Early Influences on Hucleberry Finn




"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"


EARLY INFLUENCES ON HUCKLEBERRY FINN





Mark Twain\'s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel


about a young boy\'s coming of age in the Missouri of the mid-1800\'s. The


main character, Huckleberry Finn, spends much time in the novel floating


down the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim.


Before he does so, however, Huck spends some time in the fictional town of


St. Petersburg where a number of people attempt to influence him.


Before the novel begins, Huck Finn has led a life of absolute


freedom. His drunken and often missing father has never paid much


attention to him; his mother is dead and so, when the novel begins, Huck is


not used to following any rules. The book\'s opening finds Huck living with


the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson. Both women are fairly old


and are really somewhat incapable of raising a rebellious boy like Huck


Finn. Nevertheless, they attempt to make Huck into what they believe will


be a better boy. Specifically, they attempt, as Huck says, to "sivilize"


him. This process includes making Huck go to school, teaching him various


religious facts, and making him act in a way that the women find socially


acceptable. Huck, who has never had to follow many rules in his life,


finds the demands the women place upon him constraining and the life with


them lonely. As a result, soon after he first moves in with them, he runs


away. He soon comes back, but, even though he becomes somewhat comfortable


with his new life as the months go by, Huck never really enjoys the life of


manners, religion, and education that the Widow and her sister impose upon


him.


Huck believes he will find some freedom with Tom Sawyer. Tom


is a boy of Huck\'s age who promises Huck and other boys of the town a life


of adventure. Huck is eager to join Tom Sawyer\'s Gang because he feels


that doing so will allow him to escape the somewhat boring life he leads


with the Widow Douglas. Unfortunately, such an escape does not occur. Tom


Sawyer promises much--robbing stages, murdering and ransoming people,


kidnaping beautiful women--but none of this comes to pass. Huck finds out


too late that Tom\'s adventures are imaginary: that raiding a caravan of


"A-rabs" really means terrorizing young children on a Sunday school picnic,


that stolen "joolry" is nothing more than turnips or rocks. Huck is


disappointed that the adventures Tom promises are not real and so, along


with the other members, he resigns from the gang.


Another person who tries to get Huckleberry Finn to change is


Pap, Huck\'s father. Pap is one of the most astonishing figures in all of


American literature as he is completely antisocial and wishes to undo all


of the civilizing effects that the Widow and Miss Watson have attempted to


instill in Huck. Pap is a mess: he is unshaven; his hair is uncut and


hangs like vines in front of his face; his skin, Huck says, is white like a


fish\'s belly or like a tree toad\'s. Pap\'s savage appearance reflects his


feelings as he demands that Huck quit school, stop reading, and avoid


church. Huck is able to stay away from Pap for a while, but Pap kidnaps


Huck three or four months after Huck starts to live with the Widow and


takes him to a lonely cabin deep in the Missouri woods. Here, Huck enjoys,


once again, the freedom that he had prior to the beginning of the book. He


can smoke, "laze around," swear, and, in general, do what he wants to do.


However, as he did with the Widow and with Tom, Huck begins to become


dissatisfied with this life. Pap is "too handy with the hickory" and Huck


soon realizes that he will have to escape from the cabin if he wishes to


remain alive. As a result of his concern, Huck makes it appear as if he is


killed in the cabin while Pap is away, and leaves to go to a remote island


in the Mississippi River, Jackson\'s Island.


It is after he leaves his father\'s cabin that Huck joins yet


another important influence in his life: Miss Watson\'s slave, Jim. Prior


to Huck\'s leaving, Jim has been a minor character in the novel--he has been


shown being fooled by Tom Sawyer and telling Huck\'s fortune. Huck finds


Jim on Jackson\'s Island because the slave has run away--he has overheard a


conversation that he will soon be sold to New Orleans.