How much fast food do you guess you eat a month? The average American eats about 50lbs worth, that’s more than most children in 3rd world countries eat in total in 3 monthsWill you follow everyone else or will you stray from the beaten path, and dare to be different? Dare to be your own person? Or will you crumple from the influences and pressures of society? The truth is no matter how much you tell yourself that you are going to be independent and make your own choices and decisions regardless of what other people thing, every choice and decision you make are influenced by the people around you and the experiences you have faced. It is for this reason that accomplishing this task can be very challenging, however it is possible. And when you finally figure out who you are and what your values and morals it is believed you have finally “come of age”. A prime example of this would be in the fiction novel written by Mark Twain, the main character Huckleberry, also referred to as Huck runs away from home because the confines of society proved to be too overwhelming for Huck.
On the run Huck meets a runaway slave named Jim and decides to help Jim escape with him despite the fact that he was raised and taught to be believe that slavery was a good thing and it is especially forbidden to help one to escape. It was for this reason that Huck struggles to see the blurred line between right and wrong. As Huck and Jim venture down the Mississippi River, Huck is introduced to many new experiences and is forced to make decisions that make him question his very own ideals, however it is those very own experiences and challenges that help him grow as a person and ultimately allows him to discover who he truly is as he himself comes of age.
One of the many instances Huck is forced to make a difficult decision is when he encounters 3 murderers looting a shipwreck he and Jim came across while floating down the Mississippi. Huck overheard 2 of the murderers planning on stranding the other one on the wreck and taking his share of the loot, so he says “Quick, Jim, ain’t no time for fooling around and moaning; there’s a gang of murderers in yonder, and if we don’t hunt up their boat and set her drifting down the river so these fellows can’t get away from the wreck, there’s one of’em going to be in a bad fix. But if we find their boat we can put all of’em in a bad fix” (pg.52) Huck originally plans to steal the murderer’s canoe so that none of them will be able to escape the wreck. However Huck starts to feel guilty as they start to float away from the wreck “Jim manned the oars, and we took out after our raft. Now was the first time that I begun to worry about the men- I reckon I hadn’t had time to before.
I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix. I says to myself, there ain’t no telling but I might come to be a murderer myself, yet, and then how would I like it.”(pg.54) ,this is a crucial change in Huck because all his life he had wanted to be in a gang and kill people, but now that he felt he would be responsible for the murderer’s deaths he realized he was misguided and cannot handle the quilt if committing such an act. Finally Huck gives into his guilt and decides he could not live with himself if he left them there to die so he told Jim “At first light we will land and I’ll go fix up some kind of yarn and get somebody to go fetch that gang and get them out of their scrape.”(pg.55) Huck realizes that what they have done is wrong but if he had left them there he would be no better than they were. Huck learns something about himself on that wreck; he learns that the life he once wanted was not the life he was cut out for.
Huck’s fight between his conscience and society greatens when he encounters a group of slave hunters. Huck feels guilty for helping Jim escape and starts to regret it, so Huck thinks things over in is head “Jim said it made him over trembly and feverish to be so close to freedom, well I can tell you it made me all trembly and feverish too, to hear that he was most free- and to blame for it? Why me! I couldn’t get that thought out of my conscience no how nor no way”(pg.66). It becomes obvious that Huck is torn between doing what is considered right and turning Jim in or what a part of him feels would be right and protect him. This conflict keeps eating away at Huck until he cannot take any more of it when he says “my conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever”(pg.67) However the pressure of society finally get to Huck “ until at last I say to it “let up on me- it ain’t too late – ill paddle ashore at first light, and tell.” I felt easy, and happy and light as a feather; right off all my troubles was gone”.
Huck convinces himself that turning in Jim is right thing to do. However as he approaches the slave hunters Huck realize he cannot do it. “What’s that yonder?” the slave hunters asked Huck. “Well there’s five niggers run off tonight, up yonder above the head of that bend. Is your man white or black?”(pg.68). Huck makes the conscious decision to lie to the slave hunters although it is not clear why “I didn’t answer up prompt I tried to, but the words wouldn’t come. I tried for a second or two, to brace up and out with it, but I warnt man- enough hadn’t the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was weakening; so I just give up trying, and up and says- “He’s white”(pg.68).
Huck lies to protect Jim. Maybe he does this because he feels sympathetic for Jim and his family, or maybe Huck finally remembers that Jim has looked out for him and cared for him during their whole journey and realizes Jim is his only true friend, or it could be as simple as the fact that he made a promise to Jim not to betray him and Huck does not want to brake that promise. Whatever the reason this is a huge step for Huck when he decides not to turn Jim into the slave hunters and really allows him to slowly start to break loose from society and form his own morals.
However despite Huck’s former breakthrough, Huck struggles to make peace with his conscience and the pressures of society get to him once again. To help ease himself Huck tries convince himself that it would just be for Jim if he was a slave. “Once I said to myself it would be better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was as long as he got to be a slave and so I’d better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where he was”(pg.160) Even though Huck is concerned that Jim might be punished for running away he still decides to write a letter hoping it will clear his conscience. Then Huck starts to think about what he’s done and what consequences he will face for his actions, “everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger and they’d make Jim feel it all the time and so he’d feel ornery and discouraged and then think of me! It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger get his freedom and if I was to ever see anybody from that town again id be ready to get down and lick his for shame”(pg.160), here starts to regret helping Jim escape and begins to worry about what people will think of him when he returns home and hopes that he will be accepted into society again.
With the hope that it will right the wrongs that he has done Huck decides to go on and write the letter here “I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that niggers owner and tell where he was. I’ll go and write the letter then see if I can pray, why it was astonishing the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off and my troubles all gone, so I got a piece of paper and a pencil all glad and excited and set down and wrote. I felt all good and all washes clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life”(pg.161) This feeling of cleanliness helps assure Huck that he has done the right thing in the views of society. However Huck’s feeling of decency soon dissipates, “I happened to look around and see that paper, it was in a close place I took it in my hand, I was trembling because I got to forever betwixt two things, and I knowed it, I studied it a minute sort of holding my breath and then says to myself “Alright then I’ll go to Hell” and tore it up”(pg.161) Huck finally decides he cannot bring himself to betray his only conscience and that he’d rather go to hell then do so.
This is the point in Huck’s journey where he truly becomes his own person, where he breaks from the confines of society and decides to do what he in his heart feels is right not what other people think is right. This is an important decision for Huck and a crucial point in Huck’s life because growing up he was taught that slavery was a good thing and that African Americans were nothing but property as most boys were taught during that time period. However Huck discovers after meeting Jim that there is so much more to them, that they are a kind, and caring and sophisticated and loving people and that in turn helps Huck discover a little more about himself as well when he decides not to turn Jim in even though anyone else would have.
Huck’s battles between his conscience and society force him to choose between being a part of society and becoming his own person, and while on his journey down the Mississippi with Jim he decides to be his own person and choose his own morals and values and by the end of his adventure he finally came of age with each experience along the way helping him grow as a person, whether it be near the beginning of the journey where he encounters a gang of murderers on a shipwreck and instead of leaving them there to die he decides to send help for them, or it be near half way through his journey where he comes across a group of slave hunters and rather than turn Jim in, he lies to protect him even though the “right” thing to do would’ve been to turn him in. Or even near the end where he almost breaks his promise and betrays Jim when he writes a letter to Tom Sawyer telling him where Jim is, but instead of sending the letter he tears it up and decides to finish helping Jim escape even if it means he’ll go to hell. All of these events are important in helping Huck create his own sense of right and wrong and in many ways, come of age.
Courtney from Study Moose
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