The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a continuation of the earlier book by Mark Twain, the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Much about Mark Twain’s life in Hannibal is reflected in the book. Huckfinn’s escape coincides with Jim’s escape, Miss Watson’s slave. They meet in Jackson Island and start the journey of reclaiming themselves together. Jim was running away from Miss Watson’s plan to sell him to a nearby farm where he could be mistreated. Huck was escaping from the cruelty of his father, referred to in the book as Pap, who had abducted and caged him in a cabin where Huckfinn received beatings every evening. Jim took care of Huckfinn although he was at his mercy if he could have reported him since a reward for his capture had been announced by Miss Watson (Twain 45). Although Huck had a biological father, Jim is the ‘real’ father to him.
The story is set in the pre-civil war in America when slavery was a legal practice in the Southern States of America. The legalization of the slavery affects the story in the sense that Jim is running away from Miss Watson since she could sold him to suffer in the plantations. The challenges they face that result from racism affect their journey to freedom; Jim is sold by the conmen to Sally and therefore becomes prisoner there leading to a thwarted journey for Huck to go without Jim. The recurrent use of the word nigger in the text shows the slavery period in which the book is set when the Black Americans were referred to as niggers.
The geographical setting of the text shows most events revolve around the Mississippi river where Mark Twain had stayed for as long as a steamboat pilot. The towns of St. Petersburg is set on the river banks with the folks nearby portrayed as superstitious, uneducated, yet hospitable and kind. The river and the Jackson Island seem calm at the beginning as the initial plan of their escape is being hatched. The moral limbo that Huck suffers from is intertwined with the challenges that are exhibited in the storm that sweeps the island making the Mississippi River flooded. The floating house is also brought at that time with Huck’s dead father in it too (McKay 87).
The slavery that the black people are subjected to prevails in the whole text as the social context. The education is given to a few privileged individuals in the society with the lowest people in the class lacking it and becoming uncivilized according to the white culture. Widow Douglas tries to civilize Huck but the efforts are met with resistance from Huck himself and the return of Pap, Huck’s father. The black population is not even entitled to education since their work was to work for the white masters. The values propagated by the white civilization turns out to be discriminative and inhumane, as Huck learns through his encounter with Jim; humanity is beyond race (Twain 97). The story is affected by the contexts in that the story is centered in the social prejudices in the community.
The main character in the story is Huck; the story revolves around him. He is portrayed as uneducated and uncivilized young man who Widow Douglas and Miss Watson are trying to civilize. He changes his attitude towards Widow Douglas’s civilization process after the appearance of his cruel father. He opts to run away from the mistreatments of his father and teams up with Jim in search of freedom. He becomes an understanding young man after learning of the hardship that Jim was going through and decides to help him where possible. His attitude towards the black people has totally changed. He learns how to cheat when it is necessary to save a situation; he disguised himself as a girl to get information from the town whether they are being hunted, he discovered that men were being sent to the island that the night with a gun to look for Jim. The character develops from a naive boy running away from a cruel father to a responsible young man who cares about the others too; the way he reacts to tricky situations that require the intervention of an adult skillfully, shows his development to a responsible and clever boy.
The secondary characters include; Jim, Miss Watson’s slave; Miss Watson and Widow Douglas; The Duke and the Doulphn, the conmen; and Tom Sawyer, Huck’s friend. Huck is greatly shaped by the secondary characters. His understanding of humanity is based on his stay with Jim who is a black slave on the run from the cruelty of slavery. Jim takes care of him like a son than his cruel father who mistreated him. The teachings that Widow Douglas and Miss Watson gave were contradicting since Miss Watson wanted to mistreat Jim, contradicting to the religious beliefs they were propagating. The crooked things done by the conmen angers Huck but he had no option since he was young and Jim had to confirm with everything or risk being said on. They even sold Jim to the Sally family thus complicating the journey.
Huck, the main character, is the narrator of the story. His perspective gives the livelihood of the story; he views things differently from the opinions propagated by the White representatives of the society in the name of civilization. He is opt to help Jim in their escape.
Mark Twain’s use of language shows the imperfect diction that is employed by Huck in consideration to his educational level. The language portrays a character’s status in the story; the judge’s language is standard and not colloquial as the dialect employed by most characters in the story. The choice of words assists in the development of the story since that characterizes a character to give his/her status. The word nigger shows the negative connotation in Mark Twain’s work and the criticism associated with it (Taavitsainen 9).
The use of dialogue in the book is majorly informal; breaking the laws of grammar. The dialogue is more of speeches than the narrations by Huck, they are to some extent hard to grasp. His diction and syntax is informal and simple often infringing on grammar laws. They portray his attitude towards racism.