Realism in Huckleberry Fin

9 September 2016

In every great novel of society…. what counts is the reality behind appearance” (Kazin, 1981, 287). Though hard to distinguish, reality behind appearance is a central theme in many novels. It makes you look past what they convey and take deeper insight. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain about a southern wild boy Huckleberry Finn and his internal and external struggles as he travels along the Mississippi river with his buddy Jim.

The novel Impulse by Ellen Hopkins is a dramatic story of three misguided teens, Vanessa, Connor, and Tony, whose fates intertwine as they meet in a mental institution known as Aspen Springs after their suicide attempts. In both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Impulse we see a reality behind appearance as the authors ask us to look deeper behind the text. Miss Watson and Vanessa both look to be well ordered on the outside but on the inside struggle between right and wrong. As The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn starts we meet a woman named Miss Watson. She is Huck’s guardian, Widow Douglas, sister.

Realism in Huckleberry Fin Essay Example

Huck and Miss Watson are polar opposites. Miss Watson is very religious and has many rules. As Huck recalls them as, “‘Don’t put your feet up there, Huckleberry’; and ‘Don’t scrunch up like that, Huckleberry—set up straight’; and pretty soon she would say, ‘Don’t gap and stretch like that, Huckleberry—why don’t you try to behave? ’” (Twain 2). This drives Huck Finn insane. We learn later on that Miss Watson owns a slave named Jim. But this makes us think how a woman so holy and domestic could do something as inhumane as owning a slave? The reality behind appearance there is that Miss Watson is not all that she claims to be.

While she means well, she does not practice what she preaches. In the novel Impulse we encounter an unconventional beauty named Vanessa. She appears to have it all together, but in reality she hides her addiction: cutting herself. She recalls, “So I gave myself to knife, asked it to bite a little harder, chew a little deeper. The hot, scarlet rush felt so delicious I couldn’t stop there” (Hopkins 107). She struggles to find what is right and wrong. In the mental institution Aspen Springs she attends regular mass and prays for help. Vanessa fights with the demons.

As her past catches up with her, she cannot help but to fall deeper into her blue depression. Her mother was an erratic woman, struggling with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Vanessa tells why she cuts, “I cut when I think I hear a baby crying. When I think I hear Mama calling. Knowing those things are impossible but hearing them just the same. And that’s something I’ll never break down and admit to anyone but myself. Bipolar crazy is one thing. Schizophrenic is another. Could I have inherited both? ” (200). Vanessa cannot seem to find an alternative to harming herself until she finds the love of Tony.

Both Vanessa and Miss Watson are stuck in bad habits. Both Jim and Connor have a tough exterior but in reality are begging for love and understanding. Miss Watson’s slave Jim has had his challenges in life but always comes out on top of things. When he is the prime suspect in Huck’s fake death, he runs away and that is where he meets up with Huck. Though being separated from his family, Jim is still one of the kindest characters in the book. He respects and cares for Huck. When Jim says, ‘”No! W’y, what has you lived on? But you got a gun. Oh, yes, you got a gun. Dat’s good.

Now you kill sumfn en I’ll make up de fire”’ (Twain 42), he shows that he has a profound friendship with Huck and they work well together. Through Jim’s character Twain references slavery and racism, saying that even though Jim is a slave, he has a higher respect for human life than most other white people. Huck is the only one to see that. Just like Jim, Connor is misunderstood and ignored. Connor is portrayed as a tough jock with a perfect life. Handsome and smooth with the ladies, he is held to high expectations but he is probably the most sensitive character in Impulse.

Under the pressure of his stone cold, perfect family’s expectations, he cracked and attempted suicide. After he failed at that, he became even more of a failure in his mother’s eyes. His mother is a prime factor in his intense depression. Connor says, “I don’t believe in God, don’t believe in the devil. Unless you want to count my mother. She might be Satan’s sister, I suppose” (Hopkins 203). Connor’s past memories contribute to his eventual jumping off of a cliff and finally ending his pain. He just could not live up to his mother’s expectations so he decided not to live at all.

Twain references Romanticism with the Grangerfords. As Huck’s adventures continue down the Mississippi River he encounters a family called the Grangerfords. After Huck makes up an elaborate story about how he has been orphaned they take him in. Huck is fascinated with them and their romantic atmosphere. The Grangerfords are very “haughty taught”. They hold themselves to a high standard. Huck describes their home as, “It didn’t have an iron latch on the front door, nor a wooden one with a buckskin string, but a brass knob to turn, the same as houses in town.

He admires Colonel Grangerford, the master of the house, and his supposed gentility. A warmhearted man, the colonel owns a very large estate with over a hundred slaves. Even though the Grangerfords are supposed to be exceptional human beings, the reality of their barbarian characteristics come out when they encounter a Shepherdson. The Grangerfords have been feuding with their neighboring clan, the Shepherdsons since they can remember though they cannot remember why. They have a Montague and Capulet relationship.

Their appearance is upstanding citizens, but when it comes to their feud, they become roughneck criminals. Connor’s family is much like the Grangerfords in their appearance. His family is like glass: perfectly formed, expensive, cold, fragile, and millions of tiny cracks nearly imperceptible individually can be hidden, but left untreated; they eventually lead to a complete breakdown. It consists of his demanding mother, timid father, and twin sister Cara whom Hopkins discusses in another book Perfect. His mother is the ring leader.

Connor refers to her as the “ice princess” (Hopkins 127), says she gives “ice kisses” (127). When he attempted suicide the first time all she was worried about was the blood staining her white Armani blouse and never shed a tear. She gets into his head, her voice pushing him to meet impossible expectations. His father is usually quiet except for when he pushes Connor in football. His twin sister Cara is the golden child. She is beautiful, smart, all around perfect. She is Connor’s competition but it really is not competition at all because Cara always wins.

As Conner commits suicide, he recalls his family, “I take a deep breath, a final taste of sweet mountain air. I conjure Leona, Emily. Move my feet closer. Closer. There’s Grandma One, Grandma Two, and their spouses, waiting for me. I see Dad. Cara. Mommy. I screw up my courage, step over” (Hopkins 653). Although it is terrible to look at Connor’s suicide like this, in a way Connor’s family pushed him off the cliff themselves. The Grangerfords and Connor’s family both put up a fancy appearance but in reality they are cracked. Huck and Tony are both struggling with society’s judgments.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is based on the young, confused, Huckleberry Finn. Huck is stuck between many conflicts; should he follow religion, or follow his gut instincts? Obey his father, or obey the Widow? Listen to Tom, or to the Phelpses? His moral compass is a little off because he follows the beliefs of his society, but he is usually pointed in the right direction. On the outside he’s just a mischievous, lying hooligan but in some twisted way he tries to do the right thing, Huck does not figure out exactly how until later in the book.

He is conflicted. After a series of unfortunate events and elaborate lies, Jim is sold to the Phelpses and Huck writes a letter to Miss Watson telling her where to find Jim and make up for the wrongs society tells him he’s made. “It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said.

And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming” (Twain 214). This is the moral climax for Huck. He appears to be a carefree, childish boy, but in reality he spends a lot of his time thinking of ways to please others while still taking care of himself. Tony is much like Huck in the aspect that he is very confused. He struggles with memories of being molested by his mother’s boyfriend, and from this, he believes he is gay. The only way he can escape those memories is through pills. He has spent much of his life in juvenile prison and homeless.

Tony has a strange outlook on life. He is very at home with his condition and often stays doped up on his prescribed medication and lives in a sub consciousness. He is accepted the fact that he’s crazy. He says, “I mean, if you’re gonna purposely lose your mind, you want to get it back some day. Don’t you? Okay, maybe not” (Hopkins 460). On the outside Tony looks like a messed up gay drug addict but internally he’s a good, strong person, who wants to be accepted. Tony and Huck both eventually find their way through society’s judgments.

Actuality and our perceptions are two totally different concepts that we need to be able to distinguish between. The appearance is our judgments and what we see on the outside. The reality is what’s really there. Authors Mark Twain and Ellen Hopkins ask us to take a second look at the characters and themes. Twain and Hopkins write of racism, religion, status, and morality witch we see in most everyday life. If Twain had not written of these hard hitting subjects, Hopkins would not be able to write as freely as she does now. Both authors show us appearances and dare us to look beyond.

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