Les Six Napoléons


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Arthur Conan Doyle

Discuss whether or not Huck Finn actually matures throughout the course of the novel.

Huck Finn does mature in different ways. In fact, this process of maturity begins at the very outset of the novel when he starts to appreciate the kind of life the Widow is trying to provide him. He learns to accept his role as a student and his role as a son in the Widow’s home—even if he happily abandons both of these roles once Pap steals him away.

Huck matures towards Jim as well. Early in the novel Tom plays a trick on Jim and Jim is made to look like a fool. Huck tries to play a similar trick on Jim while they are on the raft, and Jim shows that he is no fool but a man with a heart that cares for Huck’s well-being. Huck realizes that he has hurt Jim and humbles himself before him. Huck shows that he is willing to accept fault and responsibility—and he also shows unselfishness in the apology—one characteristic of maturity.

Huck also matures when he witnesses the murder of his friend Buck—which is a name very close to Huck. In a sense, the death of Buck is like the death of Huck’s boyhood. Huck returns to the river an older and more mature boy—one who understands the extremes of human nature and realizes that mankind needs love more than it needs hatred.

However, in the end of the novel, Huck returns to his childlike innocence with the arrival of Tom Sawyer. Tom turns Huck into a boy again—which is one reason the novel’s conclusion is problematic. The maturation process is suddenly stunted and the narrative takes a farcical turn. Nonetheless, Huck does display growth in maturity throughout the novel.

How is lying viewed in Huck Finn?

Huck decides early in the novel that it is no use trying to tell the truth and that he will say and do whatever comes handiest at the time. Yet, there is in Huck a tendency, towards telling truth. This tendency, however, does not exist in the duke and in the king—who lie compulsively for their own gain. Huck’s lies are often to protect others, like Jim, Pap, or any of the other characters he meets. Huck is never really selfish, whereas the conmen are. That is the one difference between their lying.

Yet, as Huck matures the truth tends to come more easily to him. He sees that the truth helps comfort Mary Jane Wilks, and that even with Aunt Sally it is likely to be the only recourse. In other words, Huck does not condone lying and deception the same way the frauds do: he condones it only as a matter of practicality—but he understands that sometimes the truth is even more practical.

What is the importance of the river?

The river sustains life. It feeds Jim and Huck and contains bits of history (the belly of the catfish is full of mysteries). It carries Huck onward toward his fate, and it offers the Jim and Huck what they long for—freedom and independence. The river is important because it connects all men together, whether tramp, low-life, robber, upper class families, or slaves: it binds them all together and may be considered, like death, to be the great equalizer. The river provides everyone the chance to live, but it is also full of risks and those who navigate it, run the risk of death. The importance of the river, therefore, is in this point alone: it is life itself, both literally and metaphorically, and it is only through his adventures on the river that Huck comes to a greater understanding of himself and his place in the world.

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