Realism

 

            Mark Twain has a unique style of writing in his novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He is known for writing very realistically and his characters are always believable. He likes to keep his style simple and convey his thoughts and ideas in a boyish tone.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is written in the first person point of view with Huck narrating. With Huck being the narrator readers get to connect with his own thoughts and feelings. Readers get to be “inside” of his mind. Often, Twain uses the book and Huck’s character to voice his own opinions and ideas about society, especially with regard to the slaves. For example, he exposes slavery as evil and shows that blacks have just the same feelings as everyone else. Lionel Trilling, a literary critic, sees Twain’s creation of Huck’s voice as a measure of his genius. Specifically speaking, it is no small feat to realistically portray the character of Huck in a way that highlights his unusual intelligence and maturity while still capturing his thoughts and feelings in a way that reflects the fourteen year old thought process (http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-huckleberryfinn/style.html).

Twain’s use of dialogue is very authentic as readers can see when Jim says, “You take a man dat’s got on’y one or  two chillen; is dat man gwyne to be waseful o’ chillen? No, he ain’t; he can’t ‘ford it” (Twain 78). This shows just how real and original Twain writes. This was done deliberately in order to preserve and accurately represent the southern dialect used by Twain’s characters.

In this novel, Twain doesn’t use much figurative language because he wanted to keep the language genuine and very truthful. He doesn’t use many similes, metaphors, or personification in his writing because he wanted to keep it original. He uses very little description as well. However, he likes to use accents and slang words to bring his characters to life. Specifically, “with Huck being the narrator, it would not make sense to use much figurative language since that would be like expecting an uncivilized adolescent to use a lot of figurative language in his speech” (summarycentral.tripod.com/theadventuresofhuckleberryfinn.htm).

One type of literary device that Twain uses in particular is imagery to create a certain mood in his story. The main image is that of the Mississippi River. The river is described as wild and free flowing, illustrating the type of life Huck wants to live. He doesn’t want to be civilized and have rules to follow. He wants to be adventurous. The river is often calm, quiet, and relaxing, but sometimes mysterious, just like Huck’s adventures. Also, the river serves as a sort of time line as readers go along in the story. In addition, the river serves as Huck’s home.

Another literary device that Twain uses in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is symbolism. A major symbol that he uses throughout the novel is that of the river. It symbolizes freedom, independence, and life in the wild. Huck flees civilization to life on the river to live freely and have adventures. Another symbol is Jim. He is more than a character in the book, but symbolizes all of the slaves in the South. Through him, we see the southern attitude toward slaves and blacks and we also see the humanity in slaves. This is important because Twain is able to use Jim as a means to further the reality that slavery is evil.

An additional element in Twain’s writing is satire. An example of satire occurs when Huck says, “by and by they fetched the niggers in and had prayers, and then everybody was off to bed” (Twain 3). In this case, Twain pokes fun at the fact that Miss Watson tries to become a better Christian and a better person, but still owns slaves and considers them property.

A major theme in the novel is an emphasis on the Mississippi River and what it provides. This is an area that Twain knows very well because he grew up along the river in a town called Hannibal. The river and many of his childhood experiences are incorporated in the novel.  Most of his works are influenced by his childhood experiences. The river and the surrounding areas are a source for the great adventures that Huck and Jim go on, creating the mood of adventure in the story. The river serves as a retreat from society. Another theme in the novel is that of friendship. Huck and Jim will be friends no matter what happens or what either of them encounter. Huck realizes that Jim is just an ordinary person and shouldn’t be treated any differently. He is just as deserving of equality as whites or any other type of race.

Two more themes explored include racism and slavery in the South. In Huckleberry Finn, Twain, “by exposing the hypocrisy of slavery, demonstrates how racism distorts the oppressors as much as it does those who are oppressed. The result is a world of moral confusion, in which seemingly “good” white people such as Miss Watson and Sally Phelps express no concern about the injustice of slavery or the cruelty of separating Jim from his family” (www.sparknotes.com/lit/huckfinn/themes.html).

Twain’s tone in his novel gives a humorous and informal mood, but in much of the observations that Twain makes on society, he is often critical. For example, during the raid on the Sunday school picnic, he shows distaste for organized religion. The tone is frequently ironic or ridiculing, and is full of pranks and boyish enthusiasm. It doesn’t change much throughout the novel; it is consistent.

Twain tells the story through Huck and his diction is typical of the southern speech of a young boy during that time and era. The diction is very informal, making it simple and easy to understand with humorous differences between this writing style and other more formal ones. Much of the descriptions and imagery are humorous in this way. The writing style in the book is not flowery, but simply mimics the speech of a young boy. Twain also uses a lot of Black English vernacular that is typical of southerners.

Twain’s writing style is simple and straightforward. It is extremely realistic for that specific time period in history. As Trilling reflects, “Huck’s language has the immediacy of the heard voice” (http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-huckleberryfinn/style.html).