“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” as a Hero’s Quest
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” as a Hero’s Quest
Huck is on a hero’s quest of self-identification, and in the process, resisting the beliefs of his society. A mythic quest is what a hero is embarked upon in order to be humbled. In being so, the hero understands, have sympathy and empathy toward his fellow man. The mythic quest is divided into three main categories, the departure, initiation and the return of the hero. Within each of these stages, there are steps which the hero undergoes in order to change the hero from the person he is to the person he needs to be.
To understand any particular part of the hero’s quest, the entire quest must be discussed. Usually the hero is afraid to take part of the journey, refusing the call. A supernatural aid or sign is then necessary to be given to the hero, in order to make him realize that he has to embark on the journey. The crossing of the first threshold is when the hero metaphorically dies and is reborn as a new person or individual. The hero is then transported to his her destination, the belly of the whale. The hero takes parts in tests that are designed to test the hero’s strengths and abilities, the road of trials.
The hero also receives help, the meeting of the goddess, receiving encouragement to continue the quest. The hero is tempted by the temptress who tries to take the hero off course. As the hero successfully proceeds through the journey, he becomes Christ like, the Apotheosis. As the objective of the journey is achieved, the ultimate boon is obtained. The hero then becomes the master of two worlds, the one he has left and the one he has conquered. The hero must return to his community to help those in need of his help. If the hero refuses to return, he is then sent for in order to return.
Not all of these steps are included in the Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, but the phase that is most elaborated upon is the departure phase. Huckleberry Finn, the natural man, is living under the care of Widow Douglas, a religious woman, who represents society itself. She seeks to “civilize Huck”. ” 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. (Twain p. 1).
” As a natural man, Huck refutes being civilized. Being civilized imposes too many restraints upon individual freedom. All that he does have to be in accordance to the views of the society which he lives in. Therefore, in a society individual freedom is not encouraged, nor allowed. These restraints are enforced by society in order to control individuals (Steinke, J. , 2003). Huck is living in a society, which he finds too much limitations being put upon him. Huck also recognizes the hypocrisy that is present in the society that he is being forced to be a part of.
This is evident in the Widow’s hypocrisy as Huck describes it. Huck wishes to smoke and she won’t let him, “And she took snuff too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself. ” In order for Huck to gain understanding and know of the truths of life for himself, Huck must embark upon the quest. This is Huck’s call to adventure, recognizing the need to leave this society that he lives in. The call is received, receiving the call like most heroes, Huck refuses the call to adventure, although he recognizes the need for adventure.
“So the longer I went to school, the easier it got to be. I was getting sort of used to the widow’s ways, and they warn’t so raspy on me. Living in a house, and sleeping in a bed, pulled on me pretty tight, mostly, but before the cold weather I used to slide out and sleep in the woods, sometimes, and that was a rest to me (Twain, p. 11). ” The longer Huck stays in town, the more he is pulled into the ways of society. Huck is gaining more acceptances to the practices and rules of society; such as having to get to school and to sleep in a house on a bed with clean sheets.
Although Huck seems to be enjoying these settings, he goes back to his natural self and environment as a way to get away from these societal practices. Huck is now in need of a supernatural aid in order to push him toward the journey. This supernatural aid comes in the form of the sudden appearance of Huck’s father. Huck noticed his father’s boot-print on fresh snow outside the widow’s house. “I was going to look at the tracks first. I didn’t notice anything at first, but next I did. These was a cross in the left boot-heel made with big nails, to keep off the devil (Twain p. 12). “
Huck knew it was his father’s boot-print. Knowing his father was around, Huck knew he would have to leave town, it would be inevitable his father would come after him. Huck’s father served as the sign for Huck to leave and begin his journey. In order for Huck to fully embark upon his quest, he must be reborn, became a new individual, in the crossing of the first threshold. This occurred as Huck faked his own death. “Well, last I pulled out some of my hair, and bloodied the ax good, and stuck it on the back side, and slung the ax in the corner.
Then I took up the pig and held him to my breast with my jacket (so he couldn’t drip) till I got a good piece below the house and then dumped him into the river (Twain, p. 25). ” Huck undergoes his metaphoric rebirth when he killed the pig in faking his own death. Huck has become a new person, now he is able to leave the shore, the restraints and hypocrisy of society. His quest would be one of self-identification and morals. In finding himself, Huck is able to help others in gaining their freedom.
Through his metaphoric death, Huck has escaped the society which has retrained him from living the way he owe to live as a natural man, free of society’s rules and demands. Huck has crossed the first threshold. To complete the departure phase, Huck must be transported to his destination, the belly of the whale. The Mississippi river serves as the belly of the whale. It is Huck’s chief source of transportation throughout his journey. It is on the river which Huck experiences his physical and moral humbling.
His significant act of humbling himself is when Huck apologizes to Jim; Huck has made Jim his equal, therefore refuting the beliefs and teachings of his society. “The pride of human affection has been focused on one of the few prides that has any true dignity. And at its attendance, Huck’s one last dim vestige of pride of status, his sense of his position as a white man, wholly vanishes (Trilling. 1950, p. 35-38). ” “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I wasn’t sorry for it afterwards either (Twain, p. 95).
” in this one act, Huck has become a heroic character. “When, in the urging of affection, Huck discards the moral code he has always taken for granted and resolves to help Jim in his escape from slavery. The intensity of his struggle over the act suggests how deeply he is involved in the society, which he rejects (Trilling. 1950, p. 35-38). ” It is the departure phase that gives a hero his purpose of adventure. And in the process of one adventure, another is incorporated, therefore making the hero a greater hero than he started out to be. Huck knows that the journey will have been a failure unless it took Jim to freedom.
By helping Jim, Huck finds the truth of life; all men are born free and equal. Bibliography Smith, S. (1985). Racism, society and freedom in Huck Finn. London: London Press Twain, M. (1994). Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Toronto: Dover Publications, Inc. ( original work published 1885) Trilling, L. (1977). On Huck’s attitude toward Slaver. New York: University of Iowa Press. Steinke, J. (2003). Aim: What is society? Science skills: Brooklyn, New York. Fertel, R. J. (1990). Spontaneity and the quest for maturity in Huckleberry Finn. New York: Chelsea House Publishers.