That River Abolitionist, Huck Finn…

Huckleberry Finn–what else is there to say about that river rascal? Inadvertently, in his search to escape his drunken father’s clutches, he somehow ends up as a rebel against the racial limitations of his time; and inadvertently, in his wish to hideaway on an island and sail the Mississippi, he befriends a black runaway and they take up to sail off together; a union between blacks and whites despite the townspeople’s views.

To see those parallels in a novel so comprehensive is to see examples of Gender Studies and Queer Theory. Now, there are the colloquial references to consider, the methods of Jim’s speech specifically, which is constructed of Ebonics, a modern term for black language; for example, when Jim is speaking to Huckleberry in Chapter 8, his dialect is far cruder than an educated, articulate individual, as he uses “‘uz” or “wuz” instead of “was,” and “gwyne” rather than “going to.” His organization flows well though, and if one examines the pattern of his speech closely, then the focus of his story becomes easily understandable, with a few strange terms here and there that can simply be passed over as nonessential to the story.

The stronger route of study lies in the choice taken by Huckleberry to, when fleeing his family and friends on the raft in Chapter 8, tell only Jim of his not dying and his plans to sail away on the Mississippi. He has well-founded trust in Jim to share with him these wishful secrets, an odd decision in the late 1880s, a period when any blacks, as happened to Jim in Chapter Eleven, were lynched for performing badly in society and ousted from the general population.

Jim is by all means just another runaway, as is Huckleberry. They are one in the same in this novel; no racial ties separate their orders of life, and no bitter thoughts are expressed towards one another. A pleasant union is theirs, yet neither examines the social implications it challenges as they travel onwards.

Jim wants to escape slavery in New Orleans, while Huckleberry wants to escape his prim and proper lifestyle and his drunken father. Different motives, but an all encompassing feel of the need to flee their crumbling lives. It makes sense.

So too does Structuralism and Semiotics.

This novel expresses these lost souls wandering hopelessly on a raft along the stretching river as pieces to the larger social message of seeking out purpose, or a destiny, in other words, that in turn connects to the idea of Semiotics. It does so because like Huckleberry and Jim, all humans, regardless of race or gender, are always out there searching for a sense of belonging in a world that either appears to have forgotten them, or has left them isolated in a downright miserable lifestyle.

That is the summation of their journey–a journey, in fact, all can relate to, as it displays the instinctual key to human happiness, which, of course, is finding belonging, a placement, where one can be who they want without being thrust down from their individuality by naysayers. For Jim and the black slaves in the 1800s, the journey is mostly about seeking freedom from slavers. For Huckleberry and wayward children alike, it is finding an adventure away from the boundaries of society; a parallel there perhaps is Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, which contributed to the youth movements of its modern times.        

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