The purpose of this research is to examine the theme of freedom in Mark Twain's novel Adventures of Htckleberry Finn. The plan of the research will be to set forth the literary and historical context in which the novel appeared and then to show that the idea of freedom resonates in the text as a feature of conscious social criticism and aesthetic construct and indeed ties critique and aesthetic together.
Though Huckleberry Finn was published in full in 1885, what is important about dates and the novel is its setting, which is the 1840s along the Mississippi River in Missouri and southern Illinois. This was an environment defined and vexed by the issue of slavery. One analysis of the Civil War suggests that--traumatic as it was for the United States--it turned out to be inadequate to the task of correcting the impact of slavery. Constitutional amendments were needed to guarantee freedom for blacks:
heightened awareness of defects in the restored Union underlay the Republican commitment to join conduct and constitutionalism, freedom and federalism more closely; the better to harmonize . . . "the American Creed, the American Conscience, and the American Constitution" (Hyman 422).
Even then, it was some 100 years after the Civil War that the Civil Rights Movement succeeded in embedding Constitutional protections for former slaves into American consciousness and daily experience.
At the time of the action of Huckleberry Finn, American conscience, creed, Constitution, and consciousness were far from settled on the slavery issue, with "racial democracy" (Hyman 553) by no means a shared vision of the republic. Huckleberry Finn attacks the absence of a coherent American sensibility of the period by showing how the culture of slavery skewed and in a sense entrapped the simplest and most malleable of minds: those of children. Yet the arc of narrative action supplies one child in particular with a native intelligence that enables him...