Le Journal d’Anne Frank

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Anne Frank

The Mississippi—The river is one of the most powerful symbols in the novel. It stands for freedom and independence, and carries Jim (who longs for freedom) and Huck (who loves his independence) onward. However, their serenity on the river is often disrupted by various incidents, whether mechanical (the steamboat), natural (the fog), or human (the king and the duke). Ultimately, the river must come to an end, and it is this end that puzzled Twain, which is one reason why the end of the novel proved so problematic for him. Indeed, the question is never really answered—and the reader is left wondering: Where does Huck go?

Education—Education is a theme that consistently comes up throughout the novel. At first, Huck rejects the conventional education offered him by the Widow and society, but gradually he comes to embrace it—and he even learns a few things from it. For example, Huck is able to read by the time he leaves town with Pap, and he has also learned compassion and love from the Widow—even if he does not quite understand the nature of evil and how to examine his own conscience.

Still, Huck learns an important education from Pap as well concerning human nature and the life outdoors. He is able to survive with the help of this knowledge and is able to participate in the various walks and modes of life. His education in sincerity and good will endear him to some, and his sharp, keen wit and ability to deceive endear him to others.

Finally, Huck’s moral education is guided by the spirit of the Widow, which follows Huck as he confronts a number of events. When his conscience begins to sting him, he receives another lesson regarding morality—and ultimately he learns that even the lawless need forgiveness, which is the highest wisdom anyone can hope to attain.

Adventure—No-one longs for Romance and adventure as much as Tom Sawyer, yet it is Huck Finn who has the real adventure of a lifetime on the Mississippi River. Huck’s upbringing is partly to thank for this, since it was unconventional in the extreme. But Huck also has a practical and pragmatic spirit, which allows him to accept reality and the chips as they lay, so to speak. Huck harbors no Romantic feelings about adventure—he simply loves his own independence and is willing to fight for it. This belief in his own ability to live his own life is what draws him into various adventures and what keeps Tom from ever having any. Tom is not willing to live his own life, but feels that he must live the life he has read about in books. Thus, Tom is stifled when it comes to real life adventures. Those belong to Huck, because he actually embraces real life.

Slavery—Slavery is accepted as a matter of fact throughout the novel. Not once does Huck ever consider that slavery is morally wrong. What he does believe, however, is that freeing slaves is wrong—but that he must do wrong to do right (a curious contradiction that even he is not able to fully understand). Essentially, the theme of slavery is only very subtly commented on by Twain. Jim, the runaway slave, is shown to be akin to Huck, the runaway schoolboy. Both long for similar things: Jim for freedom, Huck for independence. Both are fleeing a world that will allow them neither. Both are, in a sense, slaves to the same conventions of the day—and both reject them. Thus, Twain shows that slavery is not merely an economic system—it is also a mental and spiritual condition. Indeed, Jim and Huck both transcend their chains through mutual respect and goodness, even if, in the end, they must suffer for their transcendence.

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