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Character Development In Huckleberry Finn

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I. Intro Paragraph

In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain illustrates Huck’s character development through the frequent shift in mood and opinion. The difference between individual and society is present in this novel. In some moments, Huck’s instinct arises over his surrounding society. One example is when Huck first encounters Jim on Jackson’s island. In this moment, Huck sees Jim as a friend, instead of a slave.

“I was ever so glad to see Jim. I warn’t lonesome, now.” (Twain 53).

In some moments, however, Huck’s society arises over his instinctual moral conscience. Huck’s relationship with Jim throughout the book portrays Huck’s inner conflicts between two contrasting parts of his conscience. One part that has been influenced by the beliefs of his surrounding society. The other part is his instinctual moral conscience that progresses throughout the book. These two contrasting aspects of Huck’s conscience grind back and forth as his relationship with Jim develops.

“The more I studied about this, the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked, and low-down and ornery I got to feeling.” (Twain 222)

In addition to the difference between individual and society and Huck’s inner conflicts, Huck lies many times in the book for different reasons. Huck lies to protect Jim, but he also lies to protect himself to Jim. This lying creates confusion for Jim and makes Jim believe that his mind is playing tricks on him.

“‘Well, looky here, boss, dey’s sumf’n wrong, dey is. Is I me, or who is I? Is I heah, or whah is I? Now dat’s what I wants to know.’ (Twain 94)

Huck’s moral conscience evolves as his allowance of the influences of his racist society recedes.

II. Difference between individual and society

Huck’s surrounding, racist environment has besmirched/stained part of his psyche. Huck’s early life with his abusive, drunk father contributes to his resistance towards being civilized in society. Huck has had to depend on his impulsive decision-making to help him. However, he doesn’t understand that these instincts show more human morality than the effect that society has had on the other part of his conscience. Huck’s instincts reflect the part of his conscience that has not been influenced by society. The part of his conscience that treats black people as equals, not as subhuman. This moral conscience takes over when Huck does not want to be civilized by the widow.

“The widow Douglas, she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer, I lit out. I got into my old rags, and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied.” (Twain 13)

To Huck, the widow represents society and his moral conscience does not want to be influenced by society. Moreover, his moral sense strives to be free from the racist ways even though part of his conscience is tarnished. However, Huck’s conscience influenced by society emerges when he sees Jim the first time on the island.

“Pretty soon he gapped, and stretched himself, and hove off the blanket, and it was Miss Watson’s Jim!” (Twain 53) In this passage, Huck describes Jim as being Miss Watson’s property even though it was not necessary.

III. Huck’s relationship with Jim:

Along Huck’s eventful adventures with Jim, several inner conflicts arise for Huck. The main conflict is when the two parts of his conscience dispute about writing a letter to Ms. Watson, explaining where Jim is. Eventually, Huck decides to write the letter because of a worrying thought. Huck’s influenced conscience warns him that he will go to hell if he doesn’t confess about the whereabouts of Jim.

“‘There was the Sunday School, you could a gone to it; and if you’d a done it they’d a learnt you, there, that people that acts as I’ve been acting about that n***** goes to everlasting fire.’ It made me shiver.” (Twain 222)

After Huck finishes the letter, he relives his adventures and remembers the true goodness shown in Jim. Furthermore, Huck feels like he has lost his father for a second time, yet this time much different. After this realization of the good person that Jim truly was, he rips up the letter.

“I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’—and tore it up.” (Twain 223)

In this moment, Huck’s moral conscience resists the influenced conscience and decides to do what he feels is the right thing to do. Though Huck and Jim differentiate in many ways, they share a few similarities. They both have run away from their difficult lives because of the long for freedom. In addition, they were both lonely as they didn’t have anyone that truly understood how they felt until their adventures. Throughout their adventures, Jim acts as Huck’s father figure. While they are on the river, Jim sees a dead man and doesn’t let Huck see.

“‘I reck’n he’s been dead two er three days. Come in Huck, but doan’ look at his face—it’s too gashly.’” (Twain 61)

In this passage, the reader recognizes Jim’s protective instinct to not let Huck see his dead father.

IV. Huck’s lies and their purposes

Throughout the novel, Huck lies to many people for varying reasons. One reason is to protect himself, while another is to protect others. One instance that Huck lies to protect Jim is when two men confront him on the river. The men are looking for runaway slaves and ask Huck if the man on board the raft is white. Huck tells the men that he is a white man, but they shouldn’t check because it is his very sick father.

“I warn’t man enough–hadn’t the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was weakening; so I just give up trying, and up and says– ‘He’s white.’” (Twain 111)

Sometimes, however, Huck lies only to protect himself from an uncomfortable situation. Here, Huck lies to Jim so that Jim won’t get mad at Huck. After Jim is perturbed in believing that his mind is playing tricks on him, Huck makes a snobby remark towards him.

“‘Well I think you’re here, plain enough, but I think you’re a tangle-headed old fool, Jim.’” (Twain 94)

This shows Huck’s immaturity towards Jim because he chooses to make his friend feel confused and then put him down. Instead, he could confess to Jim that he got lost in the fog, but Huck chooses to sacrifice Jim’s well-being for his attempt to avoid an uncomfortable situation.

V. Conclusion Paragraph

Even though Huck’s moral conscience has evolved, it has not fully developed. After Jim is finally freed at the end of the novel, Huck’s inner racism surfaces.

“I knowed he was white on the inside, and I reckoned he’d say what he did say–so it was all right, now, and I told Tom I was agoing for a doctor.” (Twain 279)

This passage shows Huck’s inner conscience being influenced by his society in believing that all black people are inferior to white people. Huck believes that the only way for a black person to be seen as equal is if he is “white on the inside.” He believes that since Jim is such a good person, he must be white. Moreover, Huck considers Jim as an exception to other black people. This significant sentence sets the tone for the entire book because Huck is implying that a pure human is white, while black people are just objects that can be owned as property. Finally, Huck now believes that Jim is a human being on the inside, not an object.

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