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The Bildungsroman of Huckleberry Finn

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Elaine Albaugh

on 19 March 2014

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Transcript of The Bildungsroman of Huckleberry Finn

The Bildungsroman of Huckleberry Finn
What is a bildungsroman?
A bildungsroman is a novel about the moral and psychological growth of a character. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an example of a bildungsroman because the novel follows the timeline of Huck's morality and conscience.
Sarah Mary Saves The Day
Huck shows his first twinge of morality when he is disguised as a girl, speaking to the new woman in town. When she mentions her theory about Jim's location and about her husband's plans to go out to the island to search for him, he runs back to his canoe as fast as possible, rouses Jim out of sleep, and says, "Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain't a minute to lose. They're after us!" (61). This action shows that Huck is developing a deep enough friendship with Jim, a slave, to go out of his way to say him. He even refers to the pair of them as "us." He is beginning a journey of maturity.
Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right
In one instance, Huck pulls a prank on Jim by putting a dead rattlesnake in his sleeping bag. When the prank ends in Jim getting bitten by a snake, Huck feels badly, but not badly enough to apologize. Later on in the text, Huck pulls another prank. After Huck and Jim are separated for a long time in a horrible fog, Huck lies to Jim and tells him that he actually dreamed the whole thing. When Jim accuses him of the lie, Huck feels horrible. "It made me feel so mean I could almost kissed
foot to get him to take it back. It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a negro; but I done it and I warn't ever sorry for it afterward, neither" (84). This time, he is has grown enough to feel guilty and apologize for his wrong doing.
Disregard for Disdain
Doing Right For The Wrong Reasons
Ill At Ease
Truth Be Told
Dear Miss Watson
Literary Influence
Mark Twain's Personal Connection
In the beginning of the novel, Huck shows a blatant disregard for the effect his actions has on the people in his life. He fakes his own death and does not understand that his search party would be concerned for him. "By and by she come along and she drifted in so close ... most everybody was on the boat. Pap, and Judge Thatcher, and Bessie Thatcher, and Joe Harper, and Tom Sawyer, and his old Aunt Polly, and Sid and Mary, and plenty more. Everybody was talking about the murder..." (38). Huck watches these people without emotion, not fully understanding his influence.
In the novel, Jim and Huck happen upon a boat. Huck finds three men on the boat, two of whom are murderers. He finds the driver of another boat and tells him about the situation. He goes to a lot of trouble to save the murderers from a boat wreck. "I was feeling ruther comfortable on accounts of taking all this trouble for that gang, for not many 'a' done it. I wished the widow knowed about it. I judged she would be proud of me for helping these rapscallions, because rapscallions and dead-beats is the kind the widow and good people takes the most interest in" (73).
As the novel progresses, Huck is presented with an important moral decision. When he is rowing to shore, he is stopped by two men who ask if the man in his boat is black or white. They are looking for runaway slaves. "I didn't answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn't come ... I see I was weakening; so just give up trying, and up and says: 'He's white'" (87). This is a major growing up point for Huck. He has made the decision to protect his friend, regardless of the consequences.
Huck demonstrates a major step in his process of growing up when he chooses to tell the truth
for the first time. "Well, I say to myself at last, I'm a-going to chance it; I'll up and tell the truth this time..." (180). He feels so horrible for the negative influence of the King and Duke that he tells Mary Jane the truth in order to save her and her family from being further conned.
Similarly to the last incident, Huck does a lot a growing up when it comes to Jim. Jim is taken into custody as a runaway and he has the choice to write Miss Watson a letter and tell her he ran away. He instead decides to rip up the letter and go after Jim, no matter the cost. "I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then I says to myself: 'All right, then, I'll go to hell'--and tore it up" (206). Huck is grown up and mature enough to make life changing decisions on his own.
Twain's novels were greatly influenced by his life growing up along the Mississippi, and the experience he had from working as a steam boat pilot later on in life. Twain also expresses his childhood through his books by using similar locations and time periods.
Mark Twain originally wrote Huckleberry Finn in the mid 1870's but decided to put it aside due to its serious tone towards slavery. However, in 1884 he published his book and shocked the country with his perspective of slavery through the eyes of a young boy. In a time when America was still adjusting to the idea of free African Americans, citizens were engulfed by tales of an 11 year old boy who saw no wrong with having a negro as a friend.
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