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Nature in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

In the ''Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'' by Mark Twain, we see that Huck is drawn to nature. He is far more comfortable in the natural world than he is in civilization. In nature he feels free.

Nature Takes Center Stage

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the beauty and simplicity, the unpredictability and power of nature play a prominent role in the story. We see from the beginning that the river is where Huck feels calm and at peace.

When Twain describes nature, we are able to feel as though we are there walking in the forest or traveling down the river with Huck and Jim. He makes us believe, just for a moment, that we are there alongside his characters.

'We begun to come to trees with Spanish moss on them, hanging down from the limbs like long, gray beards.'

As readers, we can imagine the trees drooping over the river, creating a canopy of dappled green and sunlight, mixed with the gray of the Spanish moss that hangs down.

Twain's tone demonstrates his vast appreciation for all that the natural world offers. When speaking about nature, his use of language lulls us into the rhythms of the trees and the river. We can see and feel the beauty and power and we, like Twain, are awestruck.

'Next we slid into the river and had a swim... Not a sound anywheres - perfectly still - just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-clattering, maybe.'

There is peace and calm in the natural world. This is a place where Huck and Jim can be alone with their thoughts, and can feel alive and free.

Huck with a Rabbit
Huck with a Rabbit

Nature Offers Freedom

The river offers freedom for both Huck and Jim. It is Huck's ticket away from his abusive father. For Jim, the Mississippi river is the way to freedom from slavery. Huck feels as though he is in prison with all the rules Miss Watson and society place on him, and Jim is a slave with no rights of his own. The river is a place where they are both able to experience freedom.

'So in two seconds away we went a-sliding down the river, and it did seem so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river, and nobody to bother us.'

We can all relate to the idea of being able to go somewhere where no one can bother us. When you first got your driver's license, the feeling of freedom it brought was exhilarating. There was something amazing about being able to get in the car and go. There were no restrictions, no one was telling us what to do or how to do it. We were free.

Huck and Jim feel this each time they set off down the river. Here, they are able to leave the restrictions of life behind them. Here, on the river, they can be friends and enjoy each moment as it comes. It is just them and nature. Life on the raft as they float down the river deepens their friendship because they can talk for hours about anything.

The river draws them in, and Twain helps us understand that the river holds a power over Huck and Jim, just as all nature does. Huck helps us appreciate the awesomeness of the river.

'The river looked miles and miles across. The moon was so bright I could a counted the drift logs that went a-slipping along, black and still, hundreds of yards out from shore.'

The Beauty of Nature

Twain wants us to see the beauty in the natural world. For him, nature is inviting, maybe even a little frightening, and yet still beautiful.

'The stars were shining, and the leaves rustled in the woods ever so mournful... and the wind was trying to whisper something to me, and I couldn't make out what it was, and so it made the cold shivers run over me.'

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