Whether young or middle-aged, the female characters in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn played vital roles. They were more a part of the novel’s scenic backdrop, but their function served in shaping the main character(s). The women and girls of the book were stereotypical, teachers, and “worse” than the males. The female characters were given stereotypical qualities, being depicted from an American man’s point of view. They were perceived as virtuous, innocent, helpless women, needing aid from the male characters.
Women’s vulnerability can be made out in chapter eleven of the novel, where Judith Loftus confesses to wanting the assistance of Huck, “she told me to try for the next one” (Twain 59). Females occupy the back of the novel, seen as “nagging, providing inspiration, often weeping or hysterical” (Walker 139-153). You can witness this in chapter twenty-eight of the novel, where Huck stumbles upon Mary Jane Wilks, “she had stopped now, with a folded gown in her lap, and had her face in her hands, crying” (Twain 187).
They possessed many assets, including: honesty, compassion, a sense of duty, innocence, and limitation; making them look powerless, as they were in the society of those days. Women were also the teachers of those days. Not only is Huck taught his education by women, but learns the ways of humanity from them as well. Some women, such as the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, are “principal female mentors” (Walker 139-153). Huck Finn begins developing more and more traits from the females you see him interacting with.
Often he “tries to run from the civilizing presence of women” (Walker 139-153). This is shown in the final chapter of the novel, “Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it” (Twain 293). He is educated in school books, societal etiquette, and the Christian faith. You can find these teachings from Miss Watson in chapter one of the novel, “…took a set at me now, with a spelling-book. She worked me middling hard for about an hour…” (Twain 3).
Lastly, the female characters were of far less import to Twain than the male characters, just as you would’ve seen in the typical culture of his day. Morally, they were better off than men, but they were powerless to society. “Both the men and the women in the novel illustrate the values of a society that has little regard for human dignity, but the female characters also embody virtues that could redeem that society if the women were empowered to do so” (Walker 139-153). The men tend to be unruly characters, while the women demonstrate high merit.
My scrutiny, like Nancy Walker’s, is that the women, though supposed to have been unimportant to the novel, held essential roles. They were stereotyped teachers who had better ethics than the male characters. The book wouldn’t have been complete without them, seeing as they were a large part of Huckleberry Finn’s growth. Works Cited Walker, Nancy. “Reformers and Young Maidens: Women and Virtue in Huckleberry Finn. ” Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (1990): 139-153. Print. Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Austin, TX: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Print.