Essay Preview: Huckelberry Finn
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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the noblest, greatest, and most adventuresome novel in the world. Mark Twain definitely has a style of his own that depicts a realism in the novel about the society back in antebellum America. Mark Twain definitely characterizes the protagonist, the intelligent and sympathetic Huckleberry Finn, by the direct candid manner of writing as though through the actual voice of Huck. Every word, thought, and speech by Huck is so precise it reflects even the racism and black stereotypes typical of the era. And this has lead to many conflicting battles by various readers since the first print of the novel, though inspiring some. Says John H. Wallace, outraged by Twains constant use of the degrading and white supremacist word nigger, “[The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is] the most grotesque example of racist trash ever written” (Mark Twain Journal by Thadious Davis, Fall 1984 and Spring 1985). Yet, again to counter that is a quote by the great American writer Ernest Hemingway, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finnits the best book weve had…There has been nothing as good since” (The Green Hills of Africa [Scribners. 1953] 22). The controversy behind the novel has been and will always remain the crux of any readers is still truly racism. Twain surely does use the word nigger often, both as a referral to the slave Jim and any African-American that Huck comes across and as the epitome of insult and inferiority. However, the reader must also not fail to recognize that this style of racism, this malicious treatment of African-Americans, this degrading attitude towards them is all stylized of the pre-Civil War tradition. Racism is only mentioned in the novel as an object of natural course and a precision to the actual views of the setting then. Huckleberry Finn still stands as a powerful portrayal of experience through the newfound eyes of an innocent boy. Huck only says and treats the African-American culture accordingly with the society that he was raised in. To say anything different would truly be out of place and setting of the era. Twains literary style in capturing the novel, Hucks casual attitude and candid position, and Jims undoubted acceptance of the oppression by the names all signifies this.
Twains literary style is that of a natural southern dialect intermingled with other dialects to represent the various attitudes of the Mississippian region; he does not intend to outrightly suggest Negro inferiority. Had Twain intended racial bigotry, he would not write the about the sympathies of Huck towards Jim. This can easily be seen in that Huck does, in various points in the book, realize Jim to be a white equivalent at times. Huck tells the reader, when he realizes that Jim misses his own family and children, “I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for theirn” (150). I do believe that Twains literary style, that is, his informal language through Huck, is more a captivation of thoughts as though in a conversation than as an intended use of white supremacist inclination. Any words that seem to degrade African-Americans is merely a freelance use of Southern jargon and not deliberate. That is, Huck talks the way he knows how and was taught according to the society then to stylize a specific treatment at black slaves. However, his sympathies towards Jim throughout the river odyssey has taught Huck to overcome certain stereotypes, such as black stupidity and apathy, but not quite thoroughly to rebel against societal prejudices. Huckleberry still believes Jim to be irrelevant and pig-headed at times, as in their exchange over the Biblical story of King Solomon and the French language. Huck does not tell Jim but to the reader,” If he got a notion in his head once, there warnt no getting it out again…I see it warnt no use wasting words – you cant learn a nigger to argue” (76-79).
Huckleberry is also a very important character to study to further contemplate Twains literary style in that Huck is the main character and the voice through which Twain conveys the images of the South. The reader will notice that Huck acts based on his own morals. Despite the Widow Douglass and Miss Watsons attempt to “sivilize” Huck by teaching, sheltering, and instructing him on how to behave, Hucks actions throughout the novel do not always reflect their teachings. The protagonist has limited perspective and his outlook in life is honest, containing no propagandist suggestions. Huck neither advocates slavery nor does he protest against it. He sees slavery as a natural occurrence in daily life and the inferior disposition of slavery to be of little significance. Whenever a situation occurs that requires Huck to assist Jim, Huck does so accordingly to his own moral standards. He may agitate over the morality of helping a runaway nigger, as southern society condemns the act, but his own love for Jim allows Huck to accept his own “wickedness”. “I come to being lost and going to hell…and got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time… But somehow I couldnt seem to strike no places to harden me against him…how good he always was… I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one hes got now… I [will] steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too…” (206).
Finally, Jim and many other African-American slaves seem to accept their