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Pierre Corneille

Huck Finn—Huck takes a number of aliases throughout the novel, whether George Jackson, Mary Sarah Williams, or Tom Sawyer himself. The reason for maintaining these different identities is clear to Huck: sometimes it takes a little deception to make one’s way through life. Gradually, however, this notion is challenged as Huck repeatedly confronts his own conscience and tries to come to terms with it and the evils of the world. Huck even begins to experiment with truth toward the end of the novel before Tom Sawyer’s arrival. He shows a trust in Providence that the Widow Douglas would be proud to see and an irresistible love for others that has all the characteristics of charity itself.

All-in-all, Huck is a good-natured boy, whose age and naivety is no match for his practicality, maturity, and ability to adapt to any and all circumstances. Huck is, in one sense, a true frontiersman. In another, he is the soul of every true-blooded American who has cringed at the oppressive laws and customs of a hypocritical society. While Huck accepts that the laws and stipulations that society has devised are just, he concludes that he cannot follow them—even if it means that he must go to hell. The enormity of Huck’s defiance, in a sense, is what makes him a truly heroic figure—even if he does not fully understand that his stance is good, not bad. In the end, however, Twain decides to make Huck Finn a boy who almost grows up—and who likely would have to—had his author not preferred that he stay a boy forever.

Jim—Jim becomes the brother, father, and mother that Huck never had. He is always sweet to Huck, calling him “Honey” and “Darling,” Jim sacrifices his own self-comfort several times for Huck’s sake. In other words, even though Jim has his own longing for freedom, he is willing to forego his dream if it means that Huck (and even Tom) can live safely. It is Jim’s innate goodness that inspires Huck to decide to “go to hell” to free him.

Jim shows that he has his own failings and regrets as well. He expresses sorrow for his maltreatment of his own deaf and dumb daughter, and he complains of the trials Tom forces him to undergo during his “escape.” Even still, however, Jim displays a great patience and humility—and even stoicism—in the face of adversity. Yet, what truly causes Huck to appreciate Jim is Jim’s sense of dignity. When Huck tries to fool Jim for his own amusement, Jim lets him know exactly how mean it is, and Huck is compelled to see Jim not as a slave but as a human being. Thus, Jim becomes a catalyst for Huck’s exploration of his own sense of right and wrong.

Pap—Huck’s father is the polar opposite of Jim. If Jim is father, mother, and brother to Huck, Pap is none of them. Huck has a kind of filial devotion to Pap, only because they are blood related and share a taste for the outdoors. But Pap is not so much interested in Huck as he is in Huck’s money. Thus, Huck does not have any great affection for a Pap, who has no affection but for himself.

Pap is the man who catapults Huck in a new direction—away from the simple and conventional small town life. For this, Huck is somewhat thankful to Pap—but Huck understands that getting away from Pap is just as important (if not more important) than getting away from school, Miss Watson, and the conventional life.

Widow Douglas—Although the Widow is not a major character throughout the novel, her spirit has a major influence over Huck’s actions. In the same way Caesar’s spirit haunts the last two acts of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the Widow (even after Huck departs her company) often plays a part in Huck’s decision-making process. For Huck, she represents a kind of moral center. He accepts her view of Providence, which is manifestly good and decent and loving; and her ways (which are never abusive) do more to prick his conscience than, say, Pap’s or Miss Watson’s. Huck often finds himself reflecting on what the Widow would think after he has done something either good or bad. For example, he decides that she would have approved of his attempt to save the robbers before the steamer broke up, since helping low people was something she had always tried to do.

Tom Sawyer—Tom is the leader of the boys, and when he arrives at the Phelps farm, he once more becomes the leader of Huck. Tom longs to have a real adventure, but spends so much time in his own imagination that it is likely he would miss the real thing even if it came and parked itself right in front of his face.

This is the case when Huck explains his plan for freeing Jim. It is a practical and simple plan and one sure to lead to further adventure on the river—but Tom insists on doing things the way he has read about in books. His adventure must be contrived and, ultimately, a farce of true adventure and of reality. Tom is, at heart, a Romantic, whereas Huck is a realist. Yet, the two boys bond over their love for adventure, even if Tom makes a mess of true adventure and can only dream of the things that Huck has actually experienced.

The King and The Duke—These two con men play an important role in the development of Huck’s character. While Huck finds them both to be despicable, he also shows a kind of brotherly concern for them. He also does not mind giving into the whims or referring to them as “your grace” or “your majesty.” Huck understands that with types like these it is best to let them have their way.

As the king and the duke cause trouble, however, Huck tries to shake their companionship. At times he even hopes to see them jailed. Yet, in the end, he attempts to save them from being tarred and feathered, only to find that (as with the robbers on the wrecked steamer) he has arrived too late. While their punishment may be fitting, Huck still concludes that it is a cruel treatment on anyone’s part, and that evil should not be repaid with evil. Balanced against the king and the duke, Huck shows an impressive good nature.

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