On this Day:
In 1884, the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain was first published in the UK and Canada (In the USA this occurred in Feb 1885, due to a printing error).
Huckleberry “Huck” Finn is a fictional character created by Mark Twain who first appeared in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and is the protagonist and narrator of its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). He is 12 or 13 years old during the former and a year older (“thirteen or fourteen or along there”, Chapter 17) at the time of the latter. Huck also narrates Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective, two shorter sequels to the first two books.
Huckleberry “Huck” Finn is the son of the town’s vagrant drunkard, “Pap” Finn. Sleeping on doorsteps when the weather is fair, in empty hogsheads during storms, and living off of what he receives from others, Huck lives the life of a destitute vagabond. The author metaphorically names him “the juvenile pariah of the village” and describes Huck as “idle, and lawless, and vulgar, and bad”, qualities for which he was admired by all the other children in the village, although their mothers “cordially hated and dreaded” him.
Huck is an archetypal innocent, able to discover the “right” thing to do despite the prevailing theology and prejudiced mentality of the South of that era. An example of this is his decision to help Jim escape slavery, even though he believes he will go to Hell for it.
His appearance is described in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He wears the clothes of full-grown men which he probably received as charity, and as Twain describes him, “he was fluttering with rags.” He has a torn, broken hat and his trousers are supported with only one suspender. Even Tom Sawyer, the St. Petersburg hamlet boys’ leader sees him as “the banished Romantic”.
Tom’s Aunt Polly calls Huck a “poor motherless thing.” Huck confesses to Tom in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that he remembers his mother and his parents’ relentless fighting that stopped only when she died.
Huck has a carefree life free from societal norms or rules, stealing watermelons and chickens and “borrowing” (stealing) boats and cigars. Due to his unconventional childhood, Huck has received almost no education. At the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck is adopted by the Widow Douglas, who sends him to school in return for his saving her life. In the course of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn he learns enough to be literate and reads books for entertainment. His knowledge of history as related to Jim is inaccurate but it is not specified if he is being wrong on purpose or as a joke on Jim.
In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the Widow attempts to “sivilize” [sic] the newly wealthy Huck. Huck’s father takes him from her, but Huck manages to fake his own death and escape to Jackson’s Island, where he coincidentally meets up with Jim, a slave who was owned by the Widow Douglas’ sister, Miss Watson.
Jim is running away because he overheard Miss Watson planning to “sell him South” for eight hundred dollars. Jim wants to escape to Cairo, Illinois, where he can find work to eventually buy his family’s freedom. Huck and Jim take a raft down the Mississippi River, planning to head north on the Ohio River, in hopes of finding freedom from slavery for Jim and freedom from Pap for Huck. Their adventures together, along with Huck’s solo adventures, comprise the core of the book.
In the end, however, Jim gains his freedom through Miss Watson’s death, as she freed him in her will. Pap, it is revealed, has died in Huck’s absence, and although he could safely return to St. Petersburg, Huck plans to flee west to Indian Territory.
In Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective, the sequels to Huck Finn, however, Huck is living in St. Petersburg again after the events of his eponymous novel. In Abroad, Huck joins Tom and Jim for a wild, fanciful balloon ride that takes them overseas. In Detective, which occurs about a year after the events of Huck Finn, Huck helps Tom solve a murder mystery.
Huck is Tom Sawyer’s closest friend. Their friendship is partially rooted in Sawyer’s emulation of Huck’s freedom and ability to do what he wants, like swearing and smoking when he feels like it. In one moment in the novel, he openly brags to his teacher that he was late for school because he stopped to talk with Huck Finn and enjoyed it, something for which he knew he would (and did) receive a whipping. Nonetheless, Tom remains a devoted friend to Huck in all of the novels they appear in. In Huckleberry Finn, it’s revealed that Huck also considers Tom to be his best friend. At various times in the novel, Huck mentions that Tom would put more “style” in Jim and his adventure.
Jim, a runaway slave whom Huck befriends, is another dominant force in Huck’s life. He is the symbol for the moral awakening Huck undergoes throughout Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This is seen when Huck considers sending a letter to Ms. Watson telling her where Jim is but ultimately chooses to rip it up despite the idea in the south that one who tries helping a slave escape will be sent to eternal punishment.
Pap Finn is Huck’s abusive, drunken father who shows up at the beginning of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and forcibly takes his son to live with him. Pap’s only method of parenting is physical abuse. Although he seems derisive of education and civilized living, Pap seems to be jealous of Huck and is infuriated that his son would try to amount to more, and live in better conditions than he did. Despite this, early in the novel Huck uses his father’s method of “borrowing” though he later feels sorry and stops.
The character of Huck Finn is based on Tom Blankenship, the real-life son of a sawmill laborer and sometime drunkard named Woodson Blankenship, who lived in a “ramshackle” house near the Mississippi River behind the house where the author grew up in Hannibal, Missouri.
Twain mentions his childhood friend Tom Blankenship as the inspiration for creating Huckleberry Finn in his autobiography: “In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy’s.” – Mark Twain’s Autobiography (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
“All kings is mostly rapscallions, as fur as I can make out.” – Huck Finn
Second, a Song:
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. He was lauded as the “greatest humorist the United States has produced,” and William Faulkner called him “the father of American literature”. His novels include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), the latter of which has often been called the “Great American Novel”.
Twain was raised in Hannibal, Missouri, which later provided the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He served an apprenticeship with a printer and then worked as a typesetter, contributing articles to the newspaper of his older brother Orion Clemens. He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River before heading west to join Orion in Nevada. He referred humorously to his lack of success at mining, turning to journalism for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. His humorous story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was published in 1865, based on a story that he heard at Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, where he had spent some time as a miner. The short story brought international attention and was even translated into French. His wit and satire, in prose and in speech, earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
Twain earned a great deal of money from his writings and lectures but invested in ventures that lost most of it—such as the Paige Compositor, a mechanical typesetter that failed because of its complexity and imprecision. He filed for bankruptcy in the wake of these financial setbacks, but in time overcame his financial troubles with the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers. He eventually paid all his creditors in full, even though his bankruptcy relieved him of having to do so. Twain was born shortly after an appearance of Halley’s Comet, and he predicted that he would “go out with it” as well; he died the day after the comet made its closest approach to the Earth.
Here is the theatrical trailer to Walt Disney’s “The Adventures Of Huck Finn”. Written and Directed by Stephen Sommers. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“I do not wish any reward but to know I have done the right thing.” – Huck Finn
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky
Leave a Reply