Mark Twain’s novel about a young boy’s struggle with maturation and his struggles, as well as the challenges and questions it brings to Huck’s life, examines society and the influence of adults. Since publication of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, many have criticized the book. They often focus on Jim’s use of nigger. However, I see another reason why the novel should be rejected by school boards or parents groups. It is a violation of ideals that many parents hope to instill into their children. After reading this book, I was astonished to see Huck living without parental control. This is the first time I have read it since high school. It also marks the end of my relationship with my parents. Huck does not have to conform with society’s expectations. He is allowed to think for himself and to determine what is good or bad.

Huck, who is skeptical of society’s values, runs away from his freedom to escape the threat of his friends, until he is expelled from the gang. Huck has the choice of independence or loneliness and decides to go back. Huck is taken from his friends by his father when he returns to take custody. Huck is kept alone in his cabin and allowed to think through his options. He will remain in the cabin and be completely powerless against his father’s will. He will be returned to his drunken father if he flees the cabin and returns to the city. He knows that escape is the only way to get out. Huck makes a murder attempt to escape society’s pressures and allows for unhindered personal growth. Huck now has the freedom to live life as he wants. Jim is his companion, which removes the loneliness that kept him from fleeing society. Unfortunately, Huck is already having problems with society’s influence. Huck is finally freed from society’s rules. He is now able to come to terms with his misperceptions about slaves.

Twain immediately shows how the two of them have a positive effect on each other in the few chapters they spend together. Jim’s contribution to Huck’s success is that of an adult presence. This is despite Jim’s inferiority. Jim also offers Huck protection from both emotional as well as physical pains. Twain quickly demonstrates both types of protection in Chapter 9. Jim and Huck have only a few days to get ready for the storm, which Jim predicts. Huck could have been swept away by the torrential storm if it wasn’t for Jim’s ability to spot the changes in animal behavior. Huck learns that Jim delayed learning about his father’s death from Huck until the moment is right. Although Huck’s father did beat him and hindered his growth as a normal citizen of society, it is still true that children, especially those of impressionable age are often severely affected when their parents die. Huck would prefer to not be exposed to the disfigured corpse, even if he died without any consequences.

Huck’s understanding of society’s problems is enhanced by his interaction with the Grangerfords, Shepherdsons, and Grangerfords. This experience opens Huck up to the difficulties of blindly adhering to tradition. Huck has been persuaded by many to choose this path over letting him make his own logical decisions. His father made it clear to us that he was not literate and reprimanded Huck for learning to read and how to write. This example with feuding family members is an excellent example of why people should not follow sheep’s footsteps blindly. We meet Buck, an example of an adult mind that has been destroyed by adolescence. Buck is exactly the same age and has lost his ability to judge because of the Shepherdsons’ ongoing feud. Huck asks him if he can admit that the feud started from a lawsuit between long-deceased people. Both families have shown their children hatred of the other clan through generations. All of them are killed because they refuse to think rationally. Huck knows his fortune. Huck covers the face, crying as he sees that he did not get the chance for him to correct his mistakes.

Huck’s next encounters to society and its ideals further reinforce his cynical insights. Jim and Huck are able to meet the Duke and King. Huck soon discovers that these men con people and their companions. They are the lowest morals of society, something Huck actually attributes to leaders. Jim doesn’t know about this and refuses to share it with him, even though Huck knows they lie about what their positions are. We are shown glimpses of the dangers of morality and greed during the tenure of the men on the raft. The men con entire towns for small change and charge a small fee to watch them perform poorly from Shakespeare’s plays. The men see how easy it is and want to get more. However, they soon discover how easy it really is.

The royal duo attempt to take all inheritance money from three women who are in mourning. Then they try to sell Jim back to slavery. Twain sets the stage for their latest ventures to fail, despite them having succeeded with previous ones. Huck steals money from the inheritance. The true family finds it in a coffin. And the conmen barely escape punishment. They don’t know and they end up being punished when Huck makes Jim $40 more important than him. This is Twain’s most powerful attack against slavery. The men receive punishment, even though the society at the time taught them that slaves can be purchased and sold.

Huck realizes that Jim has been captured and must be punished. The only one left to think, freed from society’s distractions and misdirection, Huck is able to reflect upon the lessons he learned in his life outside of civilization. He recalls the people he’s met in his lifetime. Retrospectively, he realizes that Jim is his closest friend and the most kind person he has ever met. This man is one society would not consider a man. He is well aware of his past teachings about slaves as property. Freeing Jim would be theft, but he can see the greater evil only through his own experience. In the novel’s climax, he decides to release Jim from slavery.

Tom’s visit to Huck creates complications in his quest. Tom, Huck’s friend and confidant, is allowed by Huck to reanimate many of his ideas. Tom views Jim, contrary to Huck, as a sub-human. Huck, and his family, are not aware that Jim is now free. Tom rather assists Huck in “freeing” him to have an adventure. Huck might not have received the help he needed if Jim wasn’t a freeman. Huck is sure to agree with Tom, since he does not understand why a boy from society would steal a slave. Twain demonstrates that Tom is not a blinded by tradition and makes Jim go free when he helps.

The book’s last chapter is a good summary. It clarifies many of Twains previous lessons. Huck is freed from the fear of father because Jim sees that he must learn the truth. Jim is now free, proving that Miss Watson knew the wrong way before her death. Huck sees the changes in his life and decides to retire from the society he was raised into. Fortunately, due to the lack of legal control and the money, Huck has the option to retire. He plans “light out for Territory ahead of all the rest” (296), to save it from being destroyed by the wrong beliefs and traditions.


  • rhysgraham

    Rhys Graham is an educational blogger and professor who writes about topics such as literacy, mathematics, and science. He has written several books, including one on the history of science. He is also the co-founder of the website Learn Out Loud, which helps educators create and share classroom activities.