"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Themes"
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 slavery • 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 Freedom • importance of individual thinking and ideas • escaping an illogical and oppressive society • Mississippi River as a safe haven • slavery vs. liberty • outcasts labeled by citizens (mob mentality) are arguably the only truly free characters Food • 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 religion. • 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 • 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 Development • 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 Symbols • 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 “outcasts” Terms to know: • Emancipation • hypocrisy Proclamation • satire • Reconstruction • irony • Jim Crow Laws • dialect • allegory • parody • superstition • precept • mob mentality • Bildungsroman