Huckleberry Finn Themes
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel that continues to be read in high schools and colleges across the United States. Perhaps the most famous and complicated of all of Twain’s work, Huckleberry Finn contains a number of important themes. The most obvious theme in the novel is the conflict between nature and civilization.
Huck is the embodiment of the natural life, raised without discipline and hostile towards anything that might “sivilize” him. In the very first chapter, Huck rebels against the Widow Douglas, who forces Huck to wear new clothes, read the Bible, and give up smoking. Twain is suggesting that civilization is a corrupting, rather than an uplifting force, and thus Huck runs away on his river journey.
Connected to the idea of civilization being a negative force is the notion that many of the main characters are slaveholders. Although Twain wrote the novel after the Civil War, by having one of the two main characters (Jim) being African American, he was demonstrating that those victimized by slavery were often more noble than those who justified its existence.
Ultimately, Huckleberry Finn is a classic example of a Bildungsroman, a novel that uses the physical journey as a metaphor for coming of age. In the end, Huck finds his own moral path that does not necessarily conform to the rest of society.