In Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn he bases the novel in a pre-civil war time period even though it’s being published in a post-civil war time period. This is strange because he is writing about the past which has already been lived, so what point is he trying to make? Through the characters tom and Huck twain illustrates the childish and outdated actions of society. The time period before the civil war was a low point in American history.
The nation was divided over the issue of slavery and the treatment of blacks. This issue caused the civil war and was prevalent in the south even after the war. This is what Twain is trying to point out to society is his novel. They are still acting the same even though it is wrong and has been decided that change has needed to happen. He does this by basing the novel pre civil war time but it reflects society in that day and age because the audience relates to the novel. Twain reflects society’s view through the character Tom Sawyer.
At the end of the novel the reader finds out that Jim, the escaped slave, is actually free and Tom knew this the entire time but neglected to tell anybody so he could have his storybook adventure (309). Tom reflects society in this way because Tom wasn’t treating a freed slave as such; he was treating him as a toy. Jim was Tom’s chance to have a storybook adventure that he is known for and uses him as a prop in the adventure and in the process subjecting him to the treatment of a slave when he is actually a free man (307).
Tom is a childish character known for stretching the truth and acting out his storybooks but also cruel towards slaves like making Jim believe that he is a slave when he is actually free, and justifying this by saying that he would have paid Jim for his troubles once it was said and done (309). This childish tendency reflects society because society at the time was still treating blacks as slaves and making life hard on them but justifying it by saying they would pay them. Blacks still were not being treated equal just like Jim was not being treated like a free man when in fact he was.
Twain retaliates against society with the character Huck. Huck is almost the voice of reason emerging from society in the novel. He questions how he should treat Jim and what is right and wrong in his treatment but also in society. He believes the right thing to do is to turn Jim in and move on but never does because it would be wrong to turn in his friend (261). This inner conflict shows the struggle to change social norms. Twain is trying to show that the treatment of slaves has been shown to be okay only because society has made it that way.
Now that society throughout America is changing the view on slavery then they have to change what is right and what is wrong and this cause’s inner conflict. But in the end Huck is shown to be in the right because Jim was a free man the entire time and if he had turned him in he would be stealing from Jim. It would have been wrong on every count no argument there. The journey that Jim and Huck embark on symbolizes the journey for the abolishment of slavery. Jim fought against slavery and Huck, a white man, reluctantly went along with it and started to change his views on the issue.
This leading to the official declaration of freedom when really the whole time Jim was a free human being and just wasn’t being treated as such, but is now officially recognized as “free”. What twain is trying to say is that even though blacks were under the title of slave and were treated as such they were free human beings then and now are officially given the title of “free” but yet are still being treated the same even when they are free. Twain wants to point this out to society so they can change according to the times because they are still living in a pre-civil war time period when things have changed and social norms have changed.