is shown when after he tricks Jim on the river, Huck apologizes, says he'll never trick Jim anymore, and admits to himself that he “wouldn't done that one if [he'd] 'a' knowed it would make [Jim] feel that way” (86). This scene not only shows that Huck realizes that tricking Jim was wrong, but shows that Huck is acknowledging Jim as a person; he is recognizing that Jim's feelings were hurt because of his actions, and that Jim has human emotions in the first place. That realization directly contradicts the idea Huck has been raised with in his society, that blacks are not people. Another time that Huck shows that he is gaining freedom of thought from his society is when he decides to save Jim from his capture despite the certainty he has that he is doing something morally wrong by freeing a...

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