Narrator in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”
Narrator in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”
Mark Twain chose Huck Finn to be the narrator to make the story more realistic and so that Mark Twain could get the reader to examine their own attitudes and beliefs by comparing themselves to Huck, a simple uneducated character.
Twain was limited in expressing his thoughts by the fact that Huck Finn is a living, breathing person who is telling the story. Since the book is written in first person, Twain had to put himself in the place of a thirteen-year-old son of the town drunkard. He had to see life as Huck did and had to create a character that could see life as Mark Twain saw it. Huck is more than Twain’s mouthpiece because he is a living character and is capable of shaping the story.
The language that Huck uses shows what he sees and how he will pass it on to us. Something else that is apparent is that the humor of the book often depends on Huck’s language. In chapter fourteen, Huck is telling Jim about royalty in general which is an example of humor through language and incomplete education although sometimes he is not that far from the truth.
‘They [royalty] don’t do nothing! Why, how you talk! They just set around.’
‘No; is dat so?’
‘Of course it is. They just set around–except, maybe, when there’s a war; then they go to war. But other times they just lazy around; or go hawking–just hawking…when things is dull, they fuss with the parlyment; and if everybody don’t go just so he whacks their heads off. But mostly they hang round the harem.’
However, by using Huck’s language Twain creates character and establishes realism. Huck is capable of making Twain write something merely because it is not the kind of thing Huck would say or do, and he can force Twain to leave something out because Huck would not do or say that kind of thing.
Huck is essentially good-hearted, but he is looked down upon by the rest of the village. He dislikes civilized ways because they are too restrictive and hard. He is generally ignorant of reading and writing, but he has a sharply developed sensibility. He is imaginative and clever, and has a good eye for detail, though he does not always understand everything he sees, or its significance. This enables Twain to make great use of irony. Huck is basically a realist. He knows only what he sees and experiences. He does not have a great deal of faith in things he reads or hears. He must experiment to find out what is true and what is not. With this kind of personality, Huck is able to believe Jim’s superstition at some times and to distrust others.
He also see Huck as he is, the opposite of Tom Sawyer. He is as stated before, a realist, and generally a regular person except when he goes off on Tom’s adventures or when he follows Tom’s lead. He is not ‘sivilizable.’ The end of the book makes this clear. He is where he was in the beginning: he left the Widow’s house, and he will leave Aunt Sally’s. Something in society and civilization appalls Huck.
Huck learns from Jim, who is in some ways his substitute father. He does not believe in Jim’s superstition until the superstition proves itself true. He mocks the snakeskin until the snakeskin does its work. Huck rises to Jim’s level by accepting Jim’s superstitions. Huck enters Jim’s primitive world which, though crude, is more honest and real than Miss Watson’s world. He cannot go beyond this world. He won’t pray because he has not had any benefits from prayer.
Huck is involved in adventures and is continually bothered by his conscience. All during the trip down river, he tries to answer the question whether he’s doing right by the Widow’s sister and by Jim, or not. The obsession with justice has him confused. Whatever he chooses to do, he’s wrong. He’s wronging Jim if he returns him to slavery; he’s wronging Miss Watson if he helps Jim escape. Huck has no way of knowing what is right. He must follow his feelings and the only thing he can do is to learn by experience. And he does.
Using Huck Finn as the narrator of the book allowed Mark Twain to add more life, excitement, and realism in his writings. We can only think how good Mark Twain was at languages by how he writes. Twain created Huck, but soon Huck had his own personality and life and Mark Twain had to write with this character.