Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Flawed Boy

Twain clearly uses Huck's tale to showcase the flaws that lie within American society. But I believe that one could make an argument that Huck is a metaphor for America, also. He is a growing boy, an adolescent, in a hostile world, trying to find a way to define himself. This is a great description of the US during the early and mid-19th century. America was still very much a young country. It was still expanding westward and had yet to fully form its identity, as is evident by the intense conflicts over slavery. In essence, America was still a child, a growing child, but a child nonetheless, unsure of its place in the world and what it was about. This is Huck. A child growing into maturity, challenged by the world around him.

Twain takes this character and follows him down a path of growth; this is a path that is just as challenging, conflicting, and confusing as the path that America was on in her adolescence. The slow realization of Jim's humanity mirrors America's slow realization of the evils and hypocrisy that slavery embodies. Just like the call of abolition in the early 19th century, Huck comes to this realization slowly and with much resistance, but as the truth becomes more evident and damning, his realization growns at a greater rate until he is almost completely transformed. But even with this vast transformation, Twain shows that Huck still has a long way to go before he is a fully formed adult. Huck's choice to go off with Tom in order to "rescue" Jim still shows a very great amount of immaturity. His intentions are fine, but he goes about fulfilling them in an improper way.

Finally, Twain leaves Huck in his imperfect state so as to keep the reader wondering how exactly he will end up. Twain does not really resolve this question because he does not know what will happen to Huck. All Twain has is a strong sense of optimism and faith that Huck's goodness and ability to grow will lead him to become a strong, responsible, moral man. And this is the hope that one can only hold for his country.

1 comment:

JDR said...

How fitting that the main character in The Great American novel would be none other than America itself. I like what you’ve already laid out in your post examining Huck as an adolescent boy. Like you stated, America has emerged from its infancy and just like Huck, during Twain’s time, America was dealing with the growing pains of puberty.
That same parallel continues when Huck’s role as an outsider to the rest of society. Huck’s seculsion during his own maturation nicely parallels America’s behavior during it own growing pains: the Civil War. Huck never completely fits in with the rest of society. He can fake it really well but he is ultimately an outsider. During the American Civil War, the country took a similarly isolationist standpoint. Though the Confederacy asked for foreign aid they never received any and the Union stood strong by itself. America was alone during this dificult time in its growth just like Huck has been alone his whole life.