I. Runs away from home
II. Dresses as a girl
III. Experiences life as an aristocrat
IV. Returns to roots, with Aunt Sally pretending to be Tom
Throughout the entirety of Mark Twain’s novel, Huckleberry Finn, the main character, Huck, is always on the run. Written in 1884, Twain’s novel focuses on the life of Huck Finn, a young boy. Huck is always on the run because, initially, he has no real home. Inevitably he escapes to the Mississippi River, where he is set free to discover his true self, through his disguises and costumes along the way.
At the opening of the novel, Huck is in a home alien to him. After the adventures with Tom Sawyer in an earlier novel, Huck now lives with the widow Douglas. Huck expresses his distain for this existence, “so when [Huck] couldn’t stand it no longer [Huck] lit out.” (11) Huckleberry Finn was forced into living “civilized” and such a constraint did not suit his nature. Often times the widow or her sister, Mrs. Watson, would Huck around saying, “Huckleberry, set up straight: or “Huckleberry – why don’t you try and behave.” (12) Through all of this, Huckleberry was forced to conform and his father, Pap, took him away to his cabin in the wood. There, though essentially being held captive, he was not forced into conformity.
After a series of serendipitous events, Huck and a slave, Jim, were floating down the Mississippi River. Their first stop along the way allowed Huck to dress as a young girl. While Huck would never be a girl for real, he no doubt gained a unique perspective on the world.
With the realization that he is a poor girl, as his guise is readily seen through, his next guise is one of the noble gender. In his encounter with Grangerfords, Huck gets to experience life as a southern aristocrat. Initially he is greatly impressed by their material possessions. He sees their intellect as astounding, “If Emmeline Grangerford could make poetry like that before she was 14, there ain’t no telling what she could ‘a’ done by and by.” (104) Yet he realizes their shallowness as evidenced by his examination of their parrots in either side of a clock and by the fruit on their dining room table. As an allegorical symbol for the Grangerford’s Huck states on the fruit, “On the table was a kind of lovely crockery basket that held apples and oranges and peaches and grapes piled up on it, which was much redder and yellower and prettier than the real ones is, but the warn’t real because you could see where the had go chipped off and showed the white chalk,” (102) Huck sees that these people though nice on the outside are not truly good people, and certainly not something to emulate.
Through his lifetime to this point Huck had been poor, he had been a little girl, he had been rich and now he has seen aristocracy at its best and worst.
His next guise brought him back to his initial state in the book as the son of a well-to-do family under Aunt Sally. Huck pretends to be Tom Sawyer and is able to view the life he had abandoned. In essence Huck is able to see whether his journey had been of waste. After the real Tom Sawyer shows up on the scene with his idotic schemes and impractical ways, Huck has been given all the proof he needs to say good-by to society and life, as he knew it. The novel ends with Huck’s proclamation of “But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and civilize me, and I can’t stand it.” (279) This final statement demonstrates that Huck has seen what there is to see and was not impressed.
As the novel closes, Huck throws down the chains that had been holding him back and is set free. This revelation comes through his ability to view the different ways of living through his life experiences. Through his use of disguises, Huck was able to experience the aspects of society so at the end of the novel he can say with confidence “I have been there before.” (279) As Huck has viewed the various ways of life he sets off, most likely never to return.