Defining Freedom As Found in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Freedom has always been a vital topic in American society. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn represents societal issues and individual freedom shown by the main character, Huckleberry Finn, in searching for liberty in a civilized society. Although there are numerous issues raised in the novel, such as racism, freedom, and the flaws of political and societal systems, the topic of freedom holds higher importance in the life of the main characters. While the concept of freedom has always been the concern of American society, the emphasis here is given to individual freedom, which can be seen by the extraordinary views and perceptions of freedom by Huckleberry Finn. Not fitting into society, Huck finds liberty when he escapes from his town with the help of a raft and the Mississippi River, which became the primary symbol of freedom in the novel. However, the main controversy for him is that freedom can be found only out of society, but, at the same time, it is impossible for him to leave it.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain, represents the author’s views on racism and other societal issues. This is achieved by depicting the young Huck Finn, together with the runaway slave Jim, going on an adventure going down the Mississippi River. The Huck character, known for his longing for freedom, is still widely discussed, making the novel one of the greatest pieces of American literature (Ferencik). The ideas represented in the book can still play the role of a moral compass for contemporary society.
Hence, reading a novel, it is easy to see the author’s frustrations and irritations with the world that surrounds him. The story was Mark Twain’s way to express the bitterness he felt regarding the society and the values that dominated in it. Therefore, like the main character Huck, Mark Twain preferred smoking privately and seeking loneliness when writing the novel (Ferencik). By depicting Huck’s desperate efforts to find freedom, Twain shows his regrets and desire to have the same life when he was this age.
The book narrates the story of Huckleberry Finn, who travels down the Mississippi River with his friend Jim, a runaway slave. Jim especially symbolizes freedom by escaping slavery and fighting against societal preconceptions. Huck, on the other hand, is seeking freedom in a society with fake values and ideas. Hence, the vision of freedom is different in both characters, which demonstrates the concept of individual liberty. While freedom for Jim is to be free from slavery and have his wife and children also free from bondage, freedom for Huck is far more complicated.
Freedom is of vital concern for Huckleberry Finn. Huck faces a lot of challenges that become obstacles to his happy living. Firstly, the obstacles are manners and societal values which he finds to be fake and unreasonable. Secondly, Huck wants to be free from his drunkard father, who always abuses him and often imprisons him in a cabin, and his aunt, who is always trying to civilize him. Huck also desires freedom in his thoughts, which is almost impossible in the society he lives in.
Therefore, Huck decides to escape from his town, a place where there are a lot of unnecessary rules and no room for finding liberty, by faking his death and going to the Mississippi River. “I guessed I wouldn’t stay in one place, but just tramp right across the country, mostly night times, and hunt and fish to keep alive, and get so far away that the old man nor the widow couldn’t ever find me any more” (Twain 43). Thus, he ends up in the Mississippi River where he can finally find freedom. Huck enjoys being on a raft where there are no rules and manners established by “sivilization.” Going down the river, he remembers his aunt, who was always trying to teach him manners: “I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before” (Twain 489). It is only in the nature that the main character can feel the freedom of his thoughts, uninterrupted by civilized society.
However, no matter how happy was Huck Finn traveling by the river, the reality, and the main problem of the book, was that he could not fully escape from society, constantly facing problems during the river trip. First, going on a raft alone made him feel lonely until he met Jim, demonstrating that any person needs human contact and support. Hence, hard as Huck tried to escape from society, he understood that he still needs somebody to talk and spend time with. The restrictions given to Huck by society made him consider it harmful, making him not want to be civilized. Consequently, it is even harder for Huck to find freedom. Since his idea of liberty is different from that of society’s, and since he does not fit into it, he can never find true freedom being always surrounded by civilized society.
There are numerous symbols in the novel that represent the author’s primary messages in the book. Finn, frustrated by the challenges of life, finds an escape in reflecting on the gentle, smooth, and noiseless Mississippi River, enabling him to see the world from a different angle, making it more like a dream. The character of Huckleberry Finn also symbolizes the problem of racism in American society. Being a lonely orphan child, Huck desperately tries to find someone to start a friendship with. Thus, he finds various companions, including Jim, and tries to find anybody who would help him avoid his loneliness. This demonstrates the importance of companionship to all people regardless of race and social status.
Therefore, the concept of liberty in the novel depicts the idea of individual freedom as perceived by the main character, Huckleberry Finn. Being a lonely child and feeling lost in a society the values of which he does not understand, Huck finds his freedom outside of the community, traveling by a raft on the Mississippi River, which became the primary symbol of freedom in the book. Together with his friend Jim, who was also on his way to find freedom from slavery, Huck could see his need to avoid loneliness and the challenges of finding freedom in civilized society.
Ferencik, Jakub. “Huck Finn as a Moral Guide For Political, Religious, and Social Dilemmas.” Medium, 2017, https://medium.com/all-about-writing/huck-finn-as-a-moral-guide-for-political-religious-and-social-dilemmas-9ada1ba2fc81. Accessed 14 Sept 2018.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Vintage Books, 2012.
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