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Freedom in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Examples & Quotes

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  • 0:04 The Theme of Freedom
  • 1:16 Freedom As a Necessity
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

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

The concept of freedom plays a significant role in ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.'' Huck and Jim are both seeking freedom, albeit for different reasons. Their journey to find freedom is filled with twists and turns.

The Theme of Freedom

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by the famous 19th century American novelist and essayist Mark Twain, we spend time with Huck and Jim, who are both in search of freedom. Huck wants freedom to be his own person, and Jim wants freedom that will allow him to return to his wife and children.

When Huck moves away from his abusive father to live with Widow Douglas, he believes he will experience freedom. What he finds is a life that, in his mind, is anything but free. The Widow wants him to be civilized. She wants him to have manners, and Huck finds this oppressive; he can no longer remain in that restrictive environment. He says:

'But it was rough living in a house all the time...and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied.'

On his adventure with Jim in the natural world around him, Huck finds that nature offers the freedom that he craves. He tells us how he feels about his time on the raft with Jim:

'Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.'

Freedom As a Necessity

For Huck, being free is paramount. He longs to be free of the restrictions his father and the Widow try to place on him. The confinement to the house makes him feel trapped. It is when he is out in the world, in a place where no one is laying claim to his actions or his time, that he feels free.

Both Huck and Jim find freedom by escaping from society and all that might be expected of them. Huck is trying to escape the expectations of society, especially the Widow and the plans she has for him. Huck does not take kindly to her efforts to make him conform to her or her sister's rules. Her sister, Miss Watson, says to him:

'Don't put your feet up there, Huckleberry,' and, 'Don't scrunch up like that, Huckleberry, sit up straight.'

All of the constant rules and the changes that are expected of him restrict his freedom. Huck needs to escape to live life on his terms.

For Jim, the need to escape comes from a more deeply rooted place. When Jim overhears Miss Watson talking about selling him, he knows it is time to make his escape and find his way to freedom and back to his wife and children.

Ironically, Huck has a moment of contradiction when he realizes that Jim has run off to find his freedom. It is as though Huck doesn't understand that they are in the same boat. Jim reminds him:

'Well, I b'lieve you, Huck. I--I RUN OFF.'

Jim wonders why it is okay for Huck to leave a situation that is unbearable, but Jim should not do the same.

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