Huck Finn\'s Use of the Tall Tale

Zach Hunt January 9, 1997 Period 3 Mrs. Gillham


In Mark Twain\'s timeless American classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn, the narrator often finds himself in undesirable situations. These
situations, which are far-fetched even for the nineteenth-century, provide much
humor to the novel and demonstrate Huck\'s cunning. Huck\'s adept use of the tall
tale becomes a survival tool on this adventure.
In the novel, Huck sees lies as more of a practical solution to problems
than as a moral dilemma. He rationalizes that he has "never seen anybody but
lied, one time or another" (1). Unlike the lawless adventurer of the frontier,
Huck does not use his knack for selfish purposes. He, instead, uses his lies
strictly as a means of escaping misfortune and never for his own profit. At one
point in the story, Huck uses his skill to fabricate a story that keeps a skiff
of slave-hunters away from Jim: " \'Well, there\'s five niggers run off to-night,
up yonder above the head of the bend. Is your man white or black?\'...\'He\'s
white\' " (110). Huck\'s tall tales are used for the survival of both Huck and
Jim, and Jim knows this.
Huck\'s stories are usually believed, but even when doubted, he manages
to change his fib just enough to make it believable. An example of this is when
he is caught as a stow-away on a raft and his original story is not believed by
the crew: "Now, looky-here, you\'re scared, and so you talk wild. Honest, now,
do you live in a scowl, or is it a lie?" (106). Huck then changes his story
just enough to make it believable, displaying his unique ability to adjust his
tale to within the parameters of believability. Throughout the novel Huck fools
many intelligent people. His youth gives him a mask of innocence, that people
don\'t want to disbelieve.
Stretching the truth comes naturally to Huck Finn. Although his lies
may seem to show a lack of good ethics, it is the lies themselves that truly
show his virtue.

Category: English