The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, takes place in St. Petersburg, Missouri during the 1830s. This town is in the south, and contains several morals and ideals iconic to it’s location and time. The location and time of this story serve as elements that, open vital opportunities, help conflicts gain suspense, and develop Huck and Jim and their important friendship. Throughout the story Huck manages to get himself into many adventures but also many misadventures. Huck’s mock-epic begins with him being captured by his father and then his following escape, and without the setting neither events would have occurred.
“When I lit my candle and went up to my room that night, there set pap, his own self! I had shut the door to. Then I turned around and there he was. I used to be scared of him all the time, he tanned me so much,” (Twain 14). Huck feels fear and shock at finding his father inside of his bedroom. Huck believed his father was dead, but knew he was alive by finding boot tracks, and was awaiting his appearance. The way that Huck’s father managed to contact Huck would not have occurred if the times had been different.
The 1830s didn’t have telephones much less security systems, which enabled Huck’s father to break into the home of Widow Douglas so easily. The setting provided the perfect opportunity for conflict and Huck’s capture. “[… ] He went for me, too, for not stopping school. He catched me a couple of times and thrashed me, but I went to school just the same, and dodged him or out-run him most the time,” (Twain 17). Schools did not have the same amount of security that most schools have today, and education was not a staple in many parents’ minds. The times in which the story took place, left Huck very vulnerable to his father’s rage and plans.
“So he watched out for me one day in the spring, and catched me, and took me up the river, [… ] in a skiff, and crossed over to the Illinois shore where [… ] there warn’t no houses but [… ] where the timber was so thick you wouldn’t find it if you didn’t know where it was,” (Twain 18). Huck’s capture was the catalyst that began his adventure. His capture was a very simple process, and anti-climatic because of the simplicity behind it. No one would realize Huck had been kidnapped until school was over, a problem only present in past times.
His father managed to get him to an obscure area before the day was over, and he was aided because of the area he lived in. His trail would be lost in the water, and would be further lost in the deep woods. This would not be the only time the setting would facilitate and create opportunities for misadventure. The rapscallions that took advantage of Huck also benefitted from the opportunities the setting provided. The king and the duke were con men that pulled off many frauds, but their biggest fraud was the robbing of the late Peter Wilks’ family.
These two southern men managed the appearance of two English men, one a protestant minister and the other a deaf man. “He turns around and begins to make a lot of signs to the duke with his hands; and the duke looks at him stupid and leather-headed a while, then all of a sudden he seems to catch his meaning, and jumps for the king, goo-gooing with all his might for joy,” (Twain 126). The two con men are in front of an entire town and manage to create the appearance that they are communicating through sign language.
The people of those times were ignorant of other cultures, aside from their own. Therefore, it was very easy to trick many people of the knowledge actually contained. “‘Why, Huck, doan’ de French people talk de same way we does? ” “No, Jim you couldn’t understand a word they said[… ]. ” “[… ] I be dung busted! How that come? ” “-Spose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy— what would you think? ” “I’d take en bust him over de head. Dat is, if he weren’t white. I wouldn’t ‘low no nigger to call me dat,”‘ (Twain 59). Jim is an example of the common person.
Although he was a slave and that hindered his education further, he displays the lack of knowledge others also lacked. Huck himself can only mimic the French accent mediocrely. Yet, to Jim, Huck has revealed something substantial. If Huck happened to be cruel, he might even give Jim the impression he was fluent in the French language, something the duke and the king did, except with sign language. Their fraud continues to the authenticity of the king’s English accent. “That old gentleman [… ] begun to speak, and I see, straight off, he pronounced like an Englishman, not the king’s way[… ],” (Twain 148).
Huck himself was fooled into thinking the king was speaking in an acceptable English accent, but was disproven when the real heirs arrived. Huck was a part of the scheme, yet as the rest of the townspeople were unaware, they were easily fooled. Setting provided some substantial opportunities to Jim, the runaway slave, yet the biggest opportunity given to him, was the one to escape. “[… ] en ’bout eight er nine every skift dat went ‘long was talkin’ bout how yo’ pap come over to de town and say you’s killed. Dese las’ skifts wuz full o’ ladies en genlmen agoin’ over for to see de place,” (Twain 33).
Jim noticed that most of the town was occupied with Huck’s recent death, and left him unattended and unaccounted for. “I laid dah under de shavins all day. I ‘uz hungry, but I warn’t afeared; I knowed [… ] dey wouldn’ miss me tell arter dark in de evenin’,” (Twain 33). Since the townspeople were interested, Jim knew that the time had struck. He would not be missed in the midst of the recent commotion. The south is known for their southern hospitality, a stereotype that in this situation was true. Within those three circumstances, the setting helped build suspense leading up to and after.
“Thinks I, maybe it’s pap, though I warn’t expecting him. He dropped below me, [… ] it was pap sure enough — and sober too, by the way he laid to his oars,” (Twain 26). Huck’s escape, being the primary event of the novel, was very suspenseful. Huck went to desperate measures to fake his death; killing a hog, pulling out his hair, and stealing from his father’s cabin (Twain 25). All the elaborate details were put to the test when Huck’s father returned unexpectedly, sober, and while Huck happened to be asleep. Huck took the risk to sail away, risking the chance to be seen fleeing.
The setting provided the suspense, by not ensuring when his father would return and there not being anyway to track him. When Huck’s life was once again at risk, the setting helped intensify the feeling of fear. “So they got some paper and a pen, and the king he set down and twisted his head to one side and chawed his tongue, and scrawled something; and then they give the pen to the duke – and then for the first time, the duke looked sick,” (Twain 150) . The three men were close to being discovered of their fraud as they were being asked to write down words on a piece of paper to ensure their identities.
There were serious consequences at risk, one of those being death. Although the king and the duke were becoming mean men, it was unexpected when the real heirs arrived and they too faced death. “‘Perhaps this gentleman can tell me what was tattooed on his breast? ” [… ] He whitened a little; he couldn’t help it [… ] “Mf! It’s a very tough question, [… ] I k’n tell you what’s tattooed on his breast. It’s jest a small, thin, blue arrow [… ]. ” “We didn’t see no such mark. ” “Now, what you did see on his breast was a small dim P, and a B, [… ] and a W […]. ”
“No, we didn’t. We never seens any marks at all,”’ (Twain 152). At that moment, everyone was at question. The setting provided limited resources and therefore proper forensic science. Jim being a runaway slave, however, proved to be the most suspenseful situation of all. “Right then, along comes a skiff with two men in it, with guns, and they stopped and I stopped. One of them says: “What’s that yonder? ” ” A piece of raft,” I says. [… ] “Any men on it? ” “Only one, sir. ” “Well, there’s five niggers run off to-night, [… ] Is your man white or black?
“(Twain 67). Jim was very close to freedom, and at that moment his life was at stake. Huck however took the chance to protect him, and maintain his friendship with Jim. Furthermore, the friendship proved to be benefitting to the two outcasts. Huck was alone and a child, all the while Jim was alone and in need of a helping hand. Huck swore to give Jim his help along with his secrecy (Twain 32). Although Huck came close to turning Jim in many times, once even writing a letter to turn him in (Twain 161), he eventually opened up his heart, and came to care for Jim deeply.
He even once remarked he’d go to hell for him (Twain 161). Jim returned that care and affection by letting Huck know. He was distressed when they lost each other in the fog and even decided he didn’t want to live after that (Twain 65). The friendship was equally beneficial because it gave Huck the opportunity to create his own morals, far from the regular prejudices of society, and it provided Jim with a friendship, a helper, and a listener. Their outsider status was obtained through the setting, as one was treated as property, and the other as a low-life, solely based on the ideals of that time.
The setting brought them together. The novel contains many levels of depth, yet the element that provided the depth was the setting. The setting created opportunities important to the novel, developed a vital friendship, and created the suspense necessary to tighten the bond between Huck and Jim. Without the setting, the novel’s meaning would have faltered, because the opportunities for any event would be gone, and alack of insight would deny any development for Huck and Jim’s characters. Works Cited Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York; Dover Publications, 1994. Print.
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