Huckleberry Finn and the Original Sin of Slavery

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In a discourse that acknowledges, normalizes, and yet comments on the nature of slavery within the Unites States, the novel Huckleberry Finn provides cultural context that mediates the ‘original sin’ of slavery with the history of the United States. Mark Twain wrote with a consciousness of the vernacular, using language that was informal and conversational in order to represent culturally common forms of communication rather than providing formalized and strictly literary forms of writing. He wrote phonetically to embody the accent and mispronunciations of characters who were bogged down by language development that was different than the common and more formal forms of speech. This was strikingly clear with the way in which Twain portrayed the speech patterns of Jim, the runaway slave. He writes sentences like WELL den! Ain’t dat de beatenes’ notion in de worl? (Twain 2009, p. 77). This type of speech pattern replication provides a sense of culture and commonness to the writing, creating a character that is beyond the description and his deeds, but who expresses characterization through this type of communication that expresses the way in which he speaks. The story of Huckleberry Finn is based upon a character from Twain’s novel Tom Sawyer, a sequel in which the adventures of a boy of about 13 are related through the cultural and social backdrop of the mid-nineteenth century in the United States. Published during the post United States Civil War era, the novel is ripe with references to the race relations between African Americans and Caucasians, the contentious relationships that had developed during a time when social positions were still raw and hurting over the destruction of a nation. The central topic of that destruction had been based upon slavery, the South having based their economic structure on the use of slaves from Africa, while the North was taking issue with the practice as immoral and unethical (Reis and McNeese 2009, p. 76). Twain believed in abolition and strongly supported that idea that slavery was rightly abolished in the aftermath of the Civil War. The development of the type of writing that Mark Twain accomplished was through the manipulation of language which sparked irony and satire about the state of society. This is established within the discussions between Jim and Huck. Where Huck will say one thing, Twain will be making a very different point, bringing to light ignorance and suggesting that the adult belief systems that supported the points that Huck was trying to make were flawed and inferior to true reason. One of the themes, according to Michael Patrick Hearn’s annotated version of the novel, is that one cannot look at things through superficial perspectives. In order to support this theme, Twain has created a double speak in which the narrative and the dialogue, both, are developed to relate a specific conversation that has a deep seated underlying meaning (Twain and Hearn 2001, p. 143). The relationship between Jim and Huckleberry Finn is based upon the concept of doing and believing what is right, sometimes exemplified by their relationship and other times revealed by the erroneous belief systems portrayed through their relationship. Jim is a runaway slave and Huck is tasked to help him. Jim serves a number of roles, which includes a