While we today may consider Huckleberry Finn to be a book for teenagers I believe that when Mark Twain wrote it in 1885 the implied reader was the white upper-class females. This is based on both the historic facts and the themes of the book. Slavery is a huge theme in this book, and even though it was written decades after slavery was abolished the situation hadn’t changed all that much. And this book, which was set back in time, is telling a truth about the attitude towards black people.
Even descent up standing people in a society like Miss Watson did not care about the cruelty and injustice of selling people and separating them from their families. Language is a big part in his book, Mark Twain makes his characters more authentic and the story more real by using dialects for example Jims Missouri negro dialct and the upper-class speech way spoken by miss watson, the Wilks and many more. While these dialects adds layers to the characters it does make me question that Huck could actually have written it, the language is to good for an uneducated thirteen year old.
And for the implied reader giving Jim a dialect not used by the implied reader, while that might not have been Twains target, it makes it tougher to relate to him as a character. A great debate that has been surrounding this book was the use of the N-word. I, as a non native English speaker in 2011, didn’t take special note to the use of the word, and I don’t think the intended reader did either- black people were not respected when this book came out, and I don’t think anyone cared what happened to them, or what they were called, but Hucks use of the word shows an ignorance and naivety in him.
I don’t feel as if Huck ever considered the meaning of it, it’s just a word describing someone. “I didn’t answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn’t come. I tried, for a second or two, to brace up and out with it, but I warn’t man enough – hadn’t the spunk of rabbit. I see he was weakening; so I just give up trying, and up says: ‘he’s white’ ” (Twain 93) When I read it I am surprised that Huck is considering himself weak for not obeying the law but rather saving his friend and travel mate.
While the intended reader might not understand why Huck couldn’t turn him in, and be shocked that he didn’t! I see Huck as a nice boy with his heart in the right places who uses his ability to spin a lie, to me his lies are justified and morally correct because they work as a part of his survival instinct. It’s shown in several parts of the book, when he lies to pap about why he has the gun, he lies about his name several times, and he hides the truth from Jim when he doesn’t tell him that the Duke and the Dauphine isn’t really a Duke and a Dauphine, he even manages to fake his own death.
Hucks ability to solve problems, his realistic view on the world, his ability to spin lies and his sense of moral is what gets him down the river. Back to the quote I don’t think the intended reader would look at this action as fondly, I believe the intended reader would see his actions as immature and stupid. The biggest turning point in this story or at least the turning point creating the story of Huck travelling down the river was papa showing up.
Personally I was not surprised by pap showing up, not being dead, there was plenty of foreshadowing – Huck giving up is money, Huck saying he didn’t think he’s father was alive. I expected him to show up. Hadn’t pap been a person of interest he wouldn’t have been mentioned. Nor do I think pap showing up was meant to be a surprise, and I think the intended reader was supposed to sympathies with the widow when Huck was taking away which would also make them feel for Huck and what he was going through, causing them not to dismiss his thoughts and actions as simply childish and irrational.
Huckleberry Finn does not dismiss or forget the people he has run away from, but he doesn’t feel like he belong and as long as he is there he will always worry about pap coming to get him. Personally I relate to Hucks feeling of not belonging, alienating yourself and doing what you’re told, agreeing with what is because you don’t want to start anything. And I admire Hucks relationship towards money, he holds no value to him and he doesn’t free him from anything, giving it up frees him from the civilization he doesn’t want to be a part of.
Another big theme in the novel is friendship, Huck has two prominent friendships: Tom Sawyer and Jim. There are big differences in these two friendships In his friendship with Tom There’s one leader and one follower, Huck is the follower. These two boys are not similar; Huck is a realist and tom is a romantic. And there is a reason for it, Tom has never really had any big troubles in his life he has been carried trough life not feeling any consequences for his actions. Huck on the other hand has never had anyone help him trough life, he’s had to be realistic and seen what’s there not what he wants to see.
Jims friendship however is based on trust and respect, on one hand. On the other hand Huck holds the advantages and the power, at any point Huck can turn in Jim, or ‘threaten’ to do it if he doesn’t get his will. And I am fascinated by the selflessness Huck has in this friendship he never uses his power to his benefit, when he’s considering turning Jim in it’s because of the law not because he personally will gain something from doing it. And that’s why I see their friendship as a ‘better’ friendship then the one between Huck and Tom in many ways.
The intended reader probably wouldn’t however because the friendship between Tom and Huck is more correct, they are two white boys at the same age. And I think twain shows the contrasts in the friendships quite well, seeing that the friendship between Tom and Huck hasn’t changed all that much despite the changes Huck has made. Their friendship is still driven by the leader/follower aspect. Huck goes along with Toms slow and adventures plan to free Jim. Jim is not an equal in Toms mind, he knows that Jim is a free man but he sees the possibility of an adventure and goes for it.
And this shows how much Huck has grown as a person. It’s not difficult to identify with Huck, and it’s easy to sympathize with him. And even I am reading it in 2011 and the implied reader would read it in 1885 we can both sympathize with Huck escaping from a bad situation and having to leave everything behind. I believe that “the adventures of Huckleberry Finn” has a universal appeal I believe that anyone can understand and enjoy Hucks travel down the river. The story has everything: moral, friendship, social commentary, historical aspects and a likeable protagonist.