The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel about a young boy's coming of age in the Missouri of the mid-1800's. The main
character, Huckleberry Finn, spends much time in the novel floating
down the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim.
Before he does so, however, Huck spends some time in the fictional
town of St. Petersburg where a number of people attempt to influence
him.

Before the novel begins, Huck Finn has led a life of absolute
freedom. His drunken and often missing father has never paid much
attention to him; his mother is dead and so, when the novel begins,
Huck is not used to following any rules. The book's opening finds Huck
living with the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson. Both women
are fairly old and are really somewhat incapable of raising a
rebellious boy like Huck Finn. Nevertheless, they attempt to make Huck
into what they believe will be a better boy. Specifically, they
attempt, as Huck says, to "sivilize" him. This process includes making
Huck go to school, teaching him various religious facts, and making
him act in a way that the women find socially acceptable. Huck, who
has never had to follow many rules in his life, finds the demands the
women place upon him constraining and the life with them lonely. As
a result, soon after he first moves in with them, he runs away. He
soon comes back, but, even though he becomes somewhat comfortable with
his new life as the months go by, Huck never really enjoys the life of
manners, religion, and education that the Widow and her sister impose
upon him.

Huck believes he will find some freedom with Tom Sawyer. Tom is a
boy of Huck's age who promises Huck and other boys of the town a life
of adventure. Huck is eager to join Tom Sawyer's Gang because he feels
that doing so will allow him to escape the somewhat boring life he
leads with the Widow Douglas. Unfortunately, such an escape does not
occur. Tom Sawyer promises much-robbing stages, murdering and
ransoming people, kidnaping beautiful women-but none of this comes to
pass. Huck finds out too late that Tom's adventures are imaginary:
that raiding a caravan of "A-rabs" really means terrorizing young
children on a Sunday school picnic, that stolen "joolry" is nothing
more than turnips or rocks. Huck is disappointed that the adventures
Tom promises are not real and so, along with the other members, he
resigns from the gang.

Another person who tries to get Huckleberry Finn to change is Pap,
Huck's father. Pap is one of the most astonishing figures in all of
American literature as he is completely antisocial and wishes to undo
all of the civilizing effects that the Widow and Miss Watson have
attempted to instill in Huck. Pap is a mess: he is unshaven; his hair
is uncut and hangs like vines in front of his face; his skin, Huck
says, is white like a fish's belly or like a tree toad's. Pap's savage
appearance reflects his feelings as he demands that Huck quit school,
stop reading, and avoid church. Huck is able to stay away from Pap for
a while, but Pap kidnaps Huck three or four months after Huck starts
to live with the Widow and takes him to a lonely cabin deep in the
Missouri woods. Here, Huck enjoys, once again, the freedom that he had
prior to the beginning of the book. He can smoke, "laze around,"
swear, and, in general, do what he wants to do. However, as he did
with the Widow and with Tom, Huck begins to become dissatisfied with
this life. Pap is "too handy with the hickory" and Huck soon realizes
that he will have to escape from the cabin if he wishes to remain
alive. As a result of his concern, Huck makes it appear as if he is
killed in the cabin while Pap is away, and leaves to go to a remote
island in the Mississippi River, Jackson's Island.

It is after he leaves his father's cabin that Huck joins yet
another important influence in his life: Miss Watson's slave, Jim.
Prior to Huck's leaving, Jim has been