EN 346 Critical Meth: Banned Books
January 21st, 2014
Huck Finn and Self-enslavement
When reflecting back on Huck Finn’s liberation from the civilized world that seems to offer terrors such as slavery, alcoholism, and abuse to the world of nature that offers peaceful relaxation aboard the timeless Mississippi, it appears as though over the course of his journey, Huck’s world of nature becomes method by which he enslaves himself to the horrors and the nightmares of the world at large. Huck says early in the novel that not only the books, and by proxy civilizations, are bad, but Huck also states that all books lie in one way or another, and some more than others. This fact becomes interesting when looking into Huck’s credibility as an author and a narrator who is not only a product of his racist and violent culture, as seen by his sense of shame or guilt for Jim’s escape to freedom, but also as someone who witnessed numerous tragic events at a young age and must make sense of those events to help him with his nightmares. By writing about the events, Huck takes control of his own story and enables himself to hide the true nature of the horrors of the world he witnessed through the development of his writing. In this sense, Huck never really reaches liberation by running from civilization, and he even goes further to enslave himself by running from the nightmares and continually lying to his audience. Huck emphasizes this best when he writes:
Tom’s most well, now, and got his bullet around his neck on a watchguard for a watch, and is always seeing what time it is, and so there ain’t nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I’d a knowned what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it ain’t agoing to no more. But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before. (Twain 295-296).
Here we learn a lesson from Huck’s inability to accept his problems, mainly about not running from them. Huck seems to believe that heading out to a new area unknown to the rest of the world, where he can get a fresh start, will absolve him of his damnation and will stop his nightmares. What Huck seems to miss lies in the condition of civilization and how it, like the Mississippi river, exists in this unfolding duality in terms of the negative and the positive for Huck. Huck can run, but civilization will eventually catch up to him. It is up to Huck to realize the potential that civilization has for good, after all, although civilization enslaved Jim and stripped him of his humanity, it was civilization that also gave him freedom. In this sense, I feel as though this message of our creative potential should ring for us, especially as we live within a university where we not only have the ability to re-invent ourselves when we first arrive, but also have the potential for opening our minds to new experiences and changing our outlook on the world through our interactions with others. Most importantly I feel as though we should learn from Huck and understand that although we can never truly escape our problems, especially by running to new places, we still have the ability to write our own stories. Just remember that we do not have to do things by the book, which I feel limits our ability to not only express ourselves individually, but actually be ourselves.
Works CitedTwain, Mark, and Thomas Cooley. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: An Authoritative Text, Contexts and Sources, Criticism. New York: Norton, 1999. Print.