Analaysis of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

March 13, 2012
Throughout Huckleberry Finn’s adventures down the Mississippi River, Huck is unconsciously but vigorously searching for a family to love and care for him. Because his father is abusive, Huck no longer considers him an element of his family. “I didn't want to see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on me” (11). Huck has never experienced a loving family and realizes that there is a gaping hole in his life. He has become self-reliant for most everything, but still relies on others to fill his need to be loved. During his adventures on the Mississippi, Huck Finn encounters one family after another and appears to try various familial situations and comes to recognize the unmatchable strength of the bonds he and his friends share, thus replacing his missing family with his friends.
At the outset of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck’s pseudo-family consists of Miss Watson, the Widow Douglas, and Judge Thatcher. Huck does not consider his pseudo-family a real family, although each of them cares for his well-being and safety. It can be noted in the following quote that they try to protect him from his father, “He got to hanging around the widow's too much and so she told him at last that if he didn't quit using around there she would make trouble for him” (23). Miss Watson and Widow Douglas each act as a mother to Huck. They promise to civilize him and correspondingly put him under their wings. Although Huck may not enjoy Miss Watson constantly nagging at him, or the Widow Douglas offering her encouragement along with her strict rules, Huck genuinely respects and desires to please them. Similarly, Judge Thatcher and Huck have a father-son relationship. When Huck feels something bad is about to happen, he literally runs to the judge (16). Consequently, it seems that Miss Watson, the Widow Douglas, and Judge Thatcher have Huck’s best interests at heart and begin to fill the absence of a much needed family.
One of Huck’s strongest family-like bonds is with his best friend Tom Sawyer. Although Tom is the same age, Huck looks to him as an older brother. Tom is raised in relative comfort. His beliefs are an unfortunate combination of what he has learned from the adults around him and the far-fetched ideas he has gathered from reading adventure novels. Tom believes in sticking strictly to the rules but his sense for grand adventures brings great companionship for Huck. Sometimes Huck is frustrated with Tom due to his unbending obedience to rules and principles, which contrasts with Huck’s tendency to question society’s teachings and think for himself. Tom presents to Huck an additional system of rules, and yet another insistence of how things ought to be. Tom’s passion for adventure and unconscious wittiness, replaces a missing brother in Huck’s absent family.
As Huck travels down the Mississippi River with Jim, the run away slave, they gain a deep connection that grows from a friendship into a family bond. It takes Huck some time to appreciate Jim as a person and not as property. Jim is always compassionate and caring from the start. In caring for Huck, Jim becomes a replacement father, as well as a friend. That becomes evident when they find the dead man, (Huck’s father) when Jim shelters Huck from seeing the corpse. Despite the fact Jim is in constant fear of slavery, he is willing to give up his dreams in order to help Huck. When Huck gets lost in the fog Jim says, “My heart wuz mos' broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no' mo' what become er me en de raf” (85). Jim’s actions show he is willing to sacrifice his freedom and family for Huck. Understandably, we see Huck happily slides away from the ties of his biological father to the unorthodox father figure of a run-away slave, who provides a good example, safety, and most importantly, love.
Because of his poor family life, Huck eagerly embeds himself in the families of others like the Grangerfords, Wilks, and Phelps. When Huck stumbles into the Grangerfords’ lives, the family welcomes, feeds, and rooms Huck with an amiable boy his age, and makes him feel safe. Huck, “liked that family, dead ones and all, and warn’t going to let anything come between us” (103). While at the Wilk’s, Huck discovers the plot of the two con-men that attempt to steal the family’s riches. Huck compassion leads him to reveal the con-men’s plot to Mary Jane. Mary Jane stands firm and takes control of the unfortunate money situation. She represents one of the strongest women in the novel and holds a soft spot in Huck’s heart. Once Huck arrives at the Phelps, Aunt Sally “grabbed me and hugged me tight; and then gripped me by both hands and shook and shook” (220). Huck begins to see her as a motherly figure and attempts to behave as good as a son (278). Towards the end he doesn’t think he can stand to be taken in by this lovely family, given their civilized ways. Huck, forging down the river, continually tries to embrace part of yet another family.
Huck’s journey along the river and the tales he tells about family, are all part of his search for the perfect home and family. Having left an abusive father, Huck develops family-like bonds with various people in the novel, including Miss Watson, the Widow Douglas, Judge Thatcher, Tom Sawyer, Jim, the Grangerfords, Mary Jane, and Aunt Sally. Interestingly enough, Huck’s search for the perfect family ends in his realization that he already has a perfect family among his friends, the people who care about him.

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