Transformation Along The River: Society Vs. Peace BY 43906 Eva Rodriguez M. Roberts APLC-3rd 18 November 2013 Transformation Along The River: Society Vs. Peace Flowing from north to south, the Mississippi River serves as a three thousand mile stretch of transportation for America. This river has become an essential part to the everyday happenings of this country: from recreational activities, to transporting industrialized goods to the southern states. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Mississippi River serves as a guide to the characters along their Journey.
It has een stated, “The Mississippi river serves as the driving force behind the novels plot development” (Railton 1 50), which is shown when the two characters, Huck and Jim, depend on the raft and the river that transports them from restriction to freedom. Since the river serves as a driving force throughout the novel, it leads to a positive future by taking them through obstacles on land that foreshadow their captivity and negative ways of life. This edifies to the characters that to reach a desire, comes conflict that must be overcome. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the
Mississippi river symbolically represents the transformational Journey of self- discovery for both Huck and Jim. Pre-river, Huck was living a troublesome and unhappy life. In the beginning of this novel, he describes incidents with his father and society that has affected him throughout his life. An analysis says “Huck feels confined- both by society and by pap” (Robinson 122). For example, Hucks says, “He abused me a little”(Twain 31). His father, Pap, is a racist “rich white man” (Dudley 45), and ignorant alcoholic who becomes abusive to Huck; in which, represents the typical “southern style” of this time period.
This life obstacle Huck faces occurring on land becomes his first reason for his escape to the river, after all of that time putting up with Pap’s extreme tempers. He says, “l didn’t lose no time. The next minute I was a- spinning down-stream soft, but quick, in the shade of the bank” (Twain 35). He begins planning his route of escape when he sees Pap in the distance, so he takes off immediately to flee from his burden. Miles and miles down the river, Huck comes across Jackson Island. Four days alone on the river pass and Huck meets Jim, who becomes his partner along the rest of his Journey.
Huck finds that Jim, a slave, has been in as similar predicament as he and is owned by a lady named Miss Watson. Jim tells Huck, “Ole-missus-dat’s Miss Watson-she pecks on me all de time, en treats me pooty rough, but she awluz said she wouldn’ sell me down to Orleans… ‘ lit out mighty quick, I tell you”(Twain 43). When Jim discovers that his owner was trying to sell him to a slave owner in New Orleans, he flees away to the Mississippi river for escape, separating him from his wife and children. This connects the basic theme of the river being the route of escape from land in the story.
Both valuable characters, Huck and Jim, flee to the Mississippi river with the intention of transforming their life hindrances in the rest of their Journey. Huck and Jim have not learned that the “road” to success will not come smooth and easy, “The river may be carrying Jim and Huck to freedom but on the way, it creates obstacles. ” (Budd 109). Although their escape to freedom began well, “They get themselves into every kind of trouble,” (Bloom 10); it takes a turn for the worse and they stumble into the first conflict of their Journey.
Huck describes, “Directly, it begun to rain, and it rained like all fury… The river went n raising and raising for ten or twelve days, til it was over the banks. “(Twain 49). After meeting each other on Jackson’s island, Huck and Jim create a hiding place in a cave, when it then starts to downpour. The river they viewed as their escape route flooded, which foreshadows the beginning conflict within their path towards freedom. Twain emphasizes this flood because it represents the overall conflicts the two characters began their Journey to freedom and happiness with.
Huck and Jim set up camp, recovering from the flood, and find a dead snake, which Jim claims represents “bad luck. Unfortunately Jim was accurate in that matter. Assuming the snake was permanently deceased, Huck decides to Joke with Jim by placing the snake at the foot of his pallet. Huck describes, “Well, by night I forgot all about the snake and when Jim flung himself down on the blanket while I struck a light the snake’s mate was there, and bit him. “(Twain 52).
One could assume that escaping from restriction and captivity would lead to happiness and satisfaction; however, Jim’s pleasure from freedom comes to a halt when he feels the discomfort of the snakebite. Twain uses this to demonstrate that obstacles are created on land to ortray the land to be a place of uneasiness. Although the characters went through these physical misfortunes, their emotions hit obstacles as well on their Journey of freedom. Nights and nights of powerful rainstorms pass and both Huck and Jim find themselves in an emotional state of depress.
Huck explains, “We stayed in the wigman and let the raft take care of itself… Well, it being away in the night and stormy, and all mysterious-like, I felt Just the way any other boy would ‘a’ felt when I seen that wreck laying there so mournful and lonesome in the middle of the river. ” (Twain 66). Troubles, such as this ship wreck, they pass along the way to freedom seem to catch the emotions of Huck, setting him back in aspiration along their Journey. The wreckage of the ships caught the attention of both Huck and Jim and they discover a man being held captive by two robbers.
In attempt to help the situation, they formulate a plan in advantage of the victim. “Then in there I see a man stretched on the floor and tied hand and foot, and two men standing over him, and one of them had a dim lantern in his hand, and the other one had a pistol… if we don’t hunt up their boat and set her drifting down the river… (Twain 70). After discovering the shipwreck, the two boys go return to their raft and find that it has gone missing down the river, and then they loose sight of each other. However, when they find each other, the steamboat destroys their raft.
This series of conflict occurs on land, which emphasizes the theme of the story in which the land is a place of obstruction and discomfort. Obstacles on land the river takes them through occur frequently and more abundantly as the story continues; however, it also serves as a commonplace and state of peace for the two characters: I was powerful glad to get way from the feuds, and so was Jim to get away from the swamp. We said there smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft… on a raft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind towards others. (Twain 125).
After every obstacle or conflict they come to contact with along their journey, they seem to use the river as a “home,” comforting them and giving them a peaceful state of mind. It has been stated, “many scenes on the river are idyllic”00hnson 13); meaning, that the river is a place for the both characters to relax nd self revere. The Mississippi River is their guide through these barriers on their journey, but also serves as their guide to character transformation. Being their lead along the Journey, the Mississippi river takes them through many problems that alter and shape both characters throughout the novel.
The transformation of the outlook on racism seems to be an important factor. Huck being a white man living in the south started the story off with him having a racist outlook upon Jim, because he refers to Jim as Miss Watson’s “property. ” However, the river serves as the happy edium in the novel, which eventually balances his outlook on racism. “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn’t do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn’t done that one if I’d a knowed it would make him feel that way. ” (Twain 86).
He becomes sensitive to the fact that Jim was a “nigger,” because of the time and relationship they created along their Journey, and most importantly, their distance from society on the river. “Mark Twain develops criticism of society by ontrasting Huck and Jim’s life on the river to their dealings with people on land” (E- scoala). The “people on land” they are referring to, are the negative ways of society that distorted the characters view upon things; however, the river transformed that. “In the Journey down the river we see Hucks movement away from civilization, with its corrupt institutions, and toward the natural world of the river. (Thrift 256). This also contributes to the transformation of Hucks level of moral maturity throughout the novel. Refering to Jim as “property’ of Miss Watson, Huck feels bad for keeping Jim’s escape a secret from her: And at last, when it hit me all ofa sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman’s nigger that hadnt ever done me no harm… Twain 212). However, then he reminisces on the relationship him and Jim built along their journey on the Mississippi river, and found that he cherished their friendship more or less to keep the secret from Miss Watson. He shows this surrender when he says, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” (Twain 214). He tears up the letter he wrote to Miss Watson and decides to keep Jim’s escape away from her, and help him continue his journey to freedom.
This demonstrates the positive change in character that Huck went through, and because of this, Jim executes his desire of freedom, which becomes his character transformation of enslaved to freed in the novel. The factor that contributed the most to the transformations of the two characters is the river because it is where their growth in relationships, morality, and courage lies. The Mississippi river in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn sets the foundation or the transformational themes throughout the novel, including the transformation from restriction to freedom.
As it has been said, “The river means a lot more to our Symbolizing transformation, the river also reveals the starting characteristics of both Huck and Jim and gives them the opportunity to persecute moral and personal change depending on the flow of the river. “As the author shows, the river and its society is calm and the land and its society is troublesome in a variety of different aspects,” (Hagg) which is shown when the characters begin their Journey to freedom nd escape because of problems on land and obstacles life threw their way.
However, little did they know that their Journey of transformation was going to be Just as heartbreaking and difficult as their previous ways of life. Although in the end, Huck and Jim finally pursue their known desires of freedom as their characters change both morally, mentally, and emotionally. These symbolic water transformations also prevail in modern times. For instance, Christenings, baptisms, and various religious water blessings represent spiritual and moral transformations, by capturing the meaning of a new beginning. Works Cited The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Society And The River. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Society And The River. N. p. , n. d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. Bloom, Harold. Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House, 1996. print. Budd, Louis J. New Essays on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire: Cambridge UP, 1985. Print. Dudley, William. American Slavery. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2000. Print. Hagg, Melissa. “Examining the River in Terms of Symbolism in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”” : Examining the River in Terms of Symbolism in “The Adventures f Huckleberry Finn” N. . , n. d. Web. 17 Nov. 2013. Johnson, Claudia Durst. Understanding Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996. Print. Railton, Stephen. Mark Twain: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Deception in Mark Twain’s America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1986. Print. Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Random House, 1996. Print. Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Thrift Study Edition. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009. Print.