October 25, 2004

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Relationship between Huck's freedom and society

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain develops Huck and Jim's adventures to allow him to weave in his criticism of society. Huck and Jim both run from social injustice and both are distrustful of the civilization around them. Huck is considered an uneducated backwards boy, constantly under pressure to conform to the "humanized" surroundings of society. Jim a slave that is not even considered as a real person, but as property. As they run from civilization and are on the river, they ponder the social injustices forced upon them when they are on land.

These social injustices are even more evident when Huck and Jim have to make landfall, and this provides Twain with the chance to ridicule the socially correct injustices that Huck and Jim encounter on land. The reflection of society should make us question the world we live in, and the journey down the river provides us with that chance. Huck was running to the freedom of the river. The river never cares how saintly you are, how rich you are, or what society thinks you are. The river allows Huck the one thing that Huck wants to be, and that is Huck. The river is freedom than the land is oppression, and that oppression is no more evident than it is to Jim.
If we recall in the earlier chapters, Huck and Jim's journey began as Huck fought within himself about turning Jim over to the authorities. Finally he decides not to turn Jim in. This was a huge decision for Huck to make, even though he made it on the spot. This was not just a boy running away from home. It was someone who had decided to turn his back on everything "home" stands for, even one of its most cherished beliefs. In this way Twain also allows to let us leave our thoughts of racism behind also and start to see Jim for who he really is, a man. Even though Huck has made his decision about Jim, early in the voyage we see Huck's attitude towards Jim as racist. Eventually Huck plays a mean trick on Jim and we see Huck begin to change his attitude, "It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterward, neither".
Later on in the story Huck becomes very caring and protective for Jim, where this reaches the point where Huck saves Jim from two slave catchers by tricking them to think Jim was Huck's small pox ridden father. The dialogue between Huck and Jim also illustrates that Jim is more than someone's property. He is a human being with feelings, and hopes for a better future. He is not some ignorant, uncaring sub-human, but plainly the opposite.
Huck and Jim's adventures so far give us a chance to examine the society they live in. It also gives us a chance to examine ourselves as well as the society today. There are more examples of human failings in these current chapters, the trickery and cheating of the King and Duke, the lack of caring by the townspeople for Boggs, and the innocence of the Wilks sisters. There is cruelty, greed, murder, trickery, hypocrisy, racism, and a general lack of morality, all the ingredients of society. Through the adventure Huck Finn and Jim are trying to find the one thing they can only find on the river, freedom, but a person can only stay on the river for so long, and so you have to go on land to face the injustices of society.
Quite a contrast, the freedom of being without authority, being able to think for yourself, running right next to the constraints made upon you by society. Somewhere deep within these chapters Twain is making a powerful statement, a wish for all humanity, that we can be brave enough to break with what others assume is correct and just, and make decisions for ourselves and the ability to stand on our own and do something about it.

Questions:

Do you think the components of our society is cruelty, greed, murder, trickery,
hypocrisy, racism, and a lack of morality?

In what ways have our society change and remind the same?

Posted by Se-AnnWilliams at October 25, 2004 09:44 AM
Comments

Se-Ann,

Yes, I do agree with the river being a huge symbol in this book. The river does symbolize Huck's freedom from society. He wants to do what he wants and there is no one to control him.

I believe that our society is cruel, greedy, tricky and racism.

Society is cruel because bad things happen to good people. People mind their own business, and suddenly someone is out to get them. For example, when the Grangerfords died. They died because of the secret attack from the other feuding family. It was unexpected and I found it cruel to kill without any warning.

Society is greedy because people want more and more luxuries. They are not satisfied with want they have. Sometimes people end up losing what they already have to something that they are trying to have. The king and duke are greedy, because they want to fool more villagers, and get the money from the Wilk's family, eventhough they have already fooled some of society.

Society is tricky because some people believe others, but in reality they are totally against their beliefs. They are just playing along with them. In the story, Huck knows that the king and the duke are frauds, but he is just playing along, until he forms a plan in order to get rid of them.

Society is racism because some people do not get opportunities in life just because of their race. They have reached to a dead end because some of society doesn't accept their race in certain occupations, because the majority rules out. In the story, Jim is treated as property and not as a human being. He is considered a runaway slave and what he says does not matter. Society has changed dramastically now, since everyone regardless of race, religion, or gender is being treated equally; however there are certain places where these rules don't apply.

What are you insights of this novel? Looking forward in hearing your opinion.

-Nabila

Posted by: NabilaUddin at October 25, 2004 02:04 PM

Se-Ann,

I really enjoyed your presentation in regards to the way society and individuals in society actually act. I seem to take a stance on your ideas a little different though. I believe that society can be cruel, tricky, racist, etc. However, I also believe that it all depends on the situation that you are looking at as well. The world definitely has its negative views and harsh realisms but I also believe that society can be good in a way too.

I thought it might be more helpful to also give some examples of what I mean in this instance. For example, in my hometown there was a family that lost their husband/dad to cancer and the comunity or society set-up a donative walk for him. This is an example when society is not necessarily under the restrictions given. But, society can also be as stated such as in the awful things we see in the local news such as murders, etc. So, I do agree with you that society does have its moments when it can be portrayed as you have shown but it necessarily is not all this way.

I really did like your viewpoint on the novel though. I was very interested in the point you have brought up about the novel. I believe as you have pointed out that the author was trying to show or even mock aspects that were being done in society. Do you think that the author brought anything up though that was positive about the setting of the story or society in general? I know that it is very hard to find any positive aspects in the novel when there are so many negative things brought up. I would really like your answer to this question, and after that I will give you some things that I was thinking about in regards to the question. However, I would really like to hear your answer to the question first. Hope to hear from you!

Melissa Hagg

Posted by: MelissaHagg at October 26, 2004 01:44 PM

Se-Ann,

Your presentation, as well as Melissa's, really opened my eyes to some concepts I didn't think about beforehand. Thank you for shedding light on the land vs. the water, running through the book.

Bravo!

Katie

Posted by: Katie Aikins at October 27, 2004 10:04 PM

Nabila,

I agree with you Nabila that society has change some what now, but personally I have experienced times when I have not been treated equally. So i also agree with you when you say some times it does not apply to the rule. Oh, and I thought the novel was a really good novel. I enjoyed reading it.

Posted by: Se-Ann Williams at November 30, 2004 06:37 PM

What did you think about the novel?

Posted by: Se-Ann Williams at November 30, 2004 06:38 PM

Perhaps, instead of searching for deep hidden meanings, we should just read the book for what it is - a story. There are no deep hidden meanings. Has anyone considered that Twain wrote the book because he needed to pay the bills? Why does humanity always need to find deep and mystical purpose in every piece of writing there is? Very soon, Postman Pat will become a thoughtful insight into society... Will it ever stop?

Posted by: Mr E.Nigma at May 10, 2005 12:55 PM

Having had a look at the book, I would like to draw attention to a paragraph on the inside cover of the book: 'NOTICE'
Persons attemptong to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished.

Posted by: Mr E.Nigma at May 10, 2005 03:05 PM

I'm writing a paper about the hypocrisy portayed in the novel. I was wondering if anyone out there could give me examples of hypocrisy. I have a few but I'm having a brainblock and I want a lot to work with. Thanks. ~LILL~

Posted by: Lillian Foster at December 28, 2005 10:11 PM

How does society influence or hinder the decisions of individuals?

Posted by: Nancy at April 27, 2006 08:39 PM

How does society influence or hinder the decisions of individuals?

Posted by: a real person at May 21, 2006 05:26 PM
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