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Archetypes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Essay

In the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain utilizes the archetypes of the Unwilling Hero, the Shape Shifter, and Haven vs. Wilderness to show that Huck Finn and Jim can find freedom all along the banks of the Mississippi River. Huck portrays the unwilling hero because he puts a lot of thought into something before he does it, even though it will benefit everybody. He is also very hesitant to perform heroic acts. The King and Duke show the archetype of the shape shifter because they are constantly lying about their identities and deceiving everybody.

The Mississippi represents the characters “haven”, and Huck and Jim’s home represents the “wilderness”. Huckleberry Finn portrays the archetype of the unwilling hero. Huck is very reluctant to do the right thing, and always feels guilty about everything he does. The challenges Huck had to overcome almost caused Huck and Jim to loose their chance at finding freedom, but he always built up his courage and was pushed to fight for what he thought was right. After Tom and Huck spooked Jim, Tom wanted to take it further and “tie Jim to a tree for fun” (page 5).

Huck had felt guilty for scaring Jim and didn’t want to do anymore harm, so Huck said “no; he might wake and make a disturbance” (page 5). This relates to him being an unwilling hero because you can see that Huck felt bad for doing the wrong thing and his conscience pushed him to do the right thing the second time around. Another time when Huck did something to get Jim and himself further down the river was when he said “I won’t let no runaway niggers get by me if I can help it. ” (page 91). Huck then went on trying to convince himself that what he did was right.

“They went off and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low; because I knowed very well I had done wrong, and I see if warn;t no use for me to try to learn to do right…then I thought a minute, and says to myself, hold on; s’pose you’d ‘a’ done right and giver Jim up, would you felt better than what you do now? No says I, I’d feel bad-I’d feel just the same way I do now. Well, then, says I, what’s the use you ain’t no trouble to do wrong. ” (page 91). Huck felt guilty for lying about having Jim aboard with him, he knew that what he was doing was illegal and had trouble seeing the good in what he did.

As the reader, you know that Jim is actually a good man and doesn’t deserve to be treated as a slave. But for Huck, it was a really hard struggle for him to convince himself that lying about Jim and doing the immoral thing was actually acting as the hero. Even Huck didn’t think of himself as a hero after he did this, he felt bad about what he did, but the fact that it took a lot to persuade him to feel comfortable about his decision shows that he is suitable for the unwilling hero. In the quote “I says to myself, this is another one that I’m letting his rob her of her money.

And when she got through they all jest laid theirselves out to make me feel at home and know I was amongst friends. I felt so ornery and low down and mean that I says to myself, my mind’s made up; I’ll hive that money for them or bust. ” (page 175), Huck had just allowed con artist to steal money from many different people and had felt guilty about it because he knew of them being shape shifters all along. When the con artists made their attempt to steal these three innocent girls inheritance, Huck felt so bad that he decided to scheme against them and steal their money back. It took a lot of courage for Huck to do this.

The reader and Huck share the knowledge of knowing the King and Dukes real identity as con artists. But with Huck being inside the situation, opposed to the reader being able to see the clear decision, Huck did not want people to know that he had done this deed. This shows that he was still hesitant on wanting to do this heroic act. This is showed when Huck says “I got to do it in a way that they won’t suspicion that I done it” (page 175). Once again it takes a lot of Huck convincing himself to do this heroic act and is still unsure about it after he does this. This clearly shows Huck in the archetype of the unwilling hero.

Having Huck step out of his comfort zone lead himself and Jim to freedom, but Huck would not have been able to show as much courage if it weren’t for the archetype of the shapeshifter portrayed by the King and Duke. The Duke and King are always lying about their identity and changing their story, they deceive many people including Jim, threatening Huck and Jim’s chance at freedom. The Duke and King began their role as shape shifters when they were first introduced in the novel. Huck and Jim were fooled by them for a bit, but it didn’t take long for Huck to figure out that these were con artists.

Having two shape shifters aboard with them also got Huck to explore his role as the unwilling hero more. You can see this by the way he doesn’t want to say he knows who they really are. “It didn’t take me long to make up my mind that these liars warn’t no Kings nor Dukes at all, but just low down humbugs and frauds. But I never said nothing, never let on; kept it to myself; it’s the best way; then you don’t have no quarrels, and don’t get into no trouble. ” (page 125). The King and Duke scammed a whole town out of $87. 75 by making up a make story just to make some quick money.

“He told them he was a pirate-been a pirate for thirty years…he’d been robbed last night and put ashore off of a steamboat without a cent…and put in the rest of his life trying to turn the pirates into the true path” (page 131) Because the town people thought that their story was so heart touching they decided to give them a lot of money even though they didn’t need it at all. This shows how ruthless these characters actually are even thought they come across as kind people. The King and Dukes final example of being shape shifters was when they sold Jim back as a slave.

By doing this Huck and Jim finally realize how cruel and rotten these people are. They completely betrayed the people who had helped these con artists escape down the river buy selling Jim back into slavery for a very small price. This shows their true character and makes Huck so angry, that he finally decides to step up and become Jim’s hero. It was very common for the Duke and King to do this, but it took a lot of courage for Huck to finally decide to rescue Jim. This was Huck’s major act that can be seen as the unwilling hero and the final step into securing Jim’s freedom.

All of that can be seen when Huck says “After all we had done for those scoundrels, here it was all come to nothing, everything was all busted up and ruined, because they could have the heart to sever Jim suck a trick as that, and make him a slave again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars” (page 211). Even though the King and Duke where very deceiving shape shifters, they help Huck realize that the Mississippi River was where he could find his freedom and that the river was his “haven”. Haven vs. Wilderness is another archetype that is prominent in the novel.

Huck and Jim spend almost all of the story out on the Mississippi River, but just because it is in the Wilderness doesn’t mean that that is their “Wilderness”. The story starts off with Huck explaining that he has a bad home life. His father is always drunk and doesn’t take care of him, so he lives with the widow. The widow is in full control of Huck and he hates it. He is the kind of person who loves to have freedom and is always striving for it. That is the same for Jim, he is a slave that almost gets sold for money, but all he wants is freedom. Both Huck and Jim’s home lives are not what either of them are looking for.

This shows that this part of their lives is actually the Wilderness because to them they are unhappy and not comfortable. This is showed when Huck says “Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me, but she wouldn’t. ” (page 2). Huck and Jim end up running away and spending their lives out on the Mississippi River, hoping that eventually they will cross the border and Huck will have the freedom he wanted and Jim will no longer be a slave. Throughout the story the reader starts to realized that the Mississippi River represents freedom and Huck and Jim have actually found their haven out on the river with each other.

Both of them achieve the freedom they want and have a good time exploring and meeting new people (and smoking tobacco). This life is exciting and thrilling for them and is actually what they aspired from the beginning. This is why the Mississippi River is their Haven. You know when Huck gets away when you read “I fooled pap and got away” (page 30). You can also see how Jim was treated when he says “I hear old missus tell de wider she gwyne to sell me down to Orleans, but she didn’t want to, but she could git eight hund’d dollars for me, en it ‘uz sich a big stack o’ money she couldn’ resis’.

” (page 43). By the end of the book Huck is saying that he is going to have to stay with his Aunt because his father died and his Aunt couldn’t just let him go. When Huck says “Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and civilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before. ” (page 293). Huck is upset about being adopted because you can see that he loved being on the raft with all of the excitement and freedom. Huck is put back into the “Wilderness” and finally realizes that what he wants (what his haven is), is to be out exploring the world with his buddies Tom and Jim.

Even though this is opposite from what you would expect a haven and a wilderness to be it is what made Huck happy and kept the novel interesting. These places are where Huck finally realized that for the first time in his life he had the freedom that he had always wanted. Through all the example you can see how Mark Twain used the archetypes of the Unwilling Hero, the Shape Shifter, and Haven vs. Wilderness to demonstrate a struggle to freedom in the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck Finn is the Unwilling hero because it takes a lot of persuading for him to do the right thing, but in the end he always does.

The King and Duke display the Shape Shifter archetype because of how deceiving and two faced they are around everybody. Finally the Mississippi River represents the characters “Haven” and Huck and Jim’s home represent “Wilderness” because of how unhappy they are at home opposed to the river where they are both happy. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a very inspirational story of Huck performing selfless heroic acts and will leave you feeling good and hopeful for the characters in their future.


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