Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and its social influence during civil war

The novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was initially published in
the year 1884 in the United Kingdom and in 1885 in the United States.
The novel was written by Mark Twain, and it is generally named as one of
the great novels in America literature. Twain’s work is portrayed by
local color regionalism and it was written down using dialect English
(Carey-Webb 22-34). One of the features that distinguish the book is the
use of colorful portrayal of places and persons alongside the
Mississippi River. Twain’s work is a scathing satire rooted on people
attitudes and behaviors to others such as racism (Fishkin 11). Since the
novel was published, it has received a wide array of criticism from
literary commentators. Upon its publication, it was condemned due to its
use of vulgar language. During the twentieth century, it turned out to
be extremely contentious as a result of its alleged employment of racial
stereotypes (Cox 87-108). Furthermore, its regular employment of the
word “nigger” was deemed to be a racial affront therefore was also a
basis of its criticism.
Although the book was published after the civil wars of 1861 to 1865, it
is set during the pre-wars years. The novel investigates the aspects of
identity and racism. It has been criticized by some academics as racist,
who have also emphasized the stereotypical “humorous” behavior of
Jim’s ignorance and superstition (Cox 87-108). The author went through
moral conversion and according to him, slavery was not good. With
reference to this, he believed that white Americans were obligated to
compensate black Americans for their ill treatment.
According to Mark Twain, having a sound heart is much significant and
acts as a surer guide as compared to an ill-trained conscience. He
depicts his book as a collision between a deformed conscience and a
sound heart, and the former is overpowered by the latter. The paper
focuses on a general overview of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and its
social influence during the civil war.
Synopsis
The novel starts with the conclusion of Tom’s adventures. Afterward,
he and Huck Finn find a treasure which gives them $6000 each (Twain 2).
Huck did not realize that the money would be the root of his numerous
problems. As a result of money, Huck is kidnapped and abused by his
father who intends to use his windfall. He employs his native
intelligence to deal with all the problems that he experienced. After he
decided to escape towards Jackson’s Island, he met with Jim, another
escapee. Jim, who was enslaved by Miss Watson, was escaping in search
for freedom and from the apprehension that he would be sold in south
thus be taken apart from his family. Jim and Huck propelled toward
sovereignty. During this time, Huck inquires regarding what the world
acknowledges as wrong and right. He decides to take up such traits as
kindness, friendship, love, as well as freedom (Fishkin 24-28). During
their adventure, the two encountered with slave hunters, murderers,
accidents, heavy fog, as well as wrecked ships. Besides, alongside the
Mississippi River, Jim and Huck experienced violence, cruelty, hardship
and trickery.
Huck struggles both with the problems of his laborious journey, and with
the social climate of the nineteenth century. The entire novel portrays
Huck as a character who is in moral clash with the perceived societal
values. Although he is not able to rebut such values on purpose even on
his opinions, he crafts a moral decision founded on his assessment of
human worth and his friendship with Jim. The decision he made directly
opposed what he had been taught earlier. The adventures of Jim and Huck
are full of life lessons. Some of the lessons encompass anticipation for
freedom, reminiscence of friends and family, loss and pain of missed
chances, vindictiveness that they experienced, as well as moral
dilemmas. In spite of these concerns, they were able to meet kind
strangers, enjoyed life comfort and beautiful nights and days of
extensive conversations. Besides, they were able to build genuine
friendship.
Social Influence during Civil War
By reading the novel, it is evident that it had great social influence
during the civil war. This has been evidenced by various factors
including the setting of the novel, its focus on the theme of slavery,
friendship that grew between Jim (a black slave) and Huck (a white boy),
the post-war reconstruction era, as well as the enslavement of Huck by
his father (Fishkin 28). The analysis of these factors shows how Twain
has tried to put across and ridicule the issue of slavery and the
ill-treatment of the slaves by their oppressors.
Twain has positioned his work at the middle of the American geography as
well as its realization. Through this, the readers are necessitated to
comprehend various aspects linked with pre-Civil War. For instance, such
notions as slavery, slave and free states, and the division of the
Mississippi River are all evident in the novel and are symbolic of the
civil war. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is connected with the
history of America and this is evidenced by the trials endured in the
book (Fishkin 10). The timing when the book was published also relates
to the history of America. For instance, the setting itself is during
the pre-Civil War period and it depicted the challenges faced by a slave
and a child and their similarity during the time. In America, the civil
war took place between the years 1861 to 1865 (Keegan 36). The war was
caused by a number of slave states located in southern America who
announced their secession and established the American Confederate
States. The remaining states were referred to as the “North”. The
root of the civil war was the subject of slavery that greatly irritated
the southern states. In addition, the war erupted after slavery was
extended into the western regions. The civil war lasted for four years
from which more harm and destruction was recorded. It was evidenced that
more than 600,000 soldiers died whilst the South’s infrastructure was
damaged (Keegan 42-54). The war also resulted in the collapse of the
Confederacy states, abolition of slavery, and the beginning of the
reconstruction procedure. The latter was aimed at bringing back national
unity, in addition to assuring human rights to the slaves who had been
freed.
In spite of the fact that the novel was written two decades after the
happening of the civil war, it is evidenced that America and
particularly the southern region continued to struggle with racism as
well as the repercussions of slavery. The process of reconstruction that
began immediately following the war had not attained any success at the
beginning of 1880s. The plan was aimed at putting back together the
United States and incorporating the freed slaves back into the society.
However, this plan had struck a shaky ground. Race relation was a
characteristic of Twain’s novel (Carey-Webb 22-34). After the civil
war, race relations appeared to take a positive path but it turned out
to be strained as time passed by. In the southern region, the power of
blacks was limited in a number of indirect methods through the
formulation and enforcement of Jim Crow laws. This initiated novel and
dangerous efforts of oppressing people. The novel racial discrimination
of the southern region was deemed to be less massive and
institutionalized and therefore, more complicated to deal with. Although
slavery was forbidden, white Southerners designed and endorsed new
racist policies and laws with the aim of defending themselves from the
freed blacks (Carey-Webb 22-34). This behavior was not perceived as
immoral both by people from Southern and Northern regions and as such,
they did not rush to fight it.
Notwithstanding the fact that the novel was written after the abolition
of slavery, the setting was done a number of decades before, a time that
was characterized by extensive slavery. Nevertheless, during the
publication of the novel, the notion of slavery continued to be rampant
although it received little attention. This was evidenced by the reason
that nothing had changed for blacks living in the southern region. With
reference to this, the illustration of slavery by Twain can be said to
be a symbolic account of the living conditions amongst blacks in America
even after slavery was abolished. The novel illustrates how Jim, who was
moral and noble, is placed by slavery in charge of white society
regardless of the fact that it was a tainted society (MacLeod 5-16). In
the same way, the sinister racism that came up at the conclusion of the
reconstruction process oppressed black people for duplicitous and
irrational reasons. Twain has exposed the insincerity of slavery and by
doing so, he has demonstrated how both the oppressors and oppressed are
distorted by racism. He concludes that this gives rise to a globe full
of moral mystification, wherein some white persons including Sally
Phelps and Watson who are apparently labeled as good did not show any
concern regarding the unfairness of slavery which separates people from
their loved ones (Carey-Webb 22-34).
During the civil war, slavery was among the major concerns. In fact, it
was the basis of the war. The publication of Twain’s work took place
just a few years after the war. In his novel, Twain can be said to be
anti-slavery in spite of the fact that his father kept slaves while
Twain was still a child. The hypocrisy necessitated to overlook slavery
is highlighted in a seemingly moral system. In this, Huck is enslaved,
isolated, and beaten by his father. After running away in search of
freedom, he met with Jim who was also escaping from slavery. According
to the author, slavery is immoral and he illustrates this through the
use of various characters such as Jim and Huck. All through the novel
Huck is followed by a key moral dilemma that he had to decide on. Twain
ridicules slavery as well as the manner in which the slaves were
treated. In the story, Miss Watson owns a slave although she is
respected as a superior Christian person. Jim, who was Miss Watson’s
slave escaped after hearing that he was to be sold to the New Orleans
(Twain 4). Twain’s criticism of slavery had a great social influence
on the civil war in which slavery was rampant. He wanted to put his
point across regarding the dangers of slavery thus, assist in the
reconstruction process of the region.
Slavery is one of the themes depicted in the novel. It was written
during post-war reconstruction period. The reason as to why Twain wrote
the novel regarding slavery was to offer a backdrop of the
reconstruction era thus, offering insights about the struggles and
challenges faced by blacks during and after the war. With regards to
this, Twain’s novel regarding slavery as well as the friendship that
grew between Jim (black slave) and Huck (white boy) is of relevance to
the civil war. The concerns of race are illustrated by Twain and he has
put forth across the immorality of the institution of slavery. He has
used satire that is depicted by the hypocrisy of the Southern region and
American at large by allowing slavery in the seemingly “land of the
free” (Sloane 46). Deviously, Twain wonders whether an adequate action
was attained by abolishing slavery after the war. According to him,
racism continued to be rampant especially in the decades following the
civil war.
Slave and spiritual songs are a major characteristic of the novel. These
songs provided some light into the living conditions as well as the
treatment of the slaves. They also acted as messages of hope. For
instance, “Follow the Drinking Gourd” is one of the songs used in
the novel. The song denotes the gourds employed by the slaves to drink
water whilst working in the fields. The song also denotes the “Big
Dipper” and offers directions to the slaves to run away and find their
way alongside the Ohio River. Spiritual songs encouraged the slaves and
acted as a basis of hope. They denoted the attainment of liberty through
faith, escaping, and death. The majority were left fatherless and
motherless by slavery. As a result, these songs were extremely
sorrowful. The use of slave and spiritual songs in the novel relates to
the civil war in that such songs were a characteristic of the civil war.
Slaves engaged in various songs to mourn their loved ones, to portray
the conditions they lived in and the treatment they received from their
oppressors, and in search for freedom. The lives of the slaves in the
novel were similar to the lives of the slaves during the civil war. They
all had a similar mission, to search for freedom by escaping. Whilst Jim
and Huck escaped alongside the Mississippi River, during the civil war,
slaves escaped through the Ohio River.
The society is demonstrated by Twain as a corruptor. This is illustrated
by Huck’s father who is neither a suitable role model, nor a caring
father. He enslaves and beats his son and rather than supporting and
demonstrating his delight in Huck’s attainment in school, he declares
to extract it from him (Twain 26). Certainly, such behavior can be
linked to societal standards. In the novel, the society has christened
Huck’s father as useless and by ridiculing his son, he feels he would
attain pre-eminence over him. Similar to Huck’s father, whites during
the civil war tried to show their superiority towards black people by
enslaving them. This was so because the most wealthy and intelligent
people were the ones rewarded by a standard society. During that time,
society had overlooked the issue of slavery and as such, it was deemed
appropriate by some people. According to Budd (1), manipulation of
reality resulted into the acceptance of slavery even among Christians
such as Miss Walton.
Conclusion
From the above discussion, it is certain that Twains’ novel, the
Adventure of Huckleberry Finn had great social influence during civil
war. This is notwithstanding the fact that it has received a wide array
of criticism from literary commentators. For instance, upon its
publication, it was condemned due to its use of vulgar language. During
the twentieth century, it turned out to be extremely contentious as a
result of its alleged employment of racial stereotypes.
The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn is connected with the history of
America and this is evidenced by the trials endured in the book. The
timing of publishing the novel also relates to the history of America.
For instance, the setting itself is done during the pre-Civil War period
and it depicted the challenges faced by a slave and a child and their
similarity during the time. While the novel was written two decades
after the occurrence of the civil war, it is evidenced that America and
particularly the southern region continued to struggle with racism as
well as the repercussions of slavery. The process of reconstruction that
began immediately following the war had not attained any success at the
beginning of 1880s. Although slavery was forbidden, white Southerners
designed and endorsed new racist policies and laws with the aim of
defending themselves from the freed blacks. In the southern region, the
power of blacks was limited in a number of indirect methods through the
formulation and enforcement of Jim Crow laws, initiating novel and
dangerous efforts of oppressing people. This behavior was nevertheless
condemned at the time.
The illustration of slavery by Twain can be said to be a symbolic
account of the living conditions amongst blacks in America even after
slavery was abolished. The novel illustrates how Jim, who was moral and
noble, is placed by slavery in charge of white society regardless of the
fact that it was a tainted society. In the same way, the sinister racism
that came up at the conclusion of the reconstruction process oppressed
black people for duplicitous and irrational reasons. Twain has exposed
the insincerity of slavery and by doing so, he has demonstrated how both
the oppressors and oppressed are distorted by racism. According to the
author, slavery is immoral and he illustrates this through the use of
various characters such as Jim and Huck. Twain wrote the novel regarding
slavery in order to offer a backdrop of the reconstruction era thus,
offering insights about the struggles and challenges faced by blacks
during and after the war. With regards to this, Twain’s novel
regarding slavery as well as the friendship that grew between Jim and
Huck is of relevance to the civil war.
Works Cited
Budd, Louis J. Reading Huckleberry Finn: The Rhetoric of Performed
Ideology CUP 1991. Web. 5 January 2014.
yes&ResultsID=1123AE02035&forAuthor=0&QueryName=reference&ItemNumber=5>
Carey-Webb, Allen. Racism and Huckleberry Finn: Censorship, Dialogue,
and Change. English Journal 82, 1993: 22-34.
Cox, James M. A Hard Book to Take: Modern Critical Interpretations of
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Chelsea House Publishers,
1986, 87-108.
Fishkin, Shelley Fisher. Teaching Mark Twain’s Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn. Web. 5 January 2014.

Fishkin, Shelley Fisher. Was Huck Black: Mark Twain and African-American
Voices. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Keegan, John, The American Civil War: A Military History. New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
MacLeod, Christine. Telling the Truth in a Tight Place: Huckleberry
Finn and the Reconstruction Era. The Southern Quarterly 34, 1995:
5-16.
Sloane, David E. Student Companion to Mark Twain. Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 2001.
Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: With an Introduction and
Contemporary Criticism. Ignatius Press, 2009.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Saddleback
Educational Publications, 1998.
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