Life as an Outcast in Huckleberry Finn
One of the themes that has been addressed by writers since the beginning of civilization is the issue of the split between living in society and living by oneself. We see this in that peculiarly American genre of books known as "road books", in which the protagonist embarks upon a long journey or period of time away from society in order to "find themselves." One of the quintessential examples of this type of book is Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, technically a "river book" rather than a "road book". In it, as in many "road books" before and since, spending a long period of time away from society allows the protagonist to see the difference between the rules of mainstream society and the freedom of the wilderness. Through his journey, Twain illustrates the futility of living within society as contrasted to the freedom of being an outcast.
It is interesting that Huck's morals are much stronger when he is on the river than on the shore. Huck's "attacks of conscience" only occur on the river. For example, the first time where he really thinks about the moral issues surrounding Jim's slavery, in which he decides to set Jim free (160-162), all his self-contemplation occurs on the river. Even more, it seems that Huck is only capable of thinking while on the river - he gets on the river just before this incident begins, and goes back to shore just after it ends. It almost seems as if he requires the physical surrounding of the river as a place to which to escape.
Huck's relationship with Jim also progressed on the river (which symbolizes that natural world and freedom from society) but stagnates on the shore (which represents mainstream society). Huck and Jim engage in all their bonding on the river, where they can forget...