Rhetorical Analysis of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
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Mark Twain’s use of picturesque diction, symbolic punctuation, composed sentence formation, and fluent organization in this particular passage are overflowing. He uses these literary techniques to help him create the movement of the raft and time as Huck is describing it. Twain’s description makes the journey seem like a peaceful experience.
The colorful diction in this passage portrays the continuous, elegant motion of the raft while Huck and Jim travel down the river. “Two or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might say they swum by; they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely.” The metaphoric diction in this sentence combines the movement of the river with the element of time to create the feeling of a peaceful, undisturbed journey. Since Huck and Jim only travel at night for their protection, the river becomes all the more serene with no commotion from the activity of the people. Huck enjoys this tranquility. Twain’s artistic diction clearly establishes this, as such in the following sentence from the passage. “Not a sound, anywheres-perfectly still-just like the whole world was asleep…” The words “not a sound,” “perfectly still,” and “asleep” make the journey seem very private, with Huck and Jim having minimal interaction with others, allowing the days and nights to simply blend together. Twain’s vivid diction in this passage allows the reader to understand the simultaneous movement of the raft and the passing time while interconnecting the two, comparing the passing time to the steady movement of the raft.
The punctuation throughout this passage is clever. In areas where Huck is describing the imagery of the river, there are long sentences, with separate phrases combined by semicolons. This technique symbolizes the movement of the raft on the river. The constant flow of the river can be seen in Twain’s flow of sentences. Particularly when mentioning the scenic river, Twain tends to keep the thought continuous. .”..then the river softened up, away off, and warn’t black any more, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along, ever so far away…” Twain’s use of the semicolon represents Huck and Jim’s journey on the river, drifting along. He allows the sentences to stream together, each describing a new intricacy of the river, just as the river is constantly pushing the raft along, taking Huck and Jim to new, unseen places. The punctuation in this passage was brilliantly designed to have underlying symbolism to the events in the book and create the effect of the steady, ongoing movement of the river and time as Huck and Jim watch the sun rise.
Twain’s sentence formation also represents the movement of the raft and time. Huck describes the days and nights as “sliding along.” Twain’s sentences also seem to “slide along.” They are longer, more detailed sentences as compared to short and blunt ones. This conveys an attitude of ease, like the ease of the flow of the raft. Just as the days and nights seem to blend, so do Twain’s sentences. There are not many definite separations in the passage, but instead, descriptions which contribute to one another and become an elongated account of Huck and Jim’s adventures on the river. Twain uses one long sentence to describe the sunrise that Huck and Jim witness. This is a clear link to time. Twain is portraying the imperturbability of the situation and establishing how time seems to pass much more slowly and is more enjoyable when there are less disturbances from surrounding activities. The sentence formation plays a major role in establishing the mood, and thereby creating the movement of the raft and time.
The organization of this passage is much like that of its sentence formation. Everything just seems to graciously melt together. Huck tells of how their travels take place, according to the time. Each event leads to another, making the time pass smoothly. The passage begins by describing how Huck and Jim run the river at night and hide during the day. It then presents everything that Huck and Jim see and do between the time they stop and hide the raft and the time it takes the sun to come up. In this short time period, Huck describes all the detailed images and sounds. This organization allows the reader to truly imagine all of these things occurring in these few hours. Twain effectively organizes the passage to represent how the time seems to flow.
This whole passage was written to portray the movement of the raft and time. Through Twain’s striking diction, emblematic punctuation, informal sentence formation, and harmonious organization, the reader can clearly comprehend that the primary focus of the passage is the movement of the raft and time. Twain’s techniques can be recognized as in the many examples presented. Ultimately, the movement of the raft and time is understood and felt. The importance of this is to establish the creation of a relationship between Huck and Jim while on this journey down the river. Through the detailed movement of the raft and time, the reader can infer how the paradisaical placidity of their adventure, inspired a friendship between Huck and Jim, which later becomes a significant theme throughout the novel.