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”The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain

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  • Pages: 7
  • Word count: 1632
  • Category: Twain

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The “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is the greatest, and most adventurist novel in the free world. Mark Twain has a style of his own that depicts a since of realism in the novel about the society back in Post-Civil War America. Mark Twain definitely characterizes the hero or main character, the intelligent and sympathetic Huckleberry Finn, by the direct way of writing as though speaking through the actual voice of Huck. Every word, thought, and speech by Huck is so in depth and realistic, it reflects even the racism and black stereotypes typical of the era. And this has lead to many conflicting views by various readers since the first print of the novel, though inspiring thought jerking to some. Calista Phair, outraged by Twain’s constant use of the degrading and white supremacist word ‘nigger’, “I was humiliated and horrified that this book was being taught, when it has the word ‘nigger’ 215 times,” (ROBERTS). Yet to counter that is a quote by the American writer Ernest Hemingway, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn…it’s the best book we’ve had…There has been nothing as good since” (“The Green Hills of Africa” Hemingway).

In the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” the author Mark Twain shows through decisive language, decisive literature and characterization the use of psychological racism during his day and age. Twain uses the word ‘nigger’ often, both as a referral to the slave Jim and any African-American that Huck comes across and as a word to show insult and inferiority. However, the reader must also not fail to recognize that this style of racism, this ill 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 perception to the actual views of the setting at that time. Huckleberry Finn still stands as a powerful “view through the looking glass” of the experiences through the eyes of an innocent boy. Huck only views and treats the African-American people according to the society he was raised in. For Huck Finn to say or act any differently would be out of place for the era in which the character lives.

Twain’s literary style in capturing the novel, Huck’s casual attitude and candid position, and Jim’s undoubted acceptance of the oppression by the racial slurs all signifies this. Beatrice Clark a Grand Mother of a student that had to read Huckleberry Finn had this to say on the matter “That word, in the history of America, has always been a degrading word toward African Americans. When they were brought to America, they were never thought of as human beings in the first place, and this word was something to call a thing that wasn’t human.” “So that’s what they bring into the classroom to talk about. I just think it’s utterly unconscionable that a school would think it’s acceptable.” (ROBERTS) Twain’s literary style is that of a natural southern dialect intertwined with other dialects to represent the various attitudes of the Mississippi region he does not intend to outright encourage Black inferiority. If Twain wanted to say that blacks where lesser humans, he would not write 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 equal man 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 their’n” (150) Any words that seem to degrade African-Americans is merely a dramatized use of Southern slang and not used purposefully. Huck talks the way he knows how and was taught according to the society at the time to give a specific treatment to black slaves. However, his sympathies towards Jim throughout the book have taught Huck to overcome certain stereotypes, such as black stupidity and inhumanity, but not enough to rebel against social prejudices of the time. Huckleberry still believes Jim to be irrelevant and stubborn at times, for example their argument over the Biblical story of King Solomon and the French language. Huck tells the reader,” If he got a notion in his head once, there warn’t no getting it out again…I see it warn’t no use wasting words – you can’t learn a nigger to argue” (76-79).

Racism means “the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races, discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race” (wordnetweb .princet on.edu/perl/webwn) Is this novel really as soaked in anti-black antics as critics would like you to believe. Or is this book just showing the real truth of The South in 1835. On the point of this novel being racist, the Plot of the novel is a boy who travels up the Mississippi with a runaway slave so that he can free him and so that he may buy his family. Now if you really think about the plot and not about all the things said throughout the novel to make it make “realistic”, I think you would agree the novel is not racist at its base. Now if you look at some of the individual things said by the characters throughout the book you might have a different view. This is Huck’s reaction after hearing Jim state that he will steal his family back from there owner “Thinks I, this is what comes of my not thinking.

Here was this nigger, which I had as good as helped to run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying he would steal his children-children that belonged to a man I didn’t even know; a man that hadn’t ever done me no harm.”(105) Now here is a literary doctors take on the novel and its racial points “If you look at our society today some of the racial undertones in this book still exist, and given the right setting in the year 2000 these same types of incidents accrue” (Angela Billups, Ph.D.) In a sense she is saying that we have not come very far from where we were when the novel was first written. So the book is not at all raciest it is more like the controversial movie “The Passion of the Christ.” Many people even Christians say that movie should be banded for its violence and depiction of the Jews when in fact the movie was created based off the word of the Bible. All the blood and gore and racism is described in the Bible in great detail as it happened. The novel Huckleberry Finn describes fictionally how whites viewed and treated blacks in the 1800’s and it is a great dramatization of what normally went on in that time period.

Finally, Jim and many other African-American slaves seem to accept their lesser human positions to the “white folks”. This is the undying point that has earned Twain countless criticism and caused such long arguments and uneasiness among the scholars of American heritage literature. The unusual and most particular description in the novel is where Twain mocks Jim’s stupidity towards the end. After all that Huck and Jim have endured together, Huck seems to justify it all as an effort simply to please the childish and ridiculous Tom Sawyer. Scandaless proposals such as having rats, snakes, and spiders occupy the same small “prison” Jim is in, that Jim waters a plant with his tears until it flowers, that Jim makes engravings on stone to reveal his oppressed imprisonment in the hut when Jim is actually living quite well, etc. In real life you would think that being talked about in such away would evoke some sort of response in anger from the victim. When in the novel nothing is done, Jim seems to not care. The novel seems to suggest white superiority from this stand point, but Huck still grows throughout the novel. Huck has found that his friend is his equal.

Also that he must help Jim because he is his friend no matter if it is right or wrong, sinful or saint-like. Huck knows that Jim is a man not just a negro. “I knowed he was white inside.”(Huck about Jim Ch.40) In the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” the author Mark Twain shows through decisive language, decisive literature and characterization the use of psychological racism during his day and age. Huckleberry Finn is a wonderful novel that captures the heart of the reader in its elegance and innocence. Despite the many critics that have sneered at its racial perspective the book represents a reality that occurred during Post-Confederate America. Twain’s literary devices in capturing the focal point of excitement, adventure, and sympathy come together to make a wonderful novel that should be recognized, not for racism, but that it is the viewpoint of a boy that grew up in that time.

And even then, the child does overcome some social prejudices of slavery because he is concerned with the well-being of his runaway slave friend Jim. The hate shown to the slave race in the end allowed by Huck is only to cope with the peer-pressure from his friend Tom. The novel is a success because it does not fail to capture the singular point of growing up from Huck’s prospective in the 1800s. “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” (1) These words will ring on forever in the minds of those who read the timeless novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

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