Samuel Langhorne Clemens was best known as Mark Twain. He was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30th, 1835. He lived in Hannibal from ages 4-18. The death of his father, John Marshall Clemens, provided the basis for his opening a career in writing. To sustain his family, he got himself apprenticed to Ament, a printer company. It was mostly to sustain himself, however, because as he remarked, “his wage of board and clothing was more of clothes and neither the board” (Lester, 1993). It was while doing work as a printer that he gained most of his writing skills. Mark Twain was well-liked, and ultimately he became successful and famous by writing about his life experiences and his personal attitude towards the institutions of society. He shares these experiences in his novels and especially in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was considered one of the profound novels in America. The vernacular language that was used was a first protest by Mark Twain against slavery and “segregation of the Black Americans in America” (Doyno, 1991). The evil about slavery is vehemently condemned by this book and his practical life in helping Black American people to access education. The colorful description of life in Mississippi River depicts the enthusiastic zeal he played in ending racism and slavery. Therefore, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” uses characters that are satirized and hence give a day to day account of Clemens life which illustrates his reflection of his attitude towards slavery, segregation, and racism that is fictional in the play and active in his life.
Throughout his life, Mark Twain wondered if slavery was ethical. In his autobiography he explains the days during school days. He says that he rarely had any ethical feelings about slavery. He thought slavery was a normal phenomenon. He saw nothing wrong in exploiting selfish desires in slavery. In fact, few of the people criticized and condemned the ills of the practice. Amazingly, the media allowed it. This is a resemblance to Tom Sawyers’ experience in the novel. The church leaders were the greatest proponents of slavery. The dramatic irony was that the slaves advocated for the ill treatment the endured. This is a real allusion from Watson in the novel who threatened to sell Jim a place where slavery was thought to be more severe. This was a sign that lesser the harshness, the better. Hence, “slaves allowed this ill to demean them” (Leonard, 1992).
He quickly entered his teen years a similar scenario that Clemens illustrates the lives of Jim and Huck. Clemens had the dream of being a skilled steam boat man. This dream was fulfilled after a short period. After only eighteen months, he managed to learn and become the best pilot in the course. This relates well with story in the novel where Tom and Huck meet their dreams after Aunt Polly reveals their true identify and remembers them in her will. After this accomplishment, Mark Twain was met with the major atrocities that the characters in the novel were faced with; war. Just like Huck, moving to the south of the country vie the Mississippi river, Twains’ compassion was interested with the south. This encouraged him to move to the Hannibal. Mark Twain managed to get enrolled in group of young energetic youths who were meant to “throw off the yoke of the invaders” (Leonard, 1992). However, this action was short lived. He attained the status of lieutenant. After only two weeks Mark Twain was uninterested in this project and “he opted to flee with his brother called Orion” (Paine, 1912). The cause behind his resignation was changing his attitude towards slavery. He was beginning to decide not to blindly follow what society taught him.
In the novel, Mark Twain shows us many different aspects of the issues concerning slavery. Just like Huck in the novel, there are many challenging situations in life. Huck manages to make wise judgments from the simple training he gained from his mentors, that is, Mrs. Douglas and Mrs. Watson. Thus, this can be said to be an empowerment of women when they offer salient guidance to Huck. However, the teachings he amassed from these women and how he saw the society magnificently changed his innate feeling towards Jim. Huck is depicted as a character that is naive, insightful, and concerned, just like Clemens. Both have the same view about racism. There are numerous issues that stalk Huck in his life. For example, one time in his life, he was faced with the real and serious ambush of Jim from the Slave Lords along the river course. He uses lies that eventually free his friend. That is, Jim is infected with a deadly disease called smallpox!
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” shows a very unique theme. He illustrates how Huck overcame the obstacle of insufficient education about the ills of slavery. He escapes several situations and ends up making fake bills and “advertising a play in town with help from the Duke” (Twain, 1960). As stated above, Mark Twain dropped out of school at a young age and only became literate because he was employed by a printer company, where he learned the fundamentals of writing and publishing. “Twain is expressing a situation from his own life in his story” (Blair, 1960).
Mark Twain’s point of view is that black people were not stupid; “they just were never given the opportunity to get educated” (Shelley, 1993). Mark Twain had the audacity that conforms to Huck’s prudence. This is because; he was able to write a troubling letter to the Dean of school of Law in Yale. In this letter he explained his concerned in a young talented but poor black student. He entrusted himself in paying all the expenses for Warner, the law student. Twain wrote numerous letters to Wayland, Dean of Yale School of Law on Christmas Eve, 1885, that the Americans who are the slave lords have denied the manhood of these people. The aftermath is shame that will be shone on us and not he black race, hence it will be our obligation to pay for these insensitivity towards them. Furthermore, Mark Twain points out that “black Americans have feelings and sensitivity” (Cox, 2002). However, Huck was unsure of Jim’s loyalty and human nature. This was shown to him when Jim responds in a human way during a serious incident in a fog. As a result, Huck plays another ploy that annoys Jim. He hid and eventually got lost. This saddens Jim so much and makes him to mourn. Jim realizes the trick played on him and tells Huck that: trash is when individuals put litter on their heads and dirt themselves. Consequently, Huck bitterly realizes that he hurt Jim. Jim had legitimately mourned and got depressed because of presumable loss of Huck. This later makes him to seek a “sincere apology” from Jim (Twain, 1960).
The controversies in Mark Twains’ life are real and made him look like a traitor in America. A number of dedicated libraries even “banned his books” (Doyno, 1991). A keen similitude of the way blacks were banned from enjoying the full life of potential and opportunities. The challenges the blacks faced and the questioning stereotypes in the novel correlate well with stigmatization he faced in publishing the book and his enigmatic struggle in helping the blacks to access education. Therefore, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” uses characters that are satirized and hence give a day to day account of Clemens life which illustrates his reflection of his attitude towards slavery, segregation, and racism that is fictional in the play and active in his life.
Blair, W. (1960). Mark Twain & Huck Finn. California, CA: University of California Press.
Cox, J. (2002). Mark Twain:The Fate of Humor (Mark Twain & His Circle). Missouri: University of Missouri Press.
Doyno, V. (1991). Writing Huck Finn: Mark Twain’s creative process. Pennsylvania , PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Leonard, J., Tenney. T., & Thadious, M. (1992). Satire or Evasion?: Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn. North Carolina, NC: Duke University Press.
Lester, J. (1998). Morality and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. California, CA: University of California Press.
Paine, A. (1912). Mark Twain. New York, NY: Harper and Brother Publisher.
Shelley, F. (1993). Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African American Voices. London: Oxford University Press.
Twain, M. (1960). Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York, NY: Harper Collins.