Letting go gives individuals a sense of freedom, and being free is an important condition for happiness. Born on November 30, 1835, in the tiny village of Florida, Missouri, the sixth child of his family, Mark Twain was an author, teacher and journalist. In his novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain demonstrates the natural desire for freedom through the conscientious characterization of Huckleberry Finn, the symbolism of the Mississippi River and the situational irony and imagery depicted throughout the story.
The concept of freedom plays a significant role in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Both Huckleberry Finn and Jim are pursuing a state of freedom, although for different reasons. For instance, as they begin to approach Cairo and Jim looks anticipates his freedom, Huck says his conscience, “got to troubling me so I couldn’t rest”(Twain 65).
Huck struggles to forget his past life of being under authority and customs he was being forced to live under. Huck’s pursuit for an unrestricted life proves to be difficult ecause the role his conscience plays in his mental state. Furthermore, after long hours of sailing, Huckleberry explains that, “Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t”(Twain 96). In comparison to the absurd situations that happen onshore, the raft is a symbol of retreat from the outside world, the site of natural pleasures and great friendship.
Another instance is when struggling with the anxiety of being civil, Huckleberry explains that, “But it was rough living in a house all the time…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”(Twain 13). Huck’s plans and goals are based on the notion to run away and completely forget about the controlling life that he was being accustomed to live and lead a continuation of the uncivilized and natural life that he searched for.
On the other hand , “Jim wants to be free of bondage so that he can return to his wife and children, which he knows to be his natural right”(Twain 46). The only way Jim can obtain and experience true happiness is through freedom. Freedom for Jim represents an escape from slavery and the release of social chains that comes along with it. For Jim and Huck freedom meant happiness and success away from the binds of society and an opening to the natural world.
Dramatic irony plays a leading role in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. For instance when Pap is annoyed at Huckleberry’s intelligence, he exclaims,
When I’d read about a half a minute, he fetched the book a whack with his hand and knocked it across the house… It’s so. You can do it. I had my doubts when you told me. Now looky here; you stop that putting on frills. I won’t have it. I’ll lay for you, my smarty; and if I catch you about that school I’ll tan you good. First you know you’ll get religion, too. I never see such a son. (Twain 21)
Pap, like most fathers in that time period, is intended to be mature and civilized, yet he does not want Huck to further any intellectual thinking and become accomplished. Furthermore, Pap represents the brutality and severity of civilization, which threatens to destroy Huck. Another example is during a drunken period, Pap goes on a rant and explains, ‘They said he was a p’fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain’t the wust. They said he could vote”(Twain 27). Society viewed blacks as lesser, and as thieves, and without his rights, Pap fits this same definition. To add on, the way Pap presents himself, along with his attitude often prove to be devastating in his attempt to level with society. Mark Twain’s use of irony connects the relationships between people in the South during the time of slavery.
Imagery is used to capture the reader’s attention to envision how the environment connects to the main ideas. As their journey continues, Huckleberry self reflects and states, ‘Free again, all by ourselves, nobody to bother us, the river represents a life beyond the rules of society. And that’s a life he could get used to”(Twain 127). There is peace and calm in the natural world. This is a place where Huck and Jim can be alone with their thoughts, and can feel alive and free.
In addition, without having to struggle with the civil world, Huck describes that, “in two seconds away we went a-sliding down the river, and it did seem so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river”(Twain 106). Life on the raft as they float down the river deepens their friendship because they can talk for hours about anything. The river draws them in, and Twain helps one understand that the river holds a power over Huck and Jim, just as all nature does.
Mark Twain reveals individual’s natural need for freedom through the actions of Huckleberry Finn and Jim, the symbolic meaning behind the Mississippi River and the use of irony and imagery. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an American novel, told from the first narrative point of view of an adventurous young boy, both innocent and thoughtful who travels down the Mississippi river with an unlikely friend with the same aspirations and goal to finally break away from confinement and to serve a more purposeful role in their own lives. Huckleberry Finn and Jim embody the ideology that the foundation of freedom leads to the sound and natural development in individuals.