Problematique: To what extent do Huck’s experience and environment appear as the catalyst of his quest for liberty and identity? Introduction: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain written in 1880. It tells the story of a young boy, Huckleberry Finn, who decided to escape from his legal guardian, the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson, and from his father, by faking his death. During his journey he met Miss Watson’s slave, called Jim, and continued the journey together. The story happened around the forties, in the pre-civil War America.
Mark Twain chose to focus on this period to denounce the society of that time. By playing on the importance of identities, he highlights it’s rough reality. Indeed, throughout this novel, we can notice that there’s a huge questionning on the importance of identity, on different levels. Because we’re going to follow Huck’s advencement in the building of his identity. That is the main point on which we are going to lie on. Namely, to what extent do Huck’s experience and environment appear as the catalyst of his quest for liberty and identity?
First, we are going to focus on the most obvious meaning that is identity as
As we have said before Twain by this novel wanted to give his own vision of the society, he clearly denounce slavery and takes part with abolitionnist. The character of Jim is present as a nigger but a good nigger, he wanted to take care of his family but his status of slave didn‘t permit him because he was separated from them. So he took care of Huck all along the journey. He taught huck superstitions about snake; even if huck didn‘t believe that at a first sight he finished by believe him and saw by himself that snake was a bad augure. Huck was bitten by a snake and Jim looked after him.
Another example: In the beginning of the story, Jim and Huck met a dead man on their way and Jim said to Huck for not looking at him . Jim protected him from the sight of Huck’s father corpse. chapter 9 « it‘s a dead man. Yes, indeedy; naked too….. Come in, Huck, but doan‘ look at his face-it‘s too gashly » (Twain as a abolitionist). – conflict between social and received morality: Since the Beginning of the story and all along the novel, Huck is in a perpetual inner turmoil regarding what he learnt and what he think is good. So first when he met Jim he asked himself if he have to follow his feeling or listen what civilization taught him.
He had had an inner conflict if he stay with Jim or bring him to Miss Watson. – the society as a « dictator » in the built of identity; tries to impose an already-made identity – Tom Sawyer as a model: Since the beginning of the novel tom and Huck are together, in chapter one they created a gang and tom s’impose as a leader. Then we find him again with Huck at the end of the novel and it’s Tom who made plans to liberate Jim from his slave status, even if sometimes he don’t understand plans and find them ridiculous he follows Tom and makes them in practice.
Or Page 313 they disagreed on the fact that Jim have to keep a journal but Huck don’t understand why and he thinks that it’s ridiculous because Jim can’t write. I think Huck follow him because they are contradictory in education language etc.. and the fact that Tom read book about adventures can permit us to solve problem they have. III) Huckleberry Finn’s rebellion towards his own identity – act like a picaresque characters – the child without identity (mistaken identity, vicious circle hard to find an identity if you’re faking another; fake death and invented characters)
Huck is a child without identity, in the beginning he is led by Tom then he is under the authority of his drunkard father and his adventures begins really in the wood with his fake death line 4 page 111« and at last she got down to where I was murdered ». chapter 10:page 109 « so I knocked at the door, and made up my mind I wouldn’t forget I was a girl » huck goes to a house where he meets a woman Judith Loftus. He dressed like a girl to catch up town’s gossip, but he failed and she saw that he is a boy. Page 116 chapter 17:line 7 page 154 to the Grangefords, he said that his name was « Georges Jackson, sir » because he didn’t want to be recognize. People think that Huckleberry Finn is dead so he have to hid his identity. .chapter 24: After having rescue two men who told Jim and Huck to call them Duke and King. Duke and King went to a town with Huck. The two men took the identity of William and Harvey Wilks in order to gain money passed on to the real wilks brothers give them by Peter will. There Huck changed identity and he is the servitor of wilk brother
Mistaken identity is used to keep the reader in attempt because if they are caught it will be very funny – maturity: the make of his own rules and values through experiences (watermelon) – Jim and Huck: how they complement each other (quotation « good nigger », father/friend figure, one cannot be without the other, trust, Jim trigger of his humanity) « Huck in fact would be incomplete without Jim (…) Huck is the passive observer of men and events, Jim the submissive sufferer from them: and they are equal in dignity » T.
S Elliot We can see that his escape is as the trigger of his real deep identity because it’s there that he began to made his own rules and he is a traveller an adventurers because in the end of the novel one of his last sentence is line 25 to 27 page 369« But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it » This sentence sum up really well why he left civilization and what he want to do with his life.
His journey was just the first. In this novel, the harmony with nature is represented by the river, liberty is through the raft which permits Jim and Huck to paddle and travel along the river. The river is a security for them, they hid themselves there whereas the shore represents captivity and so on civilisations and rules in which Huck doesn‘t believe. All these identities give us the feeling that this boy doesn’t have a real identity, he plays with that but finally he is a child in rebellion.
With faking his identity he cannot find his own so it’s a circle but even identity is not completely formed, the search of freedom with the river, in contradiction with the shore, permits him to take risk and live experience which grow him mature. Conclusion: To conclude, we can say that Finn didn’t completely find his identity at the end of the novel. His break with the conventional rules of the society, led him to grow in maturity, which is quite paradoxical, because the strict frame of society is suppose to help us building our identity.
We can say that he found his place regarding the society; he knows that he doesn’t really want to be part of it, and he has his own view on slavery. But concerning his personal identity, he is, at the end, on his way to find it; through the novel he gained new values, and in deciding to continue his journey to the West, that means that he is going to continue his search of himself, on a way through adulthood. Moreover, we understand that Mark Twain emphasizes the characteristics of identity to parody the pre civil war society through the eye of a young teenage boy, providing the readers a clear and insightful view.