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Jean Anouilh

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has often been considered one of the great American novels. In many ways, Huck stands as a representation of the American frontier spirit, stifled by Protestant civility and convention. Having a natural urge and yearning for independence, Huck is led on a journey down the Mississippi with the runaway slave Jim. Huck demonstrates a longing for kinship and a loyalty to friends as well as several other natural virtues. Along the way he meets various persons who range in character from good to bad. Ultimately, Huck rejects the conventional culture offered him by Tom Sawyer, the Widow, Miss Watson, and Aunt Sally, and fully embraces his independent spirit as he looks to “light out for the territory ahead of the rest.”

The novel begins in St. Petersburg, with Huck narrating to the reader how he has been given a home by the Widow Douglas. He does not much care for the conventional life and longs for his old carefree days. Eventually, he begins to appreciate school and learns to read and write. He, Tom and the rest of the gang participate in various activities, but none of those activities leads to any great adventure

One day Huck’s Pap returns to claim Huck and Huck’s gold for himself. The trouble is the Judge won’t allow Pap to get it. The Widow does not like Pap hanging around and causing trouble, so Pap decides to teach them all a lesson by abducting Huck and taking him back to the woods with him.

Just when Huck was getting used to his new life, he is re-introduced to his old. However, the change does not bother him much; in fact, he quickly begins to enjoy his Pap’s lifestyle and wonders how he ever managed to live in civilization. Unfortunately, the life in the woods has its downsides—and Pap is the major one: sometimes he gets so drunk that Huck fears for his life. Finally, Huck decides he has to escape for his own good, and to keep Pap from looking for him again, he fakes his own death.

Using a canoe he found floating down the river, Huck sets off for Jackson Island, where he runs into Jim. Jim is a slave who belongs to Miss Watson and has fled town because he feared she was going to sell him. Jim and Huck team up to travel the Mississippi to the Ohio and there take a steamer north, so Jim can become a free man.

Once on the river, the novel takes on a different tone. It becomes more satirical of society. It also deepens the relationship between Huck and Jim, and focuses on Huck’s grappling with his conscience.

When Huck and Jim are separated after a steamer plows into their raft, Huck is introduced to the Grangerfords. Huck witnesses a bloody feud that causes him to flee society again and stick to the river with Jim (who he rediscovers on the same plantation). Their pleasant journey is interrupted by the arrival of two con men, which refer to themselves as king and duke. They provide a window into a world of deception, lies, cruelty, manipulation, and depravity. Yet, Huck shows a remarkable gift for compassion and charity by trying to save the two scoundrels from the fate they surely deserve.

After a failed attempt to swindle the Wilks brothers of their inheritance, the duke and the king return to their old tactics, but without much success. The king sells Jim to Silas Phelps, and the third stage of the novel begins in a way which mirrors the first and resembles Tom Sawyer in many ways.

In fact, it becomes, in a way, Tom’s story at this point, as he arrives to help Huck “free” Jim. Tom, of course, already knows that Miss Watson has freed Jim in her will—but he is after an adventure. Ironically, it is Huck who has had all the adventures (without even looking for them), and Tom who, while actively trying to have them, has to fabricate them in his own mind.

The last segment of the novel is dedicated to Tom and Huck’s plan to help free Jim from Tom’s uncle's shack. Tom and Huck finally succeed, Tom is wounded, and the truth (a thing that Huck is not used to telling) comes out. Jim gets freedom, Tom has his adventure (and gets shot in the leg), and Huck gets another “mother” in the form of Aunt Sally. But, as he states, he does not look forward to it, and he eyes the frontier and beyond.

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