Huck Is A Non-Conformist
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“Self-Reliance” vs. Huckleberry Finn
In Ralph Waldo Emersons essay “Self-Reliance,” he defends the personality traits that every creative human being possesses and a persons intellectual independence, which enables him to surpass the achievements of previous generations. Emerson explains how most of society is made up of conformists, people that simply conform to a past technique created by earlier innovators. Against being a conformist, Emerson chooses to support being a creator, or a person who has the courage to trust himself and disagree with societys beliefs. During earlier centuries, society was mostly grouped together in mobs, but Emerson challenges this trend and suggests individuality. Emersons ideas of self-reliance connect to the themes and characters in Mark Twains novel, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Hucks inner struggle of conforming to society or rebelling against it. The most obvious line in Emersons essay, which relates particularly to Twains novel, states that “society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members” (391). This quote from Emerson signifies how Hucks society is harshly against all black slaves. Mark Twain is able to create Huckleberry Finn, a young, immature boy who undergoes an adventurous journey in which he develops maturity, individuality, and intellect while resisting the urge to conform towards societys anti-black beliefs while traveling with Jim on the river.
The main character in Mark Twains novel, Huckleberry Finn, resembles an individual. An example of this can be seen while Huck and Jim are on the river, and
Huck decides to hide Jim from any threatening strangers. Huck does not conform towards societys anti-black beliefs, and instead he stands strongly against harming them. During his rough journey on the river, Huck proves himself as a brave individual by not telling anyone that he is helping Jim escape. Huck risks his own life by lying to another white person even though he is aware that in societys point of view, to be caught helping a slave runaway is extremely humiliating to have under your name. Hucks rebellious side against society shines bright once he faces a decision, which concerns protecting Jim from any threatening people they encounter during their journey. Once they believe to have reached Cairo, the area where the Mississippi and Ohio River meet, Jim experiences an adrenaline rush because he feels only one step closer in receiving his freedom. Well, Huck decides to check for himself if they have reached their derived destination, but suddenly two strange men curiously head toward the raft, where Jim is hiding. Rudely, they ask, who is in the raft, and Huck informs the men that there is only one man on the raft. One of the men responds, “Well, theres five niggers tonight, up yonder above the head of the bend. Is your man white or black?” (Twain 90). For these two men, finding a runaway slave would not only get them a nice reward, but also recognition. In earlier pre-civil war societys, runaways were chased down like meat for a pack of angry dogs. Huck while knowing the severe consequence he would face if discovered to be helping a slave escape quickly reacts by lying that his pap with smallpox is lying alone in the raft, and this surely scares the two men off. After this incident Hucks guilt and shame of helping a slave escape, come to haunt him once again.
Huck manages to fight off his guilt by convincing himself that “a body that dont get started right when hes little, aint got no show–when the pinch comes around keep him to his work, and so he gets beat”(Twain 92). Hucks mentality should be extremely anti-black because that is how he was to raised, but something changed in his heart. He actually gave a black slave a chance, a chance to show Huck that blacks are not animals, but they are also human beings who in fact also express emotions. Huck convinces himself that at this point there is no reason to feel guilty about helping a slave escape because in reality, he could have turned Jim in a long time ago, but he truly cares for Jim on a more personal level. Huck finally understands that Jim, even though he is a black man, also cares for his family and endures emotional breakdowns. Huck begins to feel a strong friendship forming with Jim, and he feels compelled in helping Jim becoming a free man.
One specific scene in Mark Twains novel, which demonstrates Hucks true character, is when Jim is secretly sold to the Phelpss plantation. He must once again deal with the struggle between whether he should continue to help Jim flee, or stop his nonsense and confess to Miss Watson, Jims owner, to the whereabouts of Jim. Huck reaches his decision to write Miss Watson a letter revealing where and how she can find Jim. With his perfectly, polished letter in his hand, Huck shreds it up into pieces yelling out “All right, then, Ill go to hell” (Twain 215). Hucks harsh words show how he stands alone defending