Transcendentalism In Huck Finn Essay

2014 words - 9 pages

Modern readers often gain much insight from analyzing works of literature long since written. Posterity can benefit from the primordial lessons instilled in these celebrated classics, and can be influenced by their examples. Certain novels have swayed today’s world more than others – critically acclaimed novelist Ernest Hemingway opined that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, epitomizes the “Great American Novel.” Hemingway stated “All modern American literature comes from Huck Finn… there has been nothing as good since.” This is a bold statement, because it gives Twain, as the author, unprecedented influence over today’s minds. It stands to reason that the ...view middle of the document...

” Mark Twain was inspired by Transcendentalism, and converted to its practice. Obviously, it was in his interest to spread that message to as many people as he could. Twain spent nine years between his first novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and the publishing of Huck Finn in 1884, developing a plot in which he could slip in references to Transcendentalism. His work is not without fruition: Huck Finn characterizes Transcendentalist ideals deeply, fulfilling Twain’s goal of spreading his own Transcendentalist ideals to the world.
One of the key philosophies of Transcendentalism is the belief in the innate goodness of the individual. Alone, uninfluenced, the human is purest. Twain’s first step in focusing on the individual lies in the narration of the story: Huck Finn is written in the first person, from Huck’s perspective. By not allowing the reader a more omniscient view of the scene, Twain both forces the reader to accept Huck’s thoughts (and through Huck, Twain’s) and makes the first subtle suggestion that a focus on the individual is most important.
Huck is inherently good, but finds himself hampered and corrupted by society constantly throughout the book. Huck acknowledges that he does not consider himself civilized, despite the widow’s many attempts, but does not realize that in that shortcoming lies his greatest strength: he is free from social norms and prejudices, free from the popular acceptance of slavery. In his Transcendentalist paper Self-Reliance, Emerson contends that “society is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.” Nothing could be more correct. Huck is perfectly capable of making good decisions when he is not tainted by people like Tom or the king and the duke. Those members of society are obstacles that must be overcome, distractions that would better be ignored. Twain makes it obvious that Huck is best when he is isolated on the river, making decisions unmolested. Additionally, whenever Huck comes ashore, he is struck by the stupidity and foolishness of the activities he sees taking place: the ridiculous conflict between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons, the idiocy of the townsfolk during the Royal Nonesuch scam, and the naïveté of the family when the king and duke imitate relatives of the deceased. These are examples of the absurdity of society; Huck would be purer leaving it alone. Twain clearly suggests that Huck is a good individual by himself, let to his own devices.
Twain also touches upon the aloofness, or loneliness, of Huck – another aspect to being alone. Huck is introduced almost immediately to the reader as someone who is alone in the world: “I felt so lonesome I most wished I was dead” (3). Huck has few real friends, save Tom, or Jim. His father, Pap, is hardly an inspiring figure – indeed, Huck longs to escape from him –and Huck lacks other people to whom he can really connect. Even on the raft with Jim, someone who he at least respects, he...

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