Presentation on theme: " Consider Huck’s reaction when the ferry boat passes: He does nothing, even though he is close enough to touch the people who care about him. Maybe that."— Presentation transcript:
Consider Huck’s reaction when the ferry boat passes: He does nothing, even though he is close enough to touch the people who care about him. Maybe that means he is in perfect control of his emotions; or maybe he cares nothing for these people in return; or maybe he doesn’t understand how sorrowful they are. “There ain’t no better way to put in time when you are lonesome”: It sounds like Huck has had that problem before.
Notice Huck’s reaction to Jim’s news that Jim is running away: Remember that Huck grew up with people who believed that stealing a slave was as serious as committing murder. He is shocked. He has never heard anyone question slavery and has every reason to believe that Jim has done something terrible. Yet, Huck promises Jim that Huck won’t say a word: “I ain’t a-going back there, anyways,” he explains. Not turning Jim in is a monumental decision for Huck to make: He runs away with Jim because he decides to turn his back on everything “home” stands for, even one of its most cherished beliefs. Notes adapted from Joseph Claro in “Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn,” Barron’s Educational Series; and Ronald Goodrich in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Living Literature Series.
Abolitionist: one who advocated the legal extinction of slavery as an institution. Before the Civil War, abolitionists often helped slaves escape to free states. Nearly all pre-Civil War Southerners hated abolitionists as enemies who struck at the very heart of Southern society and economy.
Huck, as a member of a society that considers slavery morally justified and economically necessary, realizes that people will condemn him as an abolitionist – the lowest kind of criminal.
Huck has a sense of right and wrong that would shame some of the people he calls his “betters.” His conscience now causes him great pain because he can’t find an easy solution to his dilemma in helping Jim escape. Does he live up to the rules of the society he has been brought up in? Or does he do what seems to be the right thing for a friend? On the way to shore to turn Jim in, Huck decides to do “wrong” – he doesn’t turn Jim in, and it never occurs to him that what he’s done might be considered the right thing. He has too low of an opinion of himself to think that. Huck reasons, why do right (turn Jim in) if he wouldn’t feel any better?
Huck and Jim start their new lives together. Jim discovers a dead man in the floating house but doesn’t talk to Huck about it. Most of chapter 10 is about bad luck and its causes: listen for Twain laughing in the background. But it’s much more than a way for Twain to get laughs: Good and bad luck comes up often in the narration, and it tells us something about Jim’s attitude toward the supernatural and his self-image. To Jim, the world is an endlessly threatening place. Danger is hiding behind every tree and under every rock. At any moment, everything he has can be taken away from him by forces over which he has no control (his wife and children included).
Here, Huck shows that he not only does not have reservations about lying, he actually seems to enjoy it. He’s good at it, too. The first adventure on the Mississippi begins. Note: The raft is 12 X 16 feet, about the size of a typical bedroom in modern houses. This chapter makes some interesting distinctions between stealing and borrowing: Huck has his own set of moral standards that he tries to live up to. Interestingly, Huck says he won’t leave just yet because “Tom Sawyer wouldn’t back out now.”
“It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn’t even feel like talking loud, and it warn’t often that we laughed – only a little kind of chuckle.”
Both Huck and Jim are impressed by the majesty and peace of the Mississippi: almost a worship that establishes the river as the novel’s central symbol. The river is unconsciously revered as a kind of god or a manifestation of God. The solemnity and peace of the great river under the eternal stars are sharp contrasts to the pettiness and violence of men on the shore. For Huck and Jim, the Mississippi represents freedom, while the shore is the snare that would enslave them. Again and again, they struggle to return to this sanctuary and enjoy their deepening friendship.
Note: The Walter Scott is probably a reference to Sir Walter Scott, author of Ivanhoe. Twain often wrote scathing criticisms of such novels, believing that they were written by hacks who knew little about the real world and nothing about the people who live in it. Steamboat terms: Texas: a shelter for officers on the upper deck. Pilot-house: an enclosed structure from which the ship is navigated. Derrick: a device for lifting cargo on or off the ship Labboard (larboard): Left side of the ship Stabboard (starboard): Right side of the ship Guys: ropes or cables Skylight: the pilot-house roof, which can be opened and closed
The scene that follows the steamboat episode is interesting for two reasons: Huck once again proves himself to be a champion liar (In order to save the three criminals from almost certain drowning, he tells a ferryboat captain an elaborate tale about his family being stranded on the disabled boat.); two, note Huck’s quick mind and understanding of what makes people tick: Jim Hornback. Huck feels better after helping the men and wishes the widow could have seen him: Huck is unknowingly referring to the Christian belief that sinners deserve more help than the rest of us. Several of the parables of Jesus in the New Testament make this point.
Three important developments over the next three chapters: The relationship between Huck and Jim begins to change in a way Huck never thought possible. Huck has serious doubts about the morality of helping a slave escape. The two of them are separated by an accident on the river. In chapter 14: A comic layer: Huck and Jim have a conversation that’s similar to dozens seen in TV and movies with comedy teams. Two characters are talking about a subject, and neither one knows much about it. But one is the dominant one, even though the audience knows both are uninformed. Huck is the dominant one here, simply because he is white (the tale is one about Solomon).
The outcome of the argument is the second layer of meaning: Huck gives in without winning the argument, which means he is willing to lose the argument to a slave; and Jim dares to argue with a white person until he wins. Without realizing it, both characters have undergone a radical change in their attitudes, which would shock just about everyone they knew. At the end of chapter 14, Twain takes a poke at the French, whom he had a powerful bias against. By the way, it’s not “dolphin” but “ doe-Fan.”
Jim’s reaction to Huck’s joke on Jim is very emotional and very daring for a slave who hasn’t reached a free state yet. He says he was ready to die when he thought he’d lost Huck, adding that anyone who plays such a prank on a friend is trash. This exchange shows that Jim no longer thinks of Huck as a white person but as a friend. Huck is less certain: It takes him 15 minutes “before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger.” But he does it.
We all face this dilemma at some time: Do you always live by the rules, or do you follow your conscience? Twain stacks slavery against friendship, and that stacks the deck in favor of individual conscience over rules of society. This leads to some of the disapproval over this book: Critics say it glorifies a lawbreaker by making him likable and by manipulating the audience into approving what he does. The larger moral question of conscience versus societal rules is one that has to be determined individually, but there is little question that Huck has done the right thing.