The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an adventure novel written by Mark Twain, which was originally published on December 10, 1884. The novel takes place during the pre-Civil War era of the United States, which is important because that means slavery is still an existing institution. For most of the novel, the story follows Huck and Jim on their journey to freedom. Buck starts out under the care of Mrs. Watson and Aunt Polly, but is then taken by his father, Pap Finn. Growing tired of his father’s presence, Huck eventually fakes his own death and escapes via a river raft. He soon runs into Jim, who is in the process of running away from Mrs. Watson, his master.
Huck agrees to help Jim in his attempt to escape, and thus starts their journey to Cairo. They run into problematic situations nearly one after the other, like a destroyed boat house with a dead man and a band of robbers quarreling amongst themselves. The two eventually join up with a pair of con men, touting themselves as royals from France. As the group continues along the river, they put up fake shows that con people out of their money. Soon enough, however, the group splits up. The con men are captured and Jim is kidnapped.
Buck soon meets a family, who thinks that he is Tom Sawyer, and the actual Tom Sawyer, who the family thinks is Sid Sawyer. With Tom’s help, Huck finds Jim and helps escape his new home of a shed. In the escape, however, Tom is shot but manages to recover with medical help. Jim is soon enough set free by Aunt Polly, thanks to his help with Tom’s recovery. Huck himself sets out for a new kind of freedom lying in the western frontier of the U.S.
The novel is written in first person, from the viewpoint of Huck, however, he rarely tells how he is feeling during the course of the novel if not at all. The author’s diction is informal, reflecting the spoken language of nineteenth century America and relying on abstract ways of speech. Huck Finn is a white male, about the age of 13, who cares deeply about his friends, though will sometimes lie. Jim is an adult black slave, who deeply believes in superstitions and is a fairly intelligent man. Tom Sawyer is a white male, about Huck’s age, and has a deep sense of adventure and bright charisma, taking note from his readings of various books.
Symbols within this novel are the Mississippi River, Huck Finn, and Widow Douglas. Each represents freedom, innocence, and civility, respectively. Themes within the novel include slavery and empathy. Slavery is evident because of the initial description of Jim as Mrs. Watson’s slave and his ability to be sold as property, a trait unique to the slave institution. Empathy is evident in nearly every corner of the book. Huck’s offer to help Jim escape? A sign of empathy. Jim initially withholding the dead corpse’s identity as Pap Finn from Huck?
Another sign of empathy. Jim prioritizing Tom’s recovery over his escape to freedom? Yet another sign of empathy. In my opinion, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a captivating novel that recreates the sense of struggle and society of the nineteenth century. I am sure to remember these adventures and shows of friendship for years to come.