Summary


Taking place during the 1800's in Missouri, Huck Finn lives with the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss. Watson who attempt to "civilize" him by teaching him to read and write, correcting his manners, and cleaning him up a bit. Huck soon grows accustomed to this lifestyle as he spends his time hanging out with Tom Sawyer and joining an imaginary band of robbers. Soon though Huck's luck changes when his father comes to town and threatens to beat him if he continues to be educated. Despite his threats, Huck continues his life as normal until pap returns and takes Huck back to his cabin in the secluded woods where pap keeps him by his side all the time and locks the door when he leaves so Huck can't escape. Finally, he creates a plan of escape where he fakes his own death so it looks like he was murdered and instead canoe's down the river to Jackson's island where he finds Miss. Watson's slave, Jim. The two share food and stories and Huck agrees not to tell anyone that Jim ran away. They find themselves a cave to stay in during the rain when a house floats by them on the river, with a dead man who we later find out to be pap. Huck attempts to find out what is going on in the town by posing as a girl and visiting a new lady in town, Mrs. Loftus. Huck finds out that pap is missing and that they are after Jim on the island, so he hustles back and heads down the river with Jim away from the island. The pair have many adventures together including raiding a steamboat, and also have many discussions such as the one about Solomon and the Frenchmen. One night, Jim and Huck are split up in the fog until Huck finally finds Jim on his raft the next morning. Jim is overjoyed, but Huck decides to play a trick on him, making it seem like he had dreamed the whole thing up. Finally, Cairo (or what they think is Jim's freedom) comes into view and Huck struggles inside him over the decision to turn Jim in like society tells him to, or follow his heart and help his good old friend. He sticks to the story and they try to find Cairo then, but instead are nearly hit by a steamboat. Huck drifts onto shore where a kind family called the Grangerfords live and takes him in. Jim stayed in the woods repairing the raft and finally they set off down the Mississippi river yet again.

Characters

Huck, an independent, nature loving boy, is the main character of the book and tries to find his true identity throughout it. After running away from civilization and his drunk father, Huck finds Miss. Watson's runaway slave Jim and accompanies him down the river, experiencing many adventures along the way. Huck struggles to discern the difference between what society tells him is right and what he believes in his heart is the truly moral thing to do.

Jim is Miss. Watson's slave who runs away to Jackson's island when he hears that he is going to be sold to the south. He unexpectedly meets up with Huck on the island and the two float down the Mississippi river to find his freedom in Cairo.

Pap is Huck's drunken father who found him living with the Widow Douglas and took him to his cabin secluded in the woods. He beats Huck regularly, especially when drunk, until Huck fakes his murder and pap is found dead in a questionable house floating by on the river.

Widow Douglas is a kind old lady who takes Huck in and attempts to civilize him by cleaning him up and teaching him to read and write. She tries to fight for custody of Huck after his father takes him back and his heartbroken when he is appeared to be dead.

Miss. Watson is Widow Douglas's sister and is very strict with Huck; she scorns at his dirty clothing and tells him he is going down below if he continues his reckless behavior.

Tom Sawyer, and imaginative young boy, is Huck's best friend, and the two share many adventures together. Tom is always looking for something new to do and creates his own "club" the goes on make believe adventures.

Likes/Dislikes

Though it was sometimes difficult to read and understand because of the dialect, I do believe that it added to the overall understanding and authenticity of the book. It was very realistic and could help you distinguish between characters much better. I also liked the messages Twain intertwined into the book about the powerful beliefs on society and how only a select view can overcome them and create their own values and opinions. I also thought it was brilliant the way that Twain relayed his messages and beliefs at the time through a young boy who couldn't fully understand what was going on. He carefully slipped in controversial ideas and as we know, controversial subjects often lead to a vast interest in that work. I didn't like however the many pages of seemingly pointless information that didn't really change the outcome of the plot. These additional passages led to some confusion and misunderstanding towards the beginning of the book. Overall I thought the part of the book that we read was well-written and put together in a meticulously brilliant fashion.

What can we learn from reading this book?


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn teaches us not to simply conform to the ways of society and become so narrow minded that we can't create our own opinions and ideas on topics such as slavery that was portrayed in this book, but instead open our minds to the millions of possibilities out there. Huck goes against the beliefs of society by helping a runaway slave and follows his heart instead of his upbringing. Also, it reminds us that sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we forget and don't ever know who we truly are. Huck goes from being civilized with the Widow Douglas to the opposite end of the spectrum with pap smoking in his secluded log cabin. Neither place seems to fit him so he travels in another direction, down the river by himself, then with Jim in order to continue searching for his true identity. The book indirectly teaches us to find our true selves instead of just settling for whatever or wherever we are currently at.

Essential Questions:

What role does society play in shaping who we are?

Many people live their lives without considering their own thoughts or beliefs, but instead going with the ideas that most people believe. They are swept up in the rush of society's strength and don't take the time to truly deeply think about what is going on, but instead think with the mindset that if everyone else is doing or buying it, then it must be right. Very few people stray from the way our society works. Depending on the society you have been brought up in, you may have different values and morals just because that is what you were taught to do when you were young and couldn't make your own choices. The society forms us into the people we are today whether we like that image or not, but that doesn't mean we can't change it.

What does freedom mean to you?

Freedom means the ability to act and believe without worry or fear that your life could be in danger. A free man shouldn't have to run away from someone or something like Jim did. Freedom doesn't just mean physically like with slavery, but it also occurs in the mind and spirit. Someone may be classified as free according to the law, but have something that is holding them back whether it be a signed commitment made to a job or a thought in your mind that just won't leave you. Addictions take your freedom away from you because they steal at mind and body and don't let it go, however it is much easier to free yourself of these things today than it was from slavery because you do have the choice to do so in some instances.

How do you go about making important decisions?

I try to carefully think through all of the possible options that I have and outcomes that could occur. The decision that gives the people around me the least trouble and pain in the end is the one I go with because I think that even though it is important to help yourself out, you will never be happy with a decision that lets the people around you suffer. I would have done the same thing as Huck and lied about Jim to save him because I would never want to hurt a friend like that.

What does Huck Finn teach us about what it means to be human?

By befriending and helping Jim, Huck shows us that a human is someone who you can share your time and thoughts with no matter what label they are given in society. Slaves during the time period Huck lived in were not considered to be humans but instead property by the majority of the people then. They have always had ownership of them and don't put them on the same "rank". Huck on the contrary knows inside of him that they are people to and should be treated like that. His kindness shows towards Jim shows us that we should treat everyone with the respect of being human even if they don't act up to the standards that we have put in place for ourselves.