Slavery Symbolism In Huckleberry Finn

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Although President Lincoln emancipated the slaves in 1863, they were not quite free. As might be expected in a society accustomed to slavery, America’s transition to freedom for former slaves would be uneasy. Such a journey from slavery to a tense and uncomfortable relation between the races is symbolized in Mark Twain’s American Realistic novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when Huck and runaway slave Jim journey southward on a raft down the mighty Mississippi river. Even though the action of the novel takes place prior to the abolition of slavery, it was published more than twenty years after emancipation and comes to symbolize what has happened to race relations and the possibility of true change between antebellum slave days and the…show more content…
The status quo of the 1880s is symbolized when Tom agrees to help Huck steal Jim. Huck’s response is, “It was the most astonishing speech I ever heard—and I’m bound to say Tom Sawyer fell, considerably, in my estimation. Only I couldn’t believe it. Tom Sawyer a nigger stealer!” (Twain 235). Huck “implies a deep criticism of the status quo.” His shock at someone else’s sympathy for a black suggests that only an outcast of society would be subject to Huck’s “act of conscience.” Southern society and “moral integrity” is “hardly spoken well for” here in the novel (Smith 372). Huck’s response embodies the moral standards of the South that existed during slavery and long after. The dehumanization of blacks by slavery set on them a stigma by white society that is symbolized by Huck’s surprise at a white’s humbleness toward a black. The whites along the river viewed blacks as unworthy of any dignity greater than being white property, and this idea spread into every aspect of social life in the South, even beyond the physical enchainment of blacks. By the end of the novel, Huck and Jim come ashore and despite Jim’s freedom, their friendship inevitably ends. Such an outcome conforms to the social expectations of 1884 and results in Huck’s disappearance. After Huck gets caught trying to free Jim from Aunt Sally and her family, he tells the reader that he can’t stay with Aunt Sally because “she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me”. He decides to head westward rather than be “sivilized” again. “I been there before” (Twain 296). T.S. Eliot comments that Huck in the novel symbolizes the “vagabond.” He is “detached” from the customs of his time. Huck can even be thought of as similar to a Saint (354). Huck not wishing to be civilized and being characterized as a “vagabond” ultimately symbolizes society by conveying to the reader that Huck either wants an uninfluenced relation to his black friend or nothing to do
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