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Posts: 1
Registered: ‎05-31-2007
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Huck as a white slave

I'm a little late to the party with this, but some rambling and random things about Huck Finn:

1. As far as the veneer/Huck's relation to society. I think that Twain presents Huck as a sort of Hester Prynne character: since Huck isn't completely "sivilized" he also isn't completely racist. Since Hester is an outcast she's able to do and think things that other women can't.

However, Huck still shows vestiges of his racist upbringing and society's influence: "I knowed he was white inside" when Jim decides to help Tom after Tom has been shot . . . Huck being surprised that Jim loves his family like white people do . . . Huck's assertion that you can't learn a slave to argue . . . etc etc. Despite this, Huck still helps Jim and befriends him on a significant level. I think that what's significant is how the mob mentality plays into this. Twain shows the mob time and again (Boggs, the Royal Nunsuch, escaping from the Wilkes episode when the crowd rushes to see the gold) and on many levels, slavery (and Huck's acceptance of it) reflects the way the mob mentality is very responsible for societal beliefs. In many ways, Huck is part of the mob (racist, doesn't ever completely reject slavery) and at odds with it ("alright, then, I'll go to Hell," and his constant worry about what people will think if they discover that he's helping Jim escape). I also think that Twain lumps religion into this mob mentality, but that's a whole other topic.

2. I wonder if we can see Huck as a sort of white slave. As a homeless, outcast, orphan-son-of-the-town-drunk, his status isn't much higher than Jim's. (In Tom Sawyer he actually confesses to sitting down and eating with the slaves but implores Tom not to tell). Granted, he is adopted, but I still think that he's thought of as a sort of sub-class. Several things make Huck seem like a white slave:

A. Pap's claim that Huck should live with him when he goes to the courts centers on property rights. Huck is Pap's property and therefore should reside (and his money too!) with Pap.

B. Mrs. Loftus thinks that Huck is a runaway apprentice. If memory serves, an apprenticeship in these times, while not perfectly analogous, was a sort of slavery, or at least an indentured servitude. I love how Mrs Loftus is willing to help the white slave (Huck), but not the black slave.

C. This is a weaker point, but At spots in the novel, Jim orders Huck around somewhat like a slave. Something to the effect of "Jim told me to use my saw to cut the fish open." Minor, but interesting.

D. On the Phelps farm, Tom certainly orders Huck around as though he's a servant. In the butter episode Huck says that they can do without the butter and Tom essentialy orders him to get it, not to mention all the other things that Tom orders Huck to do (Huck helps Jim with the gindstone while Tom "superintends")

3. This has been analyzed to death, but Twain's extensive use of the n word is Twain being a realist/regionalist, nothing more, nothing less. He couldn't have been a realist and not used the word--present day racist implications and problems be dammed. When his book was originally rejected it was because of the dialect and "rough content" not the n word. The n word debate is a modern debate that centers on if the novel has a place in schools (obviously, it does, but obviously, I'm biased). What makes Twain's realism (and I think he's a bit more fantastic than most Realists) more apparent is the way that he rejects Tom's Romanticism. Tom's ideas on the Phelps farm are stupid. They come from romantic books that Tom reads (and doesn't completely understand). Therefore, the books that Tom reads are stupid. Twain is doing a lot of things in this novel, one of them is Championing realism and panning Romanticism.
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