I never read ALL of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in college. I took an English course in college while I was taking a number of other credits, and I simply did not have time to read everything on the list. The professor gave us most of the story and his analysis during discussion, and then he told us to write a paper about the book, being sure to come up with our own ideas and not using notes from his lectures.
Being a better reader of people than of the book, I assumed what he meant was that he wanted us to use all his great ideas in our own words. I was right, and he read the following essay in front of the class. Had I read more of the book, I would have used quotes and especially focused on Huck choosing to be damned over giving Jim up, a very important moment in literature, which I later read. In fact, I had to teach the book, so I eventually read the whole thing.
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a controversial classic that exhibits Twain's own grasp of universal human values and concerns, while acting as a barometer for racial harmony in the United States. Twain uses humor and cynicism to combat racial stereotypes as he explores universal ideas of freedom, friendship, love, and family. He creates a symbolic drama that uses the theme of escape and return to unite Huck and Jim, giving both them and the reader hope.
Huck is a boy who is not allowed to make his own decisions. He is ruled by the widow, his father, Tom, and the swindlers who board the raft. Huck experiences true freedom with Jim as they ride down the Mississippi, but neither of them can take control of their own lives while onshore. Jim is in worse shape than Huck, in that the law states that he has no freedom. The reader is asked to consider whether or not everyone deserves freedom, including young boys and slaves. Unfortunately, the reader must also see the trouble that free people can inflict upon others. We might therefore decide to base allowance of freedom on moral character rather than age or race.
Twain explores the concept of friendship, trying to define (or redefine) the boundaries and the requirements. Jim and Huck grow as friends, allowing for the essential give and take relationship needed for friendship. Huck learns how far is too far with playing tricks on his friend. The reader is forced to question the usefulness of a friend like Tom, who does not allow Huck to grow within their relationship. Tom appears to be the more natural friend, both in age and race, but Jim is the truer friend, and probably the friend with whom Huck feels more comfortable.
Having no real family, Huck is a candidate to latch onto any good male role model. His own father is an all-around loser. Though a slave, Jim exhibits all of the qualities that Huck's father has no hope of attaining. Jim shows kindness, affection, and a sense of right and wrong that helps Huck become a better person. Jim has lost his family, so he would also reach toward Huck as a surrogate child. The two characters need each other to help complete themselves.
A person who looks at another with respect and admiration might even love that person, and Twain gives us evidence that Huck and Jim may love one another. Of course, their love would be that of two friends, or of a father and son. Huck really does not have anyone else that he could love, and Jim has lost those he loved. We don't need to see hugging or sentimental speeches to acknowledge the deep union between both Huck and Jim.
Twain's novel offers hope to all of us. He shows us that we can lose everything like Jim, or never have anything like Huck, and still find what we need in life. We need to have pure and willing hearts, though. Huckleberry Finn offers us the hope that someday we might be able to look at the novel and see past the use of the N-word. We will know the day of racial harmony has come when neither side of the issue has to address the use of the word. We must realize that the day has not yet come, and the novel is forced to send its message with a controversial voice. It's the message that must endure, though, not the word that taints the meaning.
Link to paper on my writing site.