Huckleberry Finn’s Adventures in History
The book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain, ties into America before the Civil War in many ways. Huckleberry Finn, the narrator and also the protagonist of the novel, is the thirteen-year-old son of a drunk, Pap. Huck is an intelligent and kind young boy, although his father is a complete mess. Pap is not only a drunk but was abusive towards Huck in many ways. Jim is a runaway slave in the novel, who ends up making friends with Huck. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck is put in many difficult situations involving Jim, where he is forced to make hard decisions. These characters are key essentials that connect the book to our past. This book really digs deep into slavery, which was huge in American before the Civil War. The elements in this novel relate to many events the happened in our history.
Mark Twain’s famous novel is about a white boy’s relationship with a runaway slave, and the things he is willing to do for him. Society was against black people and all for slavery, they tried to influence Huck’s thirteen-year-old mind into thinking that racism was okay. However, Huck’s morals were different. He had his own set of beliefs but was not ready to take a stand on that yet because of the hatred for abolitionists. Twain writes, “People would call me a low-down Abolitionist and despise me for keeping mum” but that doesn’t make no difference” (Twain 45). Abolitionists were people who disliked slavery and would do anything to get black people to freedom. Huck did not want to be hated or become an outcast but racism was not something he believed in. Once Huck meets Jim, a runaway slave, they quickly bond, and throughout the book, their relationship grows greatly. They were instant friends. While Huck is forming a friendship with Jim, he begins to struggle with a big choice.
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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is taking place in the mid-1800s, so slavery is a law at this time. If Huck were to help Jim and be caught, he would not only become an outcast in society but also be breaking the law. Huck could be in a lot more trouble than just going to jail. But on the other hand, he would be doing what he morally thought was right. He would not have to feel guilty to himself, nor Jim. Now, if Huck decides not to help Jim and turn him into authorities, he would legally be doing the right thing. He would stay out of trouble and not have to worry about the consequences. It seems like the easy answer but because Huck does not agree with society, he can not turn Jim in. So Huck decides to risk it all. Before the Civil War, the south was based on the slave economy. What was life like for slaves in the early to mid-1800s? Not good. The slave population was near four million. Slaves suffered physical and mental abuse, by not only their owners but also mostly all of the white population. Slaves worked in the plantation fields, even on the hottest of days. They were used for any needs their owners had. They were treated as nothing, and had been whipped, raped, hit, and killed for even the smallest of things. By the 1840s, slavery was abolished in the Northern areas so the Northerners were outspoken about freeing slaves. The south represents everyone surrounding Huck; for example, his father Pap, Ms. Watson, and his entire community. Huck represents the north, the people who are wanting to risk everything to free slaves. This divided the north and the south, which led to the Civil War.
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons are a huge conflict. The Grangerfords are a big family who watched over Huck once Huck and Jim were separated. Buck Grangerford and Huck make friends with one another right away. They are around the same age and even have similar names. Yet they are very different, Buck is raised by a wealthy family, while Huck comes from a poor upbringing by an alcoholic, abusive, and racist father. The Grangerfords are in a feud with a neighboring family, the Shepherdsons. No one knows how or even why the feud began, but in the past year, two people have been killed, including a fourteen-year-old Grangerford. The two families want to inflict pain on one another by killing each other. For example, Buck and a nineteen-year-old Grangerford get into a gunfight with the Shepherdsons. Both of the Grangerfords are killed. Huck sees the body and is very upset by this and begins to cry. Twain writes, “Did you want to kill Buck?” “Well, I bet I did.” “What did he do to you?” “Him? He never did anything to me.” “Well, then, what did you want to kill him for?” “Why nothing” only it’s on account of the feud” (Twain 107).
The significance of this conversation is that these families have no reason to hate one another, and no reason to fight. However, their families are forcing that into their minds, just like the society is with racism. They were grown up to hate each other, so they do. Buck was an innocent young boy caught in the crossfire of a stupid feud. Bleeding Kansas was a violent civil confrontation in the United States that started in 1854. This became from a debate over the legality of slavery in the state of Kansas. The conflict was characterized by a few years of electoral fraud, raids, assaults, and murders carried out by pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” and anti-slavery “Free-Staters” in Kansas plus neighboring Missouri. 56 people died in Bleeding Kansas. Bleeding Kansas was so important in setting the stage for what some people say is the first battles of the Civil War. Anti-slavery and slavery met. Just like the Shepherdsons and Grangerfords, they are to parties fighting for what they believe is right. Although the Shepherdsons and Grangerfords do not exactly know what they are fighting for, they have a sense of fight to defend their family name and the ones that have died before them. In bleeding Kansas, they were fighting over slavery. People fought for what they believed in and died in both acts.
The Dred Scott case was a case involving Dred Scott vs Sandford which was one of the biggest controversial events in this time. Dred Scott was a black slave who once had an owner, John Emerson. They lived in a free state before returning to Missouri, a slave state. Emerson died and Dred Scott then fought for his freedom. This case went to court where Dred Scott argued the time spent in a free state should allow him to emancipation. It was argued in 1856 and a decision had been made in 1857. Finally, the Supreme Court ruled that any African descent, free or a slave, were not American citizens. They did not have the right to sue in a federal court. The southerners wanted to enlarge slavery throughout the world and have it rule the nation itself. They all agreed with the Dred Scott decision thinking Congress had no right to ban slavery in the region. The northern Republicans were unhappy because their plan in 1856 had claimed that Congress was held back the right to prohibit slavery in the federal territories. This shows the government making decisions that a lot of people do not agree with. Pap’s rant is similar to the Dred Scott case, involving the government. Pap’s rant talks about the rights Pap should have, for example, he thinks the government owes him. He says that they do not extend help for any other people in his community. He repeats one phrase countless amounts of times which is, “”Call this a Government”” (Twain 26). His reasoning for saying this is because he thinks it is crazy to let a black man have the right to vote. He finds it unbelievable and outrageous.
Pap then goes on to state he would never vote again because the government continues to let this one black man to vote. Because Pap feels so strongly about the situation he threatened to leave the country unless this was resolved. This is an outrageous comment because everyone would love to see him leave. Huck, Pap’s own son, would be better off if Pap left. Pap is clearly racist and shows it by mentioning how this black man would not move out of his way when they first saw each other, so Pap decided to shove him. Black slaves were required and demanded by the law to move out of the way of any whites before the Civil War. Mark Twain may have put this part in the novel to show that he thought this was an unfair law. Although Twain is not racist he gets his point of view heard from Pap in a way, who is racist, who thinks he deserves better than any black man. The Dred Scott case and Pap’s rant related to one another because the government is making decisions that a lot of people do not agree with. They both portray the government having to much power and abusing their power.
The Missouri Compromise tried to solve the spread of slavery in 1820. This said lands west of the Mississippi river, below latitude 36º 30º, and north of the line besides Missouri were free. At the time these twenty-two states were divided evenly between free and slaves. This would upset the balance and also divided the lands of the Louisiana Purchase. The Missouri Compromise was not liked by the South, although the north agreed with it. The Missouri Compromise relates to the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because in the book Huck struggles with whether he should turn Jim in or not and really what to do with slavery as a whole. In the start, Huck does not know Jim that well, but takes a liking to him. As the story goes on he and Jim form a father son relationship. Huck chooses to go with his heart and not turn Jim in to authorities. He risks himself getting in an intense amount of trouble to help his friend. People have been struggling how to go about slavery and everyone has their own opinions but in the book, everyone seems to be in favor of slavery expect Huck who does not voice his opinion but shows it by taking action. Like the Missouri Compromise people are disagreeing and agreeing with slavery. There is a divide in both settings and these two sides are doing separate things to help their own sides.
The Civil War was fought because of a contribution involving slavery, government, and states rights. States rights are the individual powers that are made up by that state. The people thought involving states rights would end the conflict of slavery. Meaning, each individual state would choose whether slavery should be legal or not. The southern states were dependent on slaves while the northern states voted to get rid of it. Again we see a division in the North and the South. The South got nervous that the free states would become larger and take over the slave states, this arrossed something much greater. The Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 is a huge example of state right debates. The Fugitive Slave Act was part of the Compromise and unsurprisingly, people had different opinions. States rights relates to Pap’s rant and even Huck’s lifestyle. Pap’s rant is all about his rights and the government having too much power over him. Pap thinks he deserves to have certain rights. Twain write, “”The law backs that old Judge Thatcher up and helps him to keep me out o’ my property (Twain 26). This quote shows how Pap feels which is that the law is not helping him but only helping Judge Thatcher. Huck disagrees with the states rights as well but in a different way. He does not believe in slavery. Huck says “”I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:””All right, then, I’ll go to hell””- and tore it up”” (Twain 214). Huck is speaking to himself in this quote, he is talking about a letter he wrote to Ms. Watson, telling her to go get Jim. He then changes his mind and decides he wants Jim to be with him, Huck wants to save Jim, and tears the letter up. Pap and Huck both show their dislike involving certain states rights just like the North and South show there liking and dislike to certain rights.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain is a powerful and controversial book. The book uses words people may not be comfortable seeing or reading but Twain thinks it is necessary to add and talk about. Twain is against slavery and racism, he portrays that through this book. He uses Huck as the protagonist and slavery as the antagonist. Slavery and racism is ugly and an unnecessary evil. Huck is a young boy going off the rails of society and doing what he believes is right. Before the Civil War slavery was huge in the South and their powers were used and abused for the worst. It is a lingering issue still to this day. Before the Civil War there were people just like Huck, many people just like Huck. Twain gives us insight to the society that the world was, showing that it should never be like this again, and it should have never been like that in the first place.