The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Essay
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been labelled as a picaresque novel. A picaresque novel is an adventure story that involves an anti-hero or picaro who wanders around with no actual destination in mind. The picaresque novel has many key elements. It must contain an anti-hero who is usually described as an underling(subordinate) with no place in society, it is usually told in autobiographical form, and it is potentially endless, meaning that it has no tight plot, but could go on and on.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has moulded itself perfectly to all these essential elements of a picaresque novel. Huck Finn is undeniably the picaro, and the river is his method of travel, as well as the way in which he wanders around with no actual destination. This is due to the fact that the river is in control and not Huck. Furthermore, it is the picaresque style that has also aided in highlighting the escapades that Huck experiences through his travels as those crucial to the novel, but also crucial to such a character as Huckleberry Finn.
Huck is the perfect example of a young boy with adventure on his mind, and thus the characterization of Huck as a picaro is done flawlessly. Additionally, as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains all the vital aspects of a picaresque novel and picaro hero, it is these crucial traits that mark it as one of Mark Twain’s most successful novels, and one of the world’s most famous adventure stories. One of the most important aspects of the picaresque novel is the fact that it must contain a picaro, otherwise known as the anti-hero of the novel.
Huck is obviously the picaro in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A picaro is defined as, “a low-born but clever individual who wanders into and out of various affairs of love, danger, and farcical intrigue. These involvements may take place at all social levels and typically present a humorous and wide-ranging satire of a given society” (The Gale Group). Huck fits this definition perfectly. Huck isn’t accepted by society and doesn’t even want to be. He is most comfortable out on his own in the frontier.
Furthermore, when the Widow Douglas takes him in and tries to provide him with a good life he doesn’t want any part of it: “The Widow Douglas she took me for her son and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways, and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. ” (194) Huck finds civilized life intolerable, but instead prefers to live the life of a free spirit, but he isn’t able to do that when the Widow is trying to civilize him.
The Widow wants to refine Huck’s lifestyle to match hers, but Huck can’t stand that type of life and resists it. Huck wants to keep his independence, and he believes that the frontier is the only place where he can do that. Therefore, Huck’s unaccepted presence in society, and his unwillingness to fit in is one that proves his existence as a picaro in the picaresque novel. Another characteristic of the picaro is the fact that he is a wanderer, which means that he is the type of character who roams from place-to-place with no set destination in mind.
Huck’s wandering occurs within the form of his raft on the Mississippi river. The river is an important aspect of Huck’s wandering because the river continuously changes course, and there is no way for Huck to direct the river and his raft. If Huck passes a place or location there is no way for him to turn the raft around, but instead he has to continue on down the river. An example of this is when Huck and Jim pass Cairo, which was the one specific destination they had in mind because it’s where Jim would have been free, “It wouldn’t do to take to the shore; we couldn’t take the raft up the stream, of course.
There warn’t no way but to wait for dark and start back in the canoe and take the chances” (314). In other words, the river basically has a life of its own, and therefore Huck and Jim have to abide by the river’s rules. Another important fact regarding the picaro as a wanderer is the notion that he will change as a result of his travels, “the main character often grows intellectually and morally through his various encounters along the path of his journey” (Bibliomania).
Huck’s character matures throughout the novel from that of a boy to one that can be seen as something closer to a man. Huck begins to have a conscience, which proves that he is beginning to mature because he begins to actually think about things, and care about them. Huck’s maturation can be observed in the scene where he chooses to tell Mary Jane the truth about the two men posing as her uncles, “I got to tell the truth, and you want to brace up, Miss Mary, because it’s a bad kind and going to be hard to take, but there ain’t no help for it” (420).
Huck’s maturation is evident here because he can’t stand to see Mary Jane and her sisters cheated of the money they deserve, and so happy because their uncles are back when in reality they’re only frauds. Huck’s conscience continues to bother him until he tells Mary Jane the truth, and therefore it is apparent that Huck is growing as a result of his travels because his conscience begins to affect him, forcing him to show that he is a good and kind-hearted person. A picaro is often defined as someone who isn’t very honest, or straightforward, but instead is something more of a liar.
More often than not a picaro has been brought up by a dishonest and unloving family, and therefore has no traditional values. Huck’s father was a drunkard, and treated Huck as if he owned him, instead of as a son. Furthermore, Huck’s father never acted like a father figure to Huck at all, but instead was cruel and unreliable. Moreover, because of his upbringing Huck had no one to teach him any values, and thus he created his own value system, which was the opposite of the social norm. For example, Huck lied his way through his travels and adventures.
His first major lie and the beginning of his adventure was staging his own murder, which enabled him to escape his father. In addition, whenever Huck and Jim met other people along their way some kind of lie always popped out of his mouth. To illustrate this point is the scene where Huck comes along two men in a boat, and Huck wants to surrender Jim, but a fib comes out instead, “‘I wish you would,’ says I, ‘because it’s pap that’s there, and maybe you’d help me tow the raft ashore where the light is. He’s sick-and so is mam and Mary Ann'” (310).
Huck doesn’t even have to think about how to lie because it just happens without any real thought involved. Huck constantly changes his name in his lies. Hence, it is so natural for Huck to lie that it becomes difficult for him to keep track of the names he calls himself within his lies. His lies extend to the point of posing as a young girl to an old woman, but he mixes his names up and is caught in the lie: “Well, try to remember it, George. Don’t forget and tell me it’s Elexander before you go, and then get out by saying it’s George Elexander when I catch you.
And don’t go about women in that old calico. You do a girl tolerable poor but you might fool men, maybe. ” (262) Fortunately for Huck, the old woman is a kind-hearted one and lets him go on his way without any real questions. However, one of Huck’s major lies occurs during his time with the Duke and the King. They pull a stunt where they charge people to watch them do a revival of a play, despite the fact that they barely know the play or are by no means actors. Consequently, they barely escape from the town on the third night with the money that they had cheated the townspeople of.
Thus, there were many instances where Huck lied and cheated his way through his various encounters and experiences, which ties him in perfectly with the typical picaro stereo-type. A picaresque novel is generally told in autobiographical form. Huck is the narrator within The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and thus is speaking from the first person point-of-view. This is largely associated with the fact that although Huck tells terrible lies and does some terrible things, it is impossible for the readers not to like Huck.
Huck tells the story from his own point-of-view, which enables the readers to see things through Huck’s eyes. Huck will explain why he’s doing something, and because the readers get Huck’s explanation and thoughts on it, it is easy to understand and accept it. Hence, it is easy for the readers to side with Huck. Furthermore, because Huck’s thoughts are known the readers are able to see and accept that more often than not Huck actually has a good reason for the things he does. One important notion is the fact that Huck does have a good heart, and this is because Huck’s adventure is largely due to keeping Jim safe and free.
The readers are able to see Huck’s thoughts on Jim and how he really does care about him and his freedom, and this makes Huck a good person with a large heart, despite the way he’s acted at certain times. In addition to Huck being the narrator is the fact that the story is not only told through Huck’s eyes, but also through his own language.
It’s obvious that Huck isn’t the most educated person, but because the novel is told through Huck’s own language it makes the novel all the more realistic to the readers. It is easier to see the story through Huck when the slang he uses is also incorporated into the novel.
The fact that Huck’s slang became a part of the story as well only served to further root Huck as a believable and more realistic character. Furthermore, Huck’s accent became a part of the dialogue in order to define him as a unique character within the novel, one on which the novel was centred on. Huck’s accent marks him as a true adventurer, and as someone who truly does prefer the frontier to civilization. For example, if Twain had invented Huck without an accent then his believability as an adventurer wouldn’t have seemed quite so real.
If Huck had traveled down the river void of his accent or slang then he would not have seemed the true loner and adventurer that Twain made him out to be, which is because he would have spoken in the same educated manner that any well-brought up boy would have.
Thus, Huck’s slang is as much a part of his lifestyle as it is him. Consequently, it is these combined facts of Huck’s first-person narration, the reader’s ability to see everything he’s thinking, and the slang that is incorporated into his dialogue that truly marks Huckleberry Finn as a adventurer, but more importantly as an autobiographical character in a picaresque novel.
A story that has been defined as picaresque, such as The Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn can also be said to be potentially endless. A picaresque is often described as an adventure story, and thus if a novel is an adventure story then there really is no reason for the adventures to end. A picaresque is said to be potentially endless because it has no tight plot that has to end at a given time. Instead, the plot can change and continue on into infinity. Another literary term for a picaresque being potentially endless is called beads-on-a-string.
It is like a yarn, and there is no exact moment when the story starts to wind down and close, but instead there is always an opportunity to keep the story going. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the perfect example of this.
The entire story is centred on Huck and Jim’s adventures down the river. Huck is running away from his father, and Jim is running away from the possibility of being sold down the river because he’s black, and therefore a slave. Huck and Jim’s adventures do eventually come to an end, but only because Mark Twain decides to end it, not because it has to end.
There is no tight plot structure, such as a need for a climax and falling action because these could easily be taken out allowing Huck to continue telling his story, and the reader would never be any the wiser. Furthermore, there is no exact spot in the story where the reader thinks that the story should begin to wind down, and this is because it is a young boys adventure story. Huck’s characterization only works because of the age his character represents. Huck represents eternal boyhood, and thus his adventures can also be seen as eternal.
Therefore, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a story that can be potentially endless due to the fact that it is a young boy telling the story who experiences a life of adventures, and there is no reason why those adventures should have to end at any specific time. A picaresque story often involves a picaro that has some kind of sidekick along with him. In the case of Huckleberry Finn, Jim is his sidekick. The sidekick is someone who is a part of the adventure, but isn’t seen as the main character, and thus more often than not the readers don’t know the sidekick’s views or thoughts, or what is known is very limited.
Jim is Huck’s sidekick, and although Huck’s own adventure actually began because he was running away from his father, Jim is the reason that the adventure took the path it did. Jim didn’t want to be sold to a slave buyer so instead of taking the chance of being sold he ran away, which is how he came to be Huck’s sidekick. They both ran away from different things, and accidentally, but fortunately found each other, “Pretty soon he gapped and stretched himself and hove off the blanket-and it was Miss Watson’s Jim! I bet I was glad to see him” (239).
Huck wanted to keep Jim safe and so they decided to go to Cairo where Jim would be free from slavery, “en I hear ole missus tell de widder she gwyne to sell me down to Orleans, but she didn’ want to, but she could git eight hund’d dollars for me, en it ‘uz sick a big stack o’ money she couldn’ resis'” (242). Jim became Huck’s sidekick early on in the adventure, and thus the real adventure only began once Jim had become a part of it. However, although it is Huck’s adventure, and Jim is Huck’s sidekick, the actual adventure itself is about keeping Jim safe and free.
Furthermore, both Huck and Jim are running away because they want freedom. Huck wants to be free from his father, and Jim wants to be free from slavery, but by the end of the novel the irony is that Huck’s father is dead, and the Widow has set Jim free within her will. Thus, it is Jim that further proves the sidekick mentality within a picaresque novel, and within The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains all the elements that any picaresque novel should. Huck Finn is the picaro and alongside him is his sidekick Jim.
The adventures that these two encounter along their journey is pure proof of what elements a picaresque novel should include, from lying and cheating to wanderers along a river, to the changes that occur as a result of these adventures. Huck has all the characteristics that a typical picaro or anti-hero should have. He’s dishonest, prefers the frontier to civilization, and he’s the narrator of the novel making it in autobiographical form. Therefore, all the aspects within TheAdventures of Huckleberry Finn cement it together to further root it as a picaresque novel with a unique and yet solid picaro as the main character.