Huckleberry Finn - The Uniting of Theme and Plot

In Mark Twain's novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain develops the plot into Huck and Jim's adventures allowing him to weave in his criticism of society. The two main characters, Huck and Jim, both run from social injustice and both are distrustful of the civilization around them. Huck is considered an uneducated backwards boy, constantly under pressure to conform to the "humanized" surroundings of society. Jim a slave, is not even considered as a real person, but as property. As they run from civilization and are on the river, they ponder the social injustices forced upon them when they are on land.

These social injustices are even more evident when Huck and Jim have to make landfall, and this provides Twain with the chance to satirize the socially correct injustices that Huck and Jim encounter on land. The satire that Twain uses to expose the hypocrisy, racism, greed and injustice of society develops along with the adventures that Huck and Jim have. The ugly reflection of society we see should make us question the world we live in, and only the journey down the river provides us with that chance.

Throughout the book we see the hypocrisy of society. The first character we come across with that trait is Miss Watson. Miss Watson constantly corrects Huck for his unacceptable behavior, but Huck doesn't understand why, "That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it" (2). Later when Miss Watson tries to teach Huck about Heaven, he decides against trying to go there, "...she was going to live so as to go the good place. Well, I couldn't see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn't try for it." (3) The comments made by Huck clearly show Miss Watson as a hypocrite, scolding Huck for wanting to smoke and then using snuff herself and firmly believing that she would be in heaven.

When Huck encounters the Grangerfords and Shepardsons, Huck describes Colonel Grangerford as, "...a gentleman, you see. He was a gentleman all over; and so was his family. He was well born, as the saying is, and that's worth as much in a man as it is in a horse..." (104). You can almost hear the sarcasm from Twain in Huck's description of Colonel Grangerford. Later Huck is becoming aware of the hypocrisy of the family and its feud with the Shepardsons when Huck attends church. He is amazed that while the minister preaches about brotherly love both the Grangerfords and Shepardsons are carrying weapons. Finally when the feud erupts into a gunfight, Huck sits in a tree, disgusted by the waste and cruelty of the feud, "It made me so sick I most fell out of the tree...I wished I hadn't ever come ashore that night to see such things."

Nowhere else is Twain's voice heard more clearly than as a mob gathers at the house of Colonel Sherburn to lynch him. Here we hear the full force of Twain's thoughts on the hypocrisy an cowardice of society, "The idea of you lynching anybody! It's amusing. The idea of you thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a man!...The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that's what an army is- a mob; they don't fight with courage that's born in them, but with courage that's borrowed from their mass, and from their officers. But a mob without any man at the head of it is beneath pitifulness" (146-147). Each of these examples finds Huck again running to freedom of the river. The river never cares how saintly you are, how rich you are, or what society thinks you are. The river allows Huck the one thing that Huck wants to be, and that is Huck. The river is freedom than the land is oppression, and that oppression is no more evident than it is to Jim.

It is somewhat surprising that Huck's traveling companion is Jim. As anti-society that Huck is, you would think that he would have no qualms about helping Jim. But Huck has to have feelings that slavery is correct so we can see the ignorance of racial bigotry. Huck and Jim's journey begins as Huck fights within himself about turning Jim over to the authorities. Finally he decides not to