Freedom is what defines an individual, it bestows upon someone the power to act, speak, or think without externally imposed restraints. Therefore, enslavement may be defined as anything that impedes one’s ability to express their freedoms. However, complete uncompromised freedom is virtually impossible to achieve within a society due to the contrasting views of people. Within Mark Twain’s 1885 novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, numerous controversies are prevalent throughout the novel, primarily over the issue of racism and the general topic of enslavement.
The characters in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn along with their development take an unmistakable, resilient stand against racism and by doing such in direct relation against the naturalized views of society. Twain’s characters, Jim and Huck are at the focal point of this controversy; they together are enslaved in two particularly different forms, nevertheless they both pursue their freedoms from their enslavements. The development of these characters and the growth of their interdependent relationship generate the structure of the anti-racism message within this novel.
Twain’s introductory warning cautions the dangers of finding motives, morals, or plots in his novel, ironically proving the existence of each and encourages the reader to discover them. One of the undisputable major themes that extensively peculated my mind as I read the text regarded the subject of freedom and enslavement. Through Twain’s constant contrasting of freedom and enslavement such as its portrayal of slavery in the form of life on land compared to the freedom on the raft on the Mississippi Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, suggests that people are subject to various enslavements and attempt to pursue freedom from these enslavements while others merely accept them. First of all, the main protagonist of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck, is bound in a society that demands that people to act in a certain “naturalized” fashion. He like the majority of the Deep South’s population was forced to submit to popular religion in the form of Christianity, being racist and not being able to criticize the institution of slavery, as well as acting like a “proper” boy and being civilized with manors, rules, and restrictions.
However, he is the polar opposite of the ideals expressed by his society. Huck is forced to reside with Widow Douglas, he describes the experience in the first chapter, “She took me… allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time … I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn’t. She said… I must try to not do it any more.” (Twain, 2). In this particular environment, Huck is forcefully civilized by the Widow Douglas as well as Miss Watson. This essentially shows an indirect form of slavery in which Huck is forced to do as society and his elders dictate regardless of what he believes in which many of us are also subject to. This enslaves him and leads him to decide that he needs to relocate himself as far away from society as possible.
Therefore, he forges his death and runs away meeting Jim on the way. This idea of Huck being controlled by society influences him through the novel, for instance he thinks about turning Jim in because it is wrong to steal since Jim is considered Miss Watson’s property; however this was broken by his friendship with Jim and his development that transpired as the plot progressed. This relates to the theme of people being enslaved because Huck is in a way enslaved by the racist beliefs of society that he is compelled to reside in. Even after Huck leaves society he still has the racist tendencies that his society thought him. For instance, in Chapter 42 Huck stated, “…Tom Sawyer had gone and took all that trouble and bother to set a free nigger free! and I couldn’t ever understand before, until that minute and that talk, how he could help a body set a nigger free with his bringing-up.
” (Twain, 384). This quote displays that despite the fact that Jim displayed unconceivable loyalty and altruism, Huck is still too entrenched in a racist environment to believe that a proper boy could help free a slave. This shows that Huck is still enslaved by the Southern society’s belief that blacks are inferior and a “proper boy” wouldn’t aid a slave. Huck at several paces in the novel does show that he is letting go/attempting to let go of this racism as he sees first hand that African Americans are regular people who love their families and such, but it seems that he contradicts himself on a constant bases, taking a step forward and immediately after a step back. All things considered, Huck is enslaved by society and even after seeking his freedom he still is enslaved by society and for this reason I believe he decided to move west.Moreover, Huck’s Father, Pap, is enslaved by the addiction that is alcohol.
Pap is continuously intoxicated or hung-over within the novel. His addiction leads him to kidnap Huck in an attempt to steal his own son’s money. Additionally, the alcohol blinds him from his detrimental actions such as him preventing Huck from achieving an education or beating Huck for no given reason. For Huck’s father, alcohol has developed into a priority that surpassed that even food and other necessities. Huck’s father takes his need to feed the addiction to hurtful levels.
He locks Huck in a cabin while he obtains whiskey and gets drunk. And Huck even has to get money to give to Pap to prevent him from beating him. In Chapter 6, Pap’s unethical behavior is pontificated when Huck states, “Every little while he locked me in and went down to the store, three miles, to the ferry, and traded fish and game for whisky, and fetched it home and got drunk and had a good time… old man made me go to the skiff and fetch the things he had got.” (Twain, 32).
Unlike Huck or Jim, Pap never seeks freedom from his enslavement instead he utilizes alcohol in order to block out his inadequacies and problems. Furthermore, Pap is also enslaved by racism like the majority of whites within this text as well as the Antebellum Period in the history of the United States and is the likely source of most of Huck’s unethical behaviors and racist ideals. This is shown by far the most in Chapter 6 when Pap states, “…It was ‘lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn’t too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote agin…” (Twain, 36). This segment of a little speech by Pap shows that he’s a transparent racist who treats African-Americans as though they are not human beings.
The only reason Pap has a problem with the man from Ohio is race. This quote also sets up a barrier between the man and Pap. The Ohio man sounds classy and educated; however Pap is drunk and openly antagonistic. In fact I wondered if Pap saw the hypocrisy in his rant? One of the most upsetting things about Pap’s point of view is how deeply embedded and unshakeable his racist convictions truly are. Pap seems to under the enslavement of being forced to convey racism by society and in order to avoid realizing that racism is wrong he seeks the spell of alcohol.
Also, Huck picked up his philosophy of stealing from Pap, claiming that it was the equivalent of “borrowing” (Twain, 88). Overall, Pap seems to be portrayed as a narcissistic, abusive drunk who teaches his son, Huck immoral habits and most likely gets killed off to show that someone of that nature deserves nothing less.Additionally, compared to life on the land, life on the Mississippi was portrayed as a massive improvement. In fact, the Mississippi River, more than any other physical object in the novel, symbolizes freedom for both Jim and Huck. The pair can only find security and peace of mind on the river; whenever they step onto land, they find themselves getting into trouble, which is partially due to their radical views that oppose the normal views of people within their deep Southern society.
Huck describes his experience when on the Mississippi in Chapter 18 stating that, “I hadn’t had a bite to eat since yesterday. . . We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft” (Twain, 155). This quote shows that despite not having everything perfect, Huck and Jim feel better off on their journey to freedom rather than in society where they are enslaved. In supplement, Huck and Jim seem to feel and act much freer on the raft than they do on land since they do not have to worry about society and what it dictates.
Huck is suppressed by society’s beliefs while Jim is subject to racism and is auctioned of as someone’s servant and both despite their hardships preferred the hard life on the Mississippi to life under their society’s enslavements. They also seem to develop a relationship during their endeavor to freedom that generates the anti-racism message to the novel. It also establishes that Huck evolves, learning that African Americans are people and they are very similar to the people he already knows. Furthermore, there is also another enslavement in the novel in the form of greed within this text. This role is primarily fulfilled by the Duke and Dauphin who both went around scamming innocent people for nothing more than money.
The duo tagged along with Huck and Jim for a good portion of the novel, going town to town and preforming cons and lies to fooling people out of their money for their personal gain. They go so far as to take advantage of a family mourning a death and worse they betray a friend, Jim, and treat him like a worthless piece of property instead of a human by selling him. In Chapter 31, the King essentially sells Jim, in order to obtain money. This was revealed when the Duke stated, “No! That old fool sold him, and never divided with me, and the money’s gone…” (Twain, 287). This quote showed that the King and the Duke like many people are so focused on gaining money that they lose their vary humanity and become enslaved by greed. They were willing to sell off and betray a friend in the worst way possible in order to obtain a minute amount of money.
Additionally, Huck also revealed more of his enslavement of being forced to express racist beliefs by stating, “I wouldn’t shake my nigger, would I? — the only nigger I had in the world, and the only property.” (Twain, 287). In this quote Huck dehumanizes Jim by claiming that he is simply property due to his enslavement of the ideal that African American’s are inferior to those who are white. In addition, Jim unlike Huck is physically enslaved and forced to do tasks for his master. He is seeking freedom from his bondage and feels the pain for his family, who are still enslaved. He has lived a hard life of catering to the commands of others simply due to his skin color.
In addition, in a way he is constantly enslaved due to the fact that Huck’s racist beliefs/tendencies never really expire. For instance, in Chapter 42 Huck stated, “And his Aunt Polly she said Tom was right about old Miss Watson setting Jim free in her will; and so, sure enough, Tom Sawyer had gone and took all that trouble and bother to set a free nigger free! and I couldn’t ever understand before, until that minute and that talk, how he could help a body set a nigger free with his bringing-up” (Twain 384). This quote displays that even after Jim has displayed incredible loyalty and selflessness, Huck is still too embedded in a racist environment to believe that a proper boy could help free a slave. This shows that Jim is enslaved by society’s implication that all blacks are inferior and should be enslaved and that Huck is enslaved by the beliefs of society. All things considered, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, suggests that people are subject to various enslavements and attempt to pursue freedom from these enslavements.
The reason I selected this theme as the most important is due to its real world application. This theme is relevant to real life due to the fact that numerous people are deprived of freedom and are attempting to obtain the freedom that they desire. People throughout history and even today seek their freedom. In this novel, one of the freedoms sought after was the end to racial discrimination, this was achieved in the 1960s by the Civil Rights Movement and famous American hero’s we now admire such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
. Works CitedTwain , Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2003.