The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Themes

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					 The Adventures of Huckleberry
        Finn- Themes

"All modern American literature comes
 from one book by Mark Twain called
         Huckleberry Finn"
         Ernest Hemingway
       Racism & Slavery
• written after Emancipation Proclamation
  abolished slavery, but time period of story
  set during slavery
• during Reconstruction, a less
  institutionalized form of slavery existed in
  the South (Jim Crow laws)
• allegorical portrayal of conditions of
  “Blacks” in U.S. after end of slavery
 Hypocrisy of “Civilized” Society
• Society’s laws (Miss Watson and
  Widow Douglas) vs. higher moral
  values (Huck and Jim)
• Rules and precepts that reflect
  faulty logic
• Civilized vs. Natural
• A “just” society that condones
• Unsteady justice is blinded by
  cowardice, prejudice, and a lack
  of common sense
• Seemingly good and characters
  are slave-owners
• Hypocrisy of “civilized” society
  which values morality, but
  condones slavery

• importance of individual thinking and ideas
• escaping an illogical and oppressive
• Mississippi River as a safe haven
• slavery vs. liberty
• outcasts labeled by citizens (mob
  mentality) are arguably the only truly free
• Food plays a prominent role in the novel.
• In Huck's childhood, he often fights pigs
  for food, and eats out of "a barrel of odds
  and ends."
• *Thus, providing Huck with food
  becomes a symbol of people caring for
  and protecting him.
  – For example, in the first chapter, the Widow
    Douglas feeds Huck, and later on Jim
    becomes his symbolic caretaker, feeding and
    watching over him on Jackson's Island.
          Mockery of Religion
• A theme Twain focuses on quite
  heavily on in this novel is the
  mockery of religion.

• Throughout his life, Twain was
  known for his attacks on organized

• Huck Finn's sarcastic character
  perfectly situates him to deride
  religion, representing Twain's
  personal views.
   – In the first chapter, Huck indicates that
     hell sounds far more fun than heaven.
• Superstition appears throughout the novel.
• Generally, both Huck and Jim are very rational
  characters, yet when they encounter anything
  slightly superstitious, irrationality takes over.
• The power superstition holds over the two
  demonstrates that Huck and Jim are child-like
  despite their apparent maturity.
• In addition, superstition foreshadows the plot at
  several key junctions.
   – For instance, when Huck spills salt, Pap
     returns, and when Huck touches a snakeskin
     with his bare hands, a rattlesnake bites Jim.
             Maturation and
• Bildungsroman
  – A moral coming of age story.
• being open-minded is a quality that Huck
  represents, as a child, which allows for his
  development and maturation
• Huck’s relationship with Jim assists his
  progression throughout the novel
• Huck’s experiences and apprehension
  about society help lead to his maturity
• The Mississippi River
   – a source of freedom; a safe haven
   – Life
   – confluence of all currents of
     American life in the first half of
     the nineteenth century
• The Land
   – Real vs. Ideal (the river)
• Raft
   – tool for escape
   – safe place
• Money
   – separates the civilized from the
         Terms to know:
• Emancipation     •   hypocrisy
  Proclamation     •   satire
• Reconstruction   •   irony
• Jim Crow Laws    •   dialect
• allegory         •   parody
• superstition
• precept
• mob mentality
• Bildungsroman

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