Coming Of Age In “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” By Mark Twain
Dealing with an abusive father, vicious dogs, being chased by a crowd of angry southerners are among the many obstacles Huck Finn faces in his journey to personal salvation, but more explicitly, the saving of his friend Jim. Along this journey, Huck experiences his own personal development, turning from a young rascal in a southern town to a mature young man who is able to think for himself. Throughout Mark Twain’s novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the protagonist, Huck Finn undergoes a climactic moral evolution generated by his rejection of societal values and the friendships he forms along his journey.
Much of Huck’s moral development is seen through his use of lies. He begins the story as someone who condemns the use of lying, but openly does it himself. He strictly does it for his own benefit. An early example of this is seen in his conversations with Judith Loftus. He attempts to convince her he is a girl, hoping to gain some information on the town’s stance on his disappearance. He does this act strictly to help himself, not thinking about the sake of Jim, but only concerned of the possible consequences he could fall victim to. Huck’s relationship towards lying is changed when he encounters the robbers on the river. This event is the first example of Huck lying for someone other than himself. He sympathizes with these criminals, eventually realizing he must seek help for these robbers by the use of his lying. His thought process is displayed when Twain writes, “I begun to worry about the men… I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix. I says to myself, there ain’t no telling but I might come to be murder myself, yet, and then how would I like it?”. Along from Huck’s applaudable example of sympathy, Huck uses empathy to help these criminals. He understands he must lie because no one else would go to these extreme lengths to help criminals. Huck understands that these are people, and although they have committed serious crimes, no human would deserve to potentially face the death that was staring them in the eye. This decision also brought about a sense of pride in Huck. He understood the nobility in these actions, knowing Widow Douglas would be proud of him. He recognizes that he is starting to become the person Widow Douglas, one of the few exemplars of good beliefs in Huck’s society, would want him to be. The final stage of Huck’s development is seen when he lies for Jim. Huck, like many times in the book, comes to a crossroads on whether or not to turn in Jim or not. He finally comes to a decision to lie to a pair of white males looking for slaves, a decision that could prove to be risky. When asked whether the person on the following raft was white or black, Huck, after much discernment, finally answers, “He’s white”. While this decision is not the first of Huck’s unselfish lies, it is truly the peak of it, although he does not even realize the positivity of his actions. He does not understand the nobility of his doings, making them so much more admirable. He sees no gain in this situation, knowing none of it provides immediate benefit for him. While lying isn’t morally correct, Huck demonstrates that using it for others can contribute to the goodness of a person.
As Huck’s story moves on, he learns he does not have to accept the beliefs of the adults in his life, but can rather create the ones he personally believes are right. This comes with his ability to discern what is wrong and what is right. He begins with an ability to question the beliefs of the people around him, but is not able to bring himself to go against these ideas and form his own until later in the novel. A specific example of this is seen in Huck’s encounter with the Granderford-Sheperdson feud. While the Grangerford’s are seen as fundamentally good people, because of how they were raised, a flaw is seen in their personal viewpoints. They see nothing wrong with this feud, brainwashed from birth that attempting to kill others for no specific reason is perfectly fine. While feud’s were not seen in all of society in the 1800’s, this example goes to display that Huck was able to see the fault in their beliefs. However, the largest example of Huck’s rejection of societal beliefs is in his journey to free Jim. Helping a slave both resulted in possible jail time and a hefty fine, according to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. While much of society believed freeing a slave was wrong, Huck was able to overcome these corrupted ideas, deciding for himself that the well-being of a person was far more important that any prejudistic laws. This idea was brought about by the positive relationship Huck has with Jim. Jim brings about this internal conflict inside Huck causing him, “to come to grips with the question of following society’s laws or following the dictates of his own conscience”. Huck in the end, chooses his conscience.Twain uses these examples to teach the reader never to succumb to the corruptness of their society by displaying that independent viewpoints should be valued more than the consensus of the people.
The friendship Huck forms with Jim develops him into someone who values friends over the values his society appreciated at the time. The personal relationship between Huck and Jim had its fair share of pranks, done all by Huck onto Jim. The three pranks performed increased in severity as they went on. Eventually, they reached a breaking point. Huck realizes his wrongdoings, eventually reaching a point of maturity where he was able to stop. However, the nobility of his actions rely in Huck’s acknowledgement of Jim as a person, one with feelings. He finally understands his actions hurt Jim. Unlike the people in his era, he recognizes Jim as an equal, not as an object or property. Additionally, the appreciation Jim has for the help Huck gave him help contribute to their friendship. Huck did not realize, or refused to acknowledge, the great deed he was doing Jim by helping to set him free. Huck eventually realizes his impact on Jim when he is told, “‘Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on’y white gentleman dat ever kep’ his promise to ole Jim.’” Huck is again reminded of his sacrifice to Jim, a sacrifice only a true friend would make. The quote marks an integral part of Huck’s internal conflict of whether to turn Jim in or not. He understands his society places a great deal of importance on runaway slaves. He understands that if caught, he could face persecution, both from the law and from those in his life. However, he comes to a realization that he cares more about helping his friend than succumbing to what society would want. The final example of the change in Huck’s attitude towards friendship is seen in the climax of the story. Huck has been taught that an alternative to turning Jim in is eternal damnation. His society has corrupted him into believing that he must ruin an innocent person’s life, just to be able to experience salvation. Huck, someone who rejects the values society forces upon him, decides his final decision when saying, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”. He decides to place his friendship with Jim over these corrupted ideals, not knowing he is doing the right thing. Huck overcomes the societal peer pressure to follow these values, becoming his own man. Huck proves that moral development is often influenced by the important people in life.
Throughout Twain’s novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck undergoes a significant moral development in which he, by the use of his dismissal of the ideas his society presents and his personal relationships, is able to become a better person. Huck, in his efforts to free Jim, deals with serious internal conflict, dramatizing his eventual bildungsroman. He encounters moments where it seems he will never change, making the final result so much more spectacular. Twain uses this development to teach the readers that, no matter how corrupted their society is, can develop into the person they want to be. If Huck, a person with little education and an awful past life can bloom into a man for others, why can’t everyone?
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Dealing with an abusive father, vicious dogs, being chased by a crowd of angry southerners are among the many obstacles Huck Finn faces in his journey to personal salvation, but […]