Huck’s Moral Struggle
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often referred to as a bildungsroman because Huck, its hero, takes three major steps towards becoming a morally free man: to help Jim escape, not to turn him in, and to go to hell to save Jim (Shockley 2). To a large extent, Huck’s growth is the result of spending time with Jim as he begins to view him as an equal human being and thus treats him with respect. In a sense, Jim serves as a substitute for Huck’s father. Contrary to his natural father, Jim takes the role of the father that gives him moral courage, and seeks to love and protect him.
Huck’s character develops the more experience he gains which leads him to becoming aware of society’s falseness until he finally rebels against it by doing the right thing: freeing Jim even though that means going to hell and eternal punishment. The quest for freedom from social constraints is the propelling force that makes Huck flee the racist society in which he is living. In the end, Huck is morally freed from Southern society’s hypocrisy and injustice by listening to his heart instead of his conscience.
Through Huck we come to realize how race influences people’s way of acting. His sharp developed sensibility, a feature of his character, helps him in seeking the right way and finally finding it. Mark Twain portrays that racist society through the eyes of Huck who cannot judge society’s norms. Huck is also the character Mark Twain chose to shame his countrymen into recognizing the gap between their images of themselves and reality.
Two episodes in particular mark Huck’s development towards becoming morally unbound. The first episode is found in chapter 15 when he comes to question if he is behaving correctly in helping Jim escape, and the second is seen in chapter 31 where he finally makes the decision to lose his own soul by helping Jim to become a free man. At that time he does not know that this is also the point where he becomes morally free from society’s constraints.
In chapter 15 Huck and Jim are on a night’s journey down the Mississippi in the direction of Cairo, a free city, when fog moves in. The raft with Jim aboard breaks loose. Huck tries to follow the canoe, but they are separated for several hours and Jim thinks that Huck is lost. When the fog clears, Huck sees the raft, rows to it, and finds Jim asleep. Jim is happy to see Huck alive, but Huck decides to play a trick on him and tells Jim that he had been dreaming everything. When Jim sees the leaves and all the trash lying on the raft he realizes that Huck was making fun of him and this hurts his feelings.
- Quote paper
- Debra Kyle (Author), 2010, About Mark Twain’s "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/262288