The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Huck’s Decision To Go To Hell

23 Sep

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huck Finn’s decision to go to hell is mentioned early on in the novel.  Huck tells Miss Watson he wants to go to hell because if Tom Sawyer is there, he wants to be there too.  Tom Sawyer is his friend.  In addition, Huck doesn’t want to be in the same place as Miss Watson.  He doesn’t feel like he belongs in the place where she will go.

 In the early chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, we see many characters trying to teach Huck how to be “civilized.”  One of these characters is the Widow Douglas, who took Huck in.  Huck isn’t used to wearing nice clothes; he has to when he’s with the widow. In addition, the widow rings a bell for supper, you had to come in time, and you couldn’t start eating right away.  The widow has to pray for the food first, something that Huck thinks is not necessary.  The widow tries to teach Huck about the Bible, but Huck isn’t interested in learning about it when he realizes that the people in it have been long dead. Huck prefers learning about people who are alive. Without saying it, Huck implies that the widow is a hypocrite. He implies this when he asks her if he can have a smoke; the widow says no, but she herself smokes.  If the widow is the kind face of socialization, then Miss Watson is the mean face of socialization.

Miss Watson tries to work with Huck on his spelling.  She works him too hard.  When Huck starts to fidget, Miss Watson tells him “Don’t put your feet up there, Huckleberry;’ and ‘Don’t scrunch up like that, Huckleberry—set up straight’; and pretty soon she would say, “[…] why don’t you try to behave?” (9).   I think Huckleberry is like most people; he doesn’t like to be told what to do.  I know for a fact, that I don’t like to be told what to do.  I’m still being told to sit up straight.  Perhaps, Huck has a hard time behaving because it’s hard for him to act the way he should.  On the other hand, he might not know how to behave, or he might know how to behave, but he doesn’t want to. With both the widow and Miss Watson, it’s all about training, which is something that feels unnatural to Huck.

Even though there are no rules that Huck has to follow for his Pap’s society, the lack of rules are rules.  What I mean by this is that Huck’s Pap tells him not to go to school because he doesn’t want his son to be more educated than him.  Huck has been getting used to school, but he doesn’t like it.  Pap is against cleanliness, Church, etc. This is why he doesn’t like that Huck is well dressed and attends church.  Pap is the anti-father: he thinks he can do whatever he wants to his son. This is why he threatens him with beatings.  It is clear that Pap should not be a father; he is always getting drunk and causing trouble.  Huck eventually rejects his father’s society, even though in this society, he can do whatever he wants.

With Jim, Huck has finally found a society he can accept.  Jim is Huck’s friend, even though he is a slave.  When Pap comes back, Huck goes to Jim for advice.  Huck and Jim have a code that they use—superstition.  When Huck finds Jim on the island, he is happy to see him.  Jim, however, is not happy to see Huck because he doesn’t know if he can trust him.   It doesn’t take Huck a long time to decide where his loyalties lie; Huck is true to his friends.  He plans to not turn in a runaway slave and doesn’t care what people will say about him.  In the society Huck has with Jim, there’s conversation, eating together, and sleeping on the raft together. In other words, Jim provides companionship for Huck.  Some critics have claimed that Jim is a “mother figure” to Huck because he calls him “honey.”  I disagree somewhat with this because I believe that Jim is both a mother and a father to Huck.  Huck’s mother is dead, and his father is not around much.

I don’t think Huck’s thinking about going to hell changes much. In the beginning, Huck said he was going to hell because Tom Sawyer would be there, and he wants to be with him because they are friends. He knows if he rats out Jim, he’ll be called an abolitionist, but he doesn’t care. All he thinks about is helping his friend become a free man.  The irony of that, though, is that Jim is a free man; Miss Watson made him a free man before she died, but Jim didn’t know that. He had heard her planning to sell him, which is why he ran away.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has a lot in common with its author Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and his life.  Mark Twain ‘s relationship with his father was difficult.  Mark Twain was afraid of his father, which is how Huck feels about his father.  In addition, Huck’s father’s description is an exact description of what Mark Twain’s father looked like before he died. Huck’s father is repeatedly described as being very white. I have heard that some critics believe that Huck’s father is poor white trash.  Mark Twain’s family was poor, but they were not white trash.  Growing up, Mark Twain noticed that his parents avoided expressing love to their children.  While we may think it odd, it was very common back then. This basically condemned them to death.  The only time affection was shown was when a family member was on their deathbed.  Mark Twain had a few siblings who died at a young age.  In Mark Twain’s autobiography, he writes that Jim was based on Uncle Dan’l, a slave who he was friendly with when he was a boy.  In addition, the Twains had a slave named Jennie; Jennie’s job was to take care of the children.  Like Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain had many alloparents.  He was mostly raised by slaves.  Slaves were supposed to be looked down on.  Children were taught to not walk, talk, or act like the person who raised them because they would be looked down on.  In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim prevents Huck from seeing his father’s dead body.  Mark Twain, however, supposedly saw his father’s body being autopsied.

Like Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain struggled with parents.  Unlike Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn struggled with parent figures as well.  Mark Twain does not appear to have struggled with parent figures.  Huckleberry Finn’s decision to go to hell was made early on, and never changed, despite what some people may say.




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