It is a common thought that the concept of freedom was pioneered in the United States of America. The book, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, is based on the American concept of individual freedom.
The concept of freedom changes throughout the course of the book and is different in the perspective of the different characters inside the book. In order to find the freedom they seek, they turn to the natural world. Although the natural world they are exposed to poses new dangers and challenges to overcome such as the lonesomeness that Huck describes, it actually provides shelter from society and sometimes even itself.
For instance, the cave on the island Huck and Jim shelters them from the flooding and the storm and it these havens throughout the book which allow the characters to be free to be themselves. On the other hand, it can be inferred from the book that too much freedom can actually imprison a person. In the book, the meaning of freedom is different for each character. For Jim, a runaway slave, it is escaping from his owner in order to reunite with his family. For Huck, freedom is to escape from societal values and manners which he thinks to be petty. Thus, the driving force of these characters trying to obtain their freedom helps us to understand the author’s overall message in the book that one can ironically have enough freedom to imprison themselves.
A good example of being free enough to imprison one’s self is the Duke and the King. They have so much freedom that they can become almost anyone they can imagine through impersonation and acting. However, this is only due to them having no “moral compasses” and being imprisoned in their own selfishness.
“It ain’t my fault I warn’t born a duke, it ain’t your fault you warn’t born a king—so what’s the use to worry? Make the best o’ things the way you find ’em, says I—that’s my motto. This ain’t no bad thing that we’ve struck here—plenty grub and an easy life—come, give us your hand, duke, and le’s all be friends.” In this quote, it can be learned that the reason for the Duke and King teaming up is for money and an easy life which shows just how selfish the King and the Duke are. At first, Huck is enjoying his life as a runaway as there are no rules or manners that he has to follow. However, he starts to wonder if maybe life on the run is not so great after all, especially when the king and duke try to con Mary Jane out of her inheritance.
At the beginning of the book, Jim lives his life as a slave. It was implied that Jim was actually not really concerned with slavery until he overheard that Mrs. Watson was going to sell her. As a result, Jim decides to run away from Mrs. Watson to the free states in order to buy his family and be reunited with them.
On the beginning of the journey down the Mississippi river with Huck, Jim only fears about getting caught as a runaway slave. His journey with Huck begins with only being afraid of getting caught as a runaway slave. However, as the journey progresses, Jim starts to yearn for freedom from slavery. This is shown in the quote below when Huck describes Jim’s reactions about being free in Cairo, “Jim said it made him all over trembly and feverish to be so close to freedom” (97).
Jim’s excitement can further be shown in the next passage in the book. “Jim was fidgeting up and down past me. We neither of us could keep still. Every time he danced around and says, “Dah’s Cairo!”” (97) It can clearly be seen that Jim is excited about becoming free.
Slavery sets social chains on Jim’s life and obstructs his happiness and his goals in life. The only way Jim can break these social chains is by becoming a free man. Therefore, freedom for Jim means escape from slavery and being set free from the social chains of slavery. There are actually many similarities between Huck’s and Jim’s perspective on freedom.
One of the most important similarity between Huck and Jim’s perspective of freedom is that they both are based around escaping from society. For Jim, it is to escape from slavery and reunite with his family and for Huck, it is to escape from societal values and manners which he thinks are petty. Miss Watson’s attempts at civilizing Huck are shown when she teaches Huck about manners, “Don’t put your feet up there, Huckleberry; and don’t scrunch up like that, Huckleberry, set up straight” (2). As a result of the reprimandations from Mrs. Watson, he yearns to escape from Mrs.
Watson and an unrestricted life with no one ordering him around . As a slave, he is not considered a human and thus, are treated considerably more unequal to white people in the white people society. His unequal treatment from society is the reason for his need of freedom, as Huck’s bad experiences from society cause his hope for a life without anyone ordering him around.
Another similarity is that both wish to gain their freedom for their own happiness. As shown in the above quotes about the raft and manners, it can be implied clearly that freedom is something that can make their life happy and more comfortable. For Jim and Huck, freedom meant happiness, a happiness away from the binds of society and into a world of freedom. In the end, this is what freedom meant to them and is what they strived for.
Through learning what freedom means to both characters, we can finally understand the reasons behind the author’s implied message about how too much freedom can actually hurt one’s self.