My Thoughts on Huckleberry Finn
My Thoughts on Huckleberry Finn
After reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, I can definitely say that it has been one of the more enjoyable books that I have read for an English class. To start off, the first thing that you’ll notice if you read the book is that it is written in regional Missouri vernacular. The story is narrated by the young Huckleberry Finn, or Huck, for short. As a result, the story portrays life without unnecessary fanfare or glitter – just the adventures of a young boy traveling down the Mississippi River. The whole premise of the novel is that Huck escapes from his boring and civilized life and from an abusive father who kidnaps him. He then runs into Jim, a slave who had run away from the sister of the widow Huck was living with, Miss Watson. Huck and Jim then try to find their way to the Ohio River and into free land.
Nowadays, Huck Finn is a controversial book and has branded and banned due to being “racist.” Controversy surrounding the book stems largely from Twain’s frequent use of the extremely offensive “n-word,” and the racial stereotypes portrayed in the novel. Cutting to the chase, I’m going to start off by telling you that I don’t believe Huck Finn is racist text. In fact, Mark Twain uses Huck Finnas a means of satirizing racism, stereotypes, and antebellum culture in the South. Sure, blacks are portrayed as being unintelligent, gullible, and superstitious. But Twain also portrays whites, the supposedly “superior” and dominant race in the South, as having just as many negative traits as the stereotyped slave. Throughout the book, there are many nice white characters, such as Mary Jane and Uncle Phelps, but there are also many whites who are fraudsters, such as the king and the duke, worthless drunks, such as Huck’s father, and the Grangerfords, who are feuding with the Shepherdsons for a reason nobody remembers. Blacks in the novel are portrayed as superstitious and gullible and it is understandable that many readers are offended by these stereotypes. However, in contrast to these stereotypes, Twain gives us Jim the runaway slave. Jim in many ways contradicts these racial stereotypes: he is resourceful, clever, compassionate, and friend to Huck. When it comes time for Huck to consider telling Miss Watson that her slave has been captured, Huck finds himself in a dilemma. Does he do what he views as “right,” turn Jim in, or does he do the “wrong” thing: helping a slave and true friend who has sacrificed and genuinely cared about Huck’s wellbeing throughout their river raft adventure? Spoiler alert here: Huck decides that he’ll help Jim escape even he has to go to Hell for it. Although Huck feels that he has done the wrong thing, Twain and the readers certainly can see the irony of his situation and applaud him for choosing to help a friend and
fellow human being rather than submitting to what Southern society would have deemed the right thing to do. In the end, I do not believe Huck Finn was written to be racist. Both white and black people have good and bad apples among them and sometimes the path society chooses isn’t always the right one. Finally, the best way to judge Huck Finn is to read it yourself and decide whether or not Twain wrote a racist novel.
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