In the protagonist Huckleberry Finn as he is depicted by Mark Twain, Emerson’s idea of the American scholar is epitomized. The following essay will present the points of Mark Twain as an American scholar through the character Huckleberry Finn; it is through Huckleberry Finn that Emerson’s ideas of nature, books and action become realized and this essay will bring to the forefront of its argument these facts among many other ideas of Emerson’s American scholar are epitomized in Twain’s character Huck.
Huckleberry Finn is a character whose main purpose seems almost like a young tale of the Iliad in which fate seems to simply happen to Huck Finn. The events leading up to his stay with the widow Douglas he accounts are no fault of his own, as the metaphor of the story is found with the great Mississippi River so does Huck Finn’s life simply flow along until he makes a conscious choice. This choice comes into being when Huck decides that ‘sivilised’ life is not for him.
In the rejection of civilized life Twain is brining in elements of Emerson’s ideals: Huck Finn is a very simplistic character and his thwarting of Widow Douglas best attempts of making him presentable to society become the correlation of Emerson’s American scholar. The American scholar according to Emerson is best found in nature since it is with nature that man learns how the world works; in the trees, and in the roots. This classification allows a man to simplify his life; life is easier with just nature and without civilization.
Thus, it may be surmised that Huck’s doffing off of nature is Twain’s own sentiment on the subject of culture and the evilness of society. In Huckleberry Finn’s disappearance from civilized life, after his father kidnaps him and Huck fakes his own death, the voice of Emerson is best found with Jim the slave. Jim gives advice to Huckleberry Finn about the disappointments found in the world and how a man may be able to handle himself by making conscious choices.
In the litany of Emerson, this concept is also found by way of Emerson stating that a scholar must gather for himself the appropriate information from different books in order to find an organized opinion about a subject and to take a side of each books’ opinion in order to find himself. Jim states similarly to Finn that he should experience what life has to offer and decide for himself the difference between right and wrong, morality and immoral nature.
Thus, the point of going down the Mississippi is to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible in order to later filter opinion from fact, one’s own thoughts from society’s mores. It is in the creation of man’s own thoughts, of Finn deciding throughout the journey that no man should be a slave that Huckleberry Finn becomes a man, becomes an American scholar since he is finally thinking for himself. He rejects Widow Douglas, his father, society in whole and travels with Jim collecting his own thoughts and deciding what is wrong and what is right in the nature of man.
In a subtler note, Emerson states that the American scholar must take action and in this capacity Mark Twain does not falter with his protagonist Huckleberry Finn. Huck’s action consists in the part of the story where the Dauphin capture Jim and subsequently sells him in order to receive the reward. Huck is completely outraged by this betrayal and in the course of the story this signifies the first time that he acts upon his own judgment and he rejects the advice of his conscience which tells him that by helping Jim escape to freedom he is in a way stealing Miss Watson’s property.
Huck tells himself, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell! ” (Twain), Huck resolves to free Jim. Emerson’s concept of the American scholar persists with this idea of action; Emerson states that the scholar must fill every moment of every day with action. The scholar should accordingly work different jobs in order to become fluent in a myriad of vocations. The scholar must also be a poylglot in order to express himself with different thoughts.
In the language of the text Huck Finn speaks a very succinct colloquial language as well as proper grammar at times. Thus, he is fulfilling Emerson’s concepts. Finn’s epiphany while traveling and having conversations with Jim is such that he discovers man is his own master; in discovering that Jim has to hide in order to be free and comparing that with Finn’s own hiding in order not be kidnapped he relates himself to Jim.
The discovery upon the river is as Emerson highlights, “And, finally, is not the true scholar the only true master? But the old oracle said, `All things have two handles: beware of the wrong one. ‘ In life, too often, the scholar errs with mankind and forfeits his privilege. Let us see him in his school, and consider him in reference to the main influences he receives” (Emerson). Thus, Finn epitomizes Emerson’s view of the American scholar through not only his thoughts but also his behaviors and his actions.