6 May, 2011
The most important part in the novel is in its first chapter that defines how the novel unfolds to the end. The statement captures the central and major themes in the text. Huck describes his experience after he parted ways with the father and his new experience with Widow Douglas and her sister; Miss Watson, whom he is putting up with. Huck says:
“ The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.” (Twain, 1985)
This paragraph appears in the first page of the text. Here, Huck explains how events have unfolded after the conclusion of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It is in this novel where he had first appeared. His abusive and irresponsible dad; Pap disappeared months ago and left him with no one to look after him.
“Pap hadn't been seen for more than a year, and that was comfortable for me; I didn't want to see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on me; though I used to take to the woods when he was around”. (Twain, 1985)
This context is important because it not only exposes the irresponsibility of a father but also his abusive nature to an extent that his blood son is no longer willing to put up with him. It’s unbelievable that he is not happy with his son’s progress particularly in education.
From this Huck’s statement, his strong resistance to the idea of ‘sivilising’ is clear. His rebellion against the parents and his other authorities looks quite natural and normal for a teen. Indeed the reaction of readers undoubtedly would be to dismiss the young boy’s urge and quest for freedom. However, we latter realize that Huck’s displeasure with civilization are quite mature, logical and convincing. He is very critical of the worth of the proclaimed civilization in society. This is evidenced when he associate respect and civilization to a child’s play-Tom’s gang of robbers whose participants pretend and behave as though they are criminals.
Although influenced by the friend to return back to the widow, his dislike and displeasure with the idea of civilization reappears, infuriates him and influences the significant decision he makes.
Huck is quite ironical in his description of Widow Douglas. He says that she was quite decent in her ways yet he doesn’t approve of how she treats him and more specifically how they look down upon Jim whom they refer to as a nigger. Miss Watson teaches Huck religion, reading and general ‘good behavior’. Ironically, they can not apply these virtues that they preach so much in their own lives. In fact Huck prefers to be in his rags than to put up with people who can not live up to their own standards
This extract is significant because it also contributes to the general thematic concern in the text. One of the themes that emerge from the context is moral versus intellectual education. The author seams to be intent on faulting the system of education that is formally acquired but instead glorifies moral education. Huck is an uneducated, poor chap and in fact an orphan. However, the society not only considers him an outcast but also fail to offer him protection from abuse. The young boy distrusts the societal percepts and morals. This makes him critical of the numerous teachings he has received regarding slavery and racism. In a number of instances, he prefers to ‘go to hell’ instead of going along with the system set by the society. He bases his decisions on logic, his experiences and more particularly, listens to his conscience.
Throughout the text, the author captures the society that Huck lives in merely as a collection of meaningless regulations and percepts that are illogical. A good example is when a judge allows Huck’s dad to keep custody of him despite his abusive and irresponsible nature. The judge gives privileged to the dad’s right simply because he is the biological dad but disregards Huck’s welfare.
Another theme that emerges from this incident is racism and slavery. According to societal expectations, Jim is nothing but Miss Wanton’s property. However, according to the young boy’s logical sense, this is not right. This expound on this theme which extends thought the text. The likes of Sally Phelps are unmoved with the cruelty and injustice of taking Jim from his family. He is overworked and is considered a lesser human being.
Twain, M. (1985).Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. London: Oxford university press.