Huckleberry Finn, as depicted by E. W. Kemble in the original 1884 edition of the book.
|First appearance||The Adventures of Tom Sawyer|
|Created by||Mark Twain|
Huckleberry "Huck" Finn is a fictional character created by Mark Twain, who first appeared in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (set around 1845) and is the protagonist and narrator of its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (set around 1835–1845). He is 12 or 13 years old during the former and a year older ("thirteen or fourteen or along there," Chapter 17) at the time of the latter. Huck also narrates Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective, two shorter sequels to the first two books.
Huckleberry "Huck" Finn is the son of the town's vagrant drunkard, "Pap" Finn. Sleeping on doorsteps when the weather is fair, in empty hogsheads during storms, and living off of what he receives from others, Huck lives the life of a destitute vagabond. The author metaphorically names him "the juvenile pariah of the village" and describes Huck as "idle, and lawless, and vulgar, and bad," qualities for which he was admired by all the children in the village, although their mothers "cordially hated and dreaded" him.
Huck is an archetypal innocent, able to discover the "right" thing to do despite the prevailing theology and prejudiced mentality of the South of that era. The best example of this is his decision to help Jim escape slavery, even though he believes he will go to hell for it (see Christian views on slavery).
His appearance is described in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He wears the clothes of full-grown men which he probably received as charity, and as Twain describes him, "he was fluttering with rags." He has a torn broken hat and his trousers are supported with only one suspender.
Tom's Aunt Polly calls Huck a "poor motherless thing." Huck confesses to Tom in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that he remembers his mother and his parents' relentless fighting that only abated with her death.
Huck has a carefree life free from societal norms or rules, stealing watermelons and chickens and "borrowing" boats and cigars. Due to his unconventional childhood, Huck has received almost no education. At the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck is adopted by the Widow Douglas, who sends him to school in return for his saving her life. In the course of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" we find that he has learned enough to be literate and even reads books for entertainment when there isn't anything else to do. His knowledge of history as related to Jim is wildly inaccurate, but it is uncertain if he is being wrong on purpose as a joke on Jim.
In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the Widow attempts to "sivilize" (in his own words) the newly wealthy Huck. Huck's father takes him from her, but Huck manages to fake his own death and escape to Jackson's Island, where he coincidentally meets up with Jim, a slave who was owned by the Widow Douglas' sister, Miss Watson.
Jim is running away because he overheard Miss Watson planning to "sell him South" for eight hundred dollars. Jim wants to escape to Ohio, where he can find work to eventually buy his family's freedom. Huck and Jim take a raft down the Mississippi River in hopes of finding freedom from slavery for Jim and freedom from Pap for Huck. Their adventures together, along with Huck's solo adventures, comprise the core of the book.
In the end, however, Jim gains his freedom through Miss Watson's death, as she freed him in her will. Pap, it is revealed, has died in Huck's absence, and although he could safely return to St. Petersburg, Huck plans to flee west to Indian Territory.
In Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective, the published sequels to Huck Finn, however, Huck is living in St. Petersburg again after the events of his eponymous novel. In Abroad, Huck joins Tom and Jim for a wild, fanciful balloon ride that takes them overseas. In Detective, which occurs about a year after the events of Huck Finn, Huck helps Tom solve a murder mystery.
Huck is Tom Sawyer's closest friend. Their friendship is partially rooted in Sawyer's emulation of Huck's freedom and ability to do what he wants, like swearing and smoking when he feels like it. In one moment in the novel, he openly brags to his teacher that he was late for school because he stopped to talk with Huck Finn, something for which he knew he would (and did) receive a whipping. Nonetheless, Tom remains a devoted friend to Huck in all of the novels they appear in.
Jim, a runaway slave whom Huck befriends, is another dominant force in Huck's life. He is the symbol for the moral awakening Huck undergoes throughout Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Pap Finn is Huck's abusive, drunken father who shows up at the beginning of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and forcibly takes his son to live with him. Pap's only method of parenting is physical abuse. Although he seems derisive of education and civilized living, Pap seems to be jealous of Huck and is infuriated that his son would try to amount to more and live in better conditions than he did.
The character of Huck Finn is based on Tom Blankenship, the real-life son of a sawmill laborer and sometime drunkard named Woodson Blankenship, who lived in a "ramshackle" house near the Mississippi River behind the house where the author grew up in Hannibal, Missouri. The father of Huck, called "Pap" Finn, may be based on Jimmy Finn, a full-blown alcoholic who lived on the streets, and it is only through Twain's remembrances that Woodson is characterized as a drunkard. Twain left Hannibal and his boyhood at an early age and his memories of these people are colored by what he could have known and understood at the time, as a boy of less than 14 years old. Tom didn't attend school because there were no public schools at the time, and his family was too poor to send him to a private school. Left at loose ends in a busy household with six sisters and a mother who seems to have died when he was young, Tom was indeed "at liberty" most of the time.
Twain mentions his childhood friend Tom Blankenship as the inspiration for creating Huckleberry Finn in his autobiography: "In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy's." – Mark Twain's Autobiography.
Huck's adventure is in part based on an incident that happened to Tom Blankenship's eldest sibling, his brother Benson, a teenage fisherman who had his own skiff. He aided a runaway slave in defiance of the law, spurning a probable reward to instead bring food and other items to the slave, who was hiding in the wilderness near the river over the course of a summer. Eventually, bounty hunters chased the slave onto a logjam, where he drowned. Days later, Clemens and other local boys were exploring the logjam, when the body was dislodged and sprang up from beneath the water violently, frightening the boys. Some critics[who?] have also connected certain traits of Benson Blankenship to the character Muff Potter, from Twain's novel Tom Sawyer, such as his owning a skiff and occasionally sharing his catch with the boys of the town, and mending their kites.
Tom Blankenship has passed from history with few solid clues as to his ultimate fate. His sister told Twain near the turn of the century that both of her brothers were dead, and local rumor says that Tom perished in one of the cholera epidemics which swept up the Mississippi River in the years after the Civil War. Twain himself told reporters that he heard that Tom moved to Montana and was a well-respected Justice of the Peace, but this is thought to be wishful thinking by some historians. A Hannibal, Mo., old timer[who?] related that Tom "left Hannibal for the penitentiary." Mention is made in the local newspapers that he was arrested for stealing food repeatedly in the early 1860s.
No death certificate has ever been located for Tom, but census records indicate that Benson moved to Texas and started a family alongside his uncles and cousins by the 1860s. This suggests that there may have been a period when Tom and his father Woodson were more or less alone in Hannibal, as the daughters all married or entered into service with local families. No record of Tom's serving in the military during the Civil War has emerged as of this date, either. A local[who?][where?] was quoted as saying the family "played out" and disappeared from the area by the time the war was over. The ultimate truth seems to have passed into the unknowable realm, leaving us only with Twain's fiction.
Huck Finn has been one of the most-challenged books in the USA, both for exposing the ignorance and racism of the South and (paradoxically) for being racist itself. Craig Lancto, then education editor of World&I magazine, wrote:
- Nigger is an ugly word that ignites strong feelings and diminishes both speaker and hearer. Of course, neither Huck nor Tom meant it in a derogatory way. It was what they heard adults of their day say. Their behavior did not reflect racism, but those who would ban the book because of it rob students of the opportunity to discover that Twain was not a racist. Instead, they exacerbate racial tensions by finding racism where it does not exist.
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
- Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)
- Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896)
- Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians – unfinished
- Tom Sawyer's Conspiracy – unfinished
Actors who have portrayed Huckleberry Finn in movies and TV:
- Lewis Sargent (1920)
- Junior Durkin (1930 and 1931)
- Jackie Moran (1938)
- Donald O'Connor (1938)
- Mickey Rooney (1939)
- Eddie Hodges (1960)
- Roman Madyanov (1973 in Hopelessly Lost)
- Jeff East (1973 and 1974)
- Steve Stark (1979)
- Vladislav Galkin (1981)
- Ron Howard
- Ian Tracey
- Patrick Day (1986)
- Elijah Wood (1993)
- Brad Renfro (1995)
- Mark Wills (voice)
- Jake T. Austin (2013)
See also 
- (Washington, D.C.) Express, June 6, 2007
- Banned Books: How Schools Restrict the Reading of Young People