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The River Motif In The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

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The River Motif In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huckleberry Finn… this is the very name that can sound familiar to almost everybody from pupils in elementary school through students at university to elderly grandparents. But the more astonishing is that the characters, the flow of events and the bunch of themes,symbols and motifs included mean for everybody something absolutely different. Till for an 11- year- old little boy it provides a real boyish story full of flabbergasting, enviable adventures of a peer, for a 21- year- old half grown- up student it already gives opportunity for deeper interpretation of the hidden signs within the novel (eg. about the serious problems society should tackle with) between the lines and so giving also opportunity to understand why has been so popular The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn during times among all generations. And finally the reason why this book is so dear for our grandparents is that it affords a chance them to remember their childhood when the world was totally different from today’s world, when people were far closer to nature, when those kind of adventures Mark Twain pictured were almost day- to- day; altough not on the River Mississippi but on the River Danube, not with a ’Jim’ but with a best friend and not deliberately to escape…

As it is mentioned above, the novel is abound with typical themes, motifs and symbols both of world literature and both specifically of American literature.

First of all, the most characteristic from these are racism and slavery, altough the novel was written more than twenty years(1884) after the American Civil War in which the anti- slavery North won finally, the racial issues were still present and became crucial once again. This is why Mark Twain opted for such an antislavery theme for his new novel.

Secondly, since The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can be discussed as a ’bildungsroman’, a novel of self- cultivation, education plays an important role, both intellectually and morally.

The reader can witness the development and changes of Huck Finn’s point of view in connection with the teachings on race received from Miss Watson, sister of Widow Douglas who вЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœtook me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize meвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ The more event happen, the more Huck’s views alter thanks to his and Jim’s, the Negro intimate relationship. Time and again Huck gives evidence his growing ability to distinguish good and bad, enemy and friend and the nonexisting difference between black and white… and finally he reaches its climax saying: „I knowed he was white inside” .

And last but not least the most significant and most commented symbol of the book is the journey of the two heroes- Huck and Jim- and the road itself, the River Mississippi. “As Pascal says вЂ?rivers are roads that move’, […] the road itself is the greatest character in this novel of the road, and the hero’s departures from the river and his returns to it compose a subtle and significant pattern.” (Lionel Trilling: A Certain Formal Aptness In. Graff & Phelan: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- A Case Study in Critical Controversy)

This is not a kind of symbol which appears and disappears again and again but it is an overarching one; this is in the very focus of the story, events- both physical and both phychological- happen on the river, it has a kind of fate- determiner role.

Anyway journey is one of the most important elements of human existence; adventures, unknown landscapes and countries give us knowledge. Knowledge about the unfamiliar and knowledge about ourselves. That is why poets and authors use this pattern to educate their heroes and their readers alike. Twain’s novel is not the first example using the journey and the road- here the river- for such purpose. We can find examples already in the ancient Greek literature- Homer’s Odyssey-, or in the Middle Ages- Dante’s The Divine Comedy- in the Enlightenment- Voltaire’s Candide- and also in the Hungarian Romantic literature- VÐ"¶rÐ"¶smarty’s Csongor and TÐ"јnde. Altough the aim is different, the common feature all of them is the development of character with the help of a fellow and the desire of something different from the present.

As I have written earlier, the Mississippi River is in the focus of the novel, it gives the decisive symbol of freedom in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The closeness of it gives an excellent opportunity to the heroes to escape from the restrictions of society and from civilization; the fluid road symbolizes for both of them a possible mode of getaway, a possible way of freedom. It has great impact not only on the flow of events but also on the inner processes of the characters. The river offers a once- in- a- life possibility for Huck and Jim to change their life for good.

Altough they stand on the two sides of the social scale; Jim is a black slave and Huck can stand for the slave- holder layer of society, both person struggle with social and moral problems as well, both want to get far away from the oppresive roles society gives them. They need to embark on such a journey to get rid of their burdens, to discover themselves, identity and truth. They can not adapt themselves to the pre- ordained roles of society, they can not accept the fact that they have a determined function in this unhealthy community. Huck battles with the Widow Douglas „…a persecuting good widow who wishes to make a nice- truth- telling, respectable boy of himвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ, with her sister, Miss Watson, who tortures the rebellious boy with her confirmed doctrines rooted in the Bible and old accepted beliefs in racial roles and her hypocrite behaviour „…Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn’t. …And she took snuff too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself". […] "That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it”.

He also wants to run away from his persecuting father, the drunkard of St. Petersburg, wishing exclusive guardianship over his son. He wants to get to an environment where he can make his own decisions, where he does not have to accept obsolete rules, where he can live his own life on his own. Consequently till Huck’s attempt to leave the two old ladies comes from the overcivilising training, the attempt to leave Pap Finn roots in the fear



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