The Raft in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In ''Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,'' there are sometimes objects that serve the plot as well as the characters. In this lesson, you'll learn how the raft serves as a plot device.

The Raft

The raft in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the objects that stays with Huck and Jim the longest. Throughout its part of the novel, the raft serves as a plot device. In many cases it literally moves the story along by carrying Huck and Jim down the river, away from one adventure and towards another. It often serves a more active role as well. It sometimes strands them, forcing them into a story line they might otherwise have avoided, or it might provide a quick escape route from dangerous situations.

Initially, while they are on the first island, Huck and Jim have only the canoe that Huck stole from his father. While on that island, though, they catch a raft which is about twelve by fifteen feet. This is obviously much bigger than their canoe, which provides a lot more potential. The raft allows them to build a shelter on it to keep their things dry and to hide in. The size also helps the raft function as a plot device, as you'll see later on.

Huck and Jim on the raft

Adding to the Adventure

The first time we see the raft acting as something other than transportation is when Huck and Jim come across the wreck of the Walter Scott. When on board the wreck, Huck hears thieves discussing the murder of one of their fellow thieves. He quickly heads back to where the raft was to try and escape, only to find it's broken away. He and Jim are stranded with the murderers. Eventually they do find the raft again, but losing it briefly proves positive: in the thieves' boat they find blankets, clothes, and other necessities. In this way the raft provides extra suspense and helps get them needed supplies.

The raft gets them into trouble later. It is hit by a steamboat, forcing Jim and Huck onto shore. This allows the whole subplot with the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons to occur. Another type of transportation might not have had this issue, so the raft once again serves to get Jim and Huck into adventures and move the plot along.

Adding to the Plot

The size of the raft also serves as a plot device. Had Jim and Huck been in the canoe the whole time, they would not have been able to take on the Duke and the Dauphin. This is a long-lasting storyline, spanning a good portion of the latter half of the book. Without the raft, it would never have occurred. So here the raft clearly serves as a plot device, literally making a huge storyline possible.

If the raft had been a boat, Huck and Jim would have been able to escape the Duke and the Dauphin after the incident at the Wilks' house. As it is, the old men catch up with them, and the storyline concerning the four of them continues. This eventually leads to Jim being sold to the Phelps', which in turn moves the plot along to what might be considered its climax and later, its resolution.

A Raft for Escape and Safety

The raft works to get Huck and Jim out of trouble almost as often as it gets them into it. For example, even though it causes the trouble on the Walter Scott, it shows up again later to get them out of it. Finding it allows them to abandon the thieves' boat, which might have caused trouble later on. It also gets them out of the trouble with the Grangerford/Shepherdson feud. It isn't completely destroyed when the steamboat hits it. This allows Jim to fix it and provides them with an escape route when the feud comes to a head and things get really dangerous.

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