Rollin Down the River: The Uniting of Theme and Plot in Mark


Twain\'s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

In Mark Twain\'s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain
develops the plot into Huck and Jim\'s adventures allowing him to
weave in his criticism of society. The two main characters, Huck
and Jim, both run from social injustice and both are distrustful
of the civilization around them. Huck is considered an uneducated
backwards boy, constantly under pressure to conform to the
"humanized" surroundings of society. Jim a slave, is not even
considered as a real person, but as property. As they run from
civilization and are on the river, they ponder the social
injustices forced upon them when they are on land.

These social injustices are even more evident when Huck and Jim
have to make landfall, and this provides Twain with the chance to
satirize the socially correct injustices that Huck and Jim
encounter on land. The satire that Twain uses to expose the
hypocrisy, racism, greed and injustice of society develops along
with the adventures that Huck and Jim have. The ugly reflection
of society we see should make us question the world we live in,
and only the journey down the river provides us with that chance.

Throughout the book we see the hypocrisy of society. The first
character we come across with that trait is Miss Watson. Miss
Watson constantly corrects Huck for his unacceptable behavior, but
Huck doesn\'t understand why, "That is just the way with some
people. They get down on a thing when they don\'t know nothing
about it" (2). Later when Miss Watson tries to teach Huck about
Heaven, he decides against trying to go there, "...she was going
to live so as to go the good place. Well, I couldn\'t see no
advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I
wouldn\'t try for it." (3) The comments made by Huck clearly
show Miss Watson as a hypocrite, scolding Huck for wanting to
smoke and then using snuff herself and firmly believing that she
would be in heaven.

When Huck encounters the Grangerfords and Shepardsons, Huck
describes Colonel Grangerford as, "...a gentleman, you see. He
was a gentleman all over; and so was his family. He was well
born, as the saying is, and that\'s worth as much in a man as it is
in a horse..." (104). You can almost hear the sarcasm from Twain
in Huck\'s description of Colonel Grangerford. Later Huck is
becoming aware of the hypocrisy of the family and its feud with
the Shepardsons when Huck attends church. He is amazed that while
the minister preaches about brotherly love both the Grangerfords
and Shepardsons are carrying weapons. Finally when the feud
erupts into a gunfight, Huck sits in a tree, disgusted by the
waste and cruelty of the feud, "It made me so sick I most fell out
of the tree...I wished I hadn\'t ever come ashore that night to see
such things."

Nowhere else is Twain\'s voice heard more clearly than as a mob
gathers at the house of Colonel Sherburn to lynch him. Here we
hear the full force of Twain\'s thoughts on the hypocrisy an
cowardice of society, "The idea of you lynching anybody! It\'s
amusing. The idea of you thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a
man!...The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that\'s what an army is-
a mob; they don\'t fight with courage that\'s born in them, but with
courage that\'s borrowed from their mass, and from their officers.
But a mob without any man at the head of it is beneath
pitifulness" (146-147). Each of these examples finds Huck again
running to freedom of the river. The river never cares how
saintly you are, how rich you are, or what society thinks you
are. The river allows Huck the one thing that Huck wants to be,
and that is Huck. The river is freedom than the land is
oppression, and that oppression is no more evident than it is to
Jim.

It is somewhat surprising that Huck\'s traveling companion is Jim.
As anti-society that Huck is, you would think that he would have
no qualms about helping Jim. But Huck has to have feelings that
slavery is correct so we can see the ignorance of racial bigotry.
Huck and Jim\'s journey begins as Huck fights within himself about
turning Jim over to the authorities. Finally he decides not to
turn Jim in. This is a monumental decision for Huck to make, even
though he makes it on the spot. This is not just a boy running
away from home. It is someone who has decided to turn