Identity in huckleberry finn

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Problematique: To what extent do Huck’s experience and environment appear as the catalyst of his quest for liberty and identity?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain written in 1880. It tells the story of a young boy, Huckleberry Finn, who decided to escape from his legal guardian, the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson, and from his father, byfaking his death. During his journey he met Miss Watson’s slave, called Jim, and continued the journey together. The story happened around the forties, in the pre-civil War America.

Mark Twain chose to focus on this period to denounce the society of that time. By playing on the importance of identities, he highlights it's rough reality. Indeed, throughout this novel, we can notice that there’s ahuge questionning on the importance of identity, on different levels. Because we're going to follow Huck's advencement in the building of his identity. That is the main point on which we are going to lie on. Namely, to what extent do Huck’s experience and environment appear as the catalyst of his quest for liberty and identity?

First, we are going to focus on the most obvious meaning that isidentity as a place in the society. Then we will see that Huck can't find his-self in this wild world of categorization. And finally in a third part we will analyse the rebellion of Huckleberry Finn which can be seen as his first step towards his own identity.

I) Identity as a place in the society

- the black as slave (Jim as property, accent, persecution, inadequate portrait of a slave,research of freedom, runaway black, Jim Crow Laws, parallel between a lost child and a nigger, each abused and threat to lose freedom)

- women as educators (republican motherhood, Miss Watson)

- slave owners (without value of human being, cruelty, Miss Watson)

- language and manners determine education (southern dialect, and black accent)

- respect of the upper class (King and Duke)

II)Huckleberry Finn, a child lost in a fake patchwork-like identity

- torn between several educations: mother and father figure, different values from side to side.
- his father: emphasizes Huck's loneliness page 51« I felt so lonesome i most wish i was dead »  , detachement towards him, the father is always drunk, Jim is a better father thant Huck's real father . As we have said before Twain bythis novel wanted to give his own vision of the society, he clearly denounce slavery and takes part with abolitionnist. The character of Jim is present as a nigger but a good nigger, he wanted to take care of his family but his status of slave didn‘t permit him because he was separated from them. So he took care of Huck all along the journey. He taught huck superstitions about snake; even if huckdidn‘t believe that at a first sight he finished by believe him and saw by himself that snake was a bad augure. Huck was bitten by a snake and Jim looked after him. Another example: In the beginning of the story, Jim and Huck met a dead man on their way and Jim said to Huck for not looking at him . Jim protected him from the sight of Huck’s father corpse. chapter 9 « it‘s a dead man. Yes,indeedy; naked too…..Come in, Huck, but doan‘ look at his face-it‘s too gashly » (Twain as a abolitionist).
- conflict between social and received morality: Since the Beginning of the story and all along the novel, Huck is in a perpetual inner turmoil regarding what he learnt and what he think is good. So first when he met Jim he asked himself if he have to follow his feeling or listen what civilizationtaught him. He had had an inner conflict if he stay with Jim or bring him to Miss Watson.
- the society as a "dictator" in the built of identity; tries to impose an already-made identity
- Tom Sawyer as a model: Since the beginning of the novel tom and Huck are together, in chapter one they created a gang and tom s’impose as a leader. Then we find him again with Huck at the end of the novel...
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