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In class we investigated Huck's situation in chapter 6 after he is kidnapped by Pap and taken to the cabin in the woods. Huck's interaction with Jim, and that the two seem to interact as equals rather than an adult and a child or a white and a black. Given this relationship, it is interesting that the cabin scene makes sense as a depiction of slavery. Huck is confined to the cabin when Pap leaves,"…he locked me in and was gone three days. It was dreadful lonesome" does not receive and education, "no books nor study" Pap beats Huck repeatedly and berates him often, "I was all over welts…he laughed such a screechy laugh, and roared and cussed, and kept on chasing me", and Huck is forced to find work even though he is only a child and he has no inclination to find work (32,33,37). From this information alone the reader would assume that Huck is a slave, therefore the naturally parallel character to Huck is Jim. Huck and Jim's shared superstition, and Huck's situation with pap foreshadows Huck and Jim connecting on certain level. It is interesting to consider what Twain is doing on a meta-level with a text that identifies its clever white-male protagonist with a slave, especially in the wake of the civil war considering the significance of such purposeful alignment of Huck with Jim is intriguing.
Today's class was a discussion about how both knowledge and ignorance are present in chapters 10, 11, and 12. The ignorance that we found in each chapter seemed related to Jim's situation, and the lack of knowledge both he and Huck have on how the world beyond their island is perceiving Huck's murder. This includes Huck's discovery, thanks to Judith, of how people believe Jim killed him, and that he and Jim are no longer safe on their island. As for knowledge, there were similar trends to the types of knowledge present in each chapter, such as gender behavior, superstitious/folk tradition knowledge, and survival knowledge, which have more to do with race, gender, age, and experience. Examples of these types of knowledge are when Huck interacts with Judith Loftus, who pokes holes in Huck's disguise as a woman, teaching the reader about female tendencies and behavior. Jim is a great source of fold tradition knowledge, and is able to save himself from the rattlesnake bite because of it. Both Jim and Huck are able to continue surviving on the island, and then survive as they travel farther down the river, with their knowledge on staying low profile, finding food, and navigating the river. Other types of knowledge present include criminal knowledge, such as the robbers'/murderers' knowledge on how to kill Jim Turner without being blamed for it, and childish knowledge, as in the innocence and motivations of Huck to continue exploring the wrecked boat despite the danger. Mark Twain uses these types of knowledge to legitimize non-intellectual or non-traditional sources of knowledge, and the types of people who have it, such as slaves, children, women, and criminals.
Today in class we examined and discussed how Huck and Jim work through questions of truth and morality in chapters 13,14, and 15. We explored Huck and Jim’s different forms of naivety and their manifestations in relationship to questions of personal morals in these three chapters. Twain uses language of death and ghostliness often in chapter 13 when Huck references his past life. We though that this might be reflective of how he views his life before his fake death as a previous life, and perhaps how he now feels ghostly. Huck also experiences a transition from his immature misconceptions about death as something that can be faked, or a means of escape, to a realization of the gravity of death. Because of this newfound realization Huck becomes very conflicted over his choice to turn in the “rapscallions.” On one hand he feels it’s the right thing to do according to the law, but on the other hand he has never felt compelled to conform to society before and he feels bad for these murderers. We thought that this was a parallel to Huck’s moral dilemma about whether or not to turn in Jim. Again, Huck reveals his naïve understanding of the law as he himself has engaged in criminal activity but he doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of his actions, nor is he alarmed that the “rapscallions” are murderers. Rather he accepts this as simply their profession and his decision was influenced the fact that he might be a murderer one day too as if this is a plausible path for him to take. In chapter 14, we examined Jim’s naivety and subsequently his philosophical understanding of humanity. When Jim misinterprets the Solomon story, Huck attempts to explain it to him by comparing a child to money. This story alarms Jim because of the parallel to the auctioning of slave children on a plantation, and his experience of watching separation of slave children from their mothers by a white patriarchal figure. In this chapter we also see how Jim’s frustration with language, and his insistence that all humans should speak the same language. He thinks that if all humans are equal, all humans should be able to communicate. We concluded that this insistence stems from Jim’s definition of humanity by the ability to speak, and the use of other languages threatens his definition of himself as a human. This is a very clear moment in the text where Twain makes an argument against slavery, and rebuts the argument that slaves are not full human beings. Finally, in chapter 15 Twain uses fog as a metaphor for uncertainty and a physical representation of the “moral fog” that Huck experiences throughout these chapters. When the fog clears, and Huck returns to Jim and tricks him, he has a very clear moment in which he sees right from wrong and acts upon it by apologizing to Jim. Although this may be an isolated occurrence, it is the beginning of Huck’s understanding of the consequences of his actions.
Today, the primary focus of our discussion was about how Huck appears distraught in chapter 16, the various actions and scenes that make Huck uncomfortable and the greater culminating struggle of growing up that Huck wrestles with throughout. The first few things we came up with as specific parts in which Huck says he feels uncomfortable were Jim’s escape, how society views Jim, the fact that they don’t know exactly where they are, Jim’s desire to steal his children if he can’t save up enough money to buy them, Miss Watson’s fate, and Huck’s conscience that speaks up about bringing Jim to the free states. One of the recurring themes in this chapter was Huck’s continued problems with how he’s helping Jim. The first is that he revisits Jim’s escape and realizes his role in it. When they meet the two men looking for runaway slaves, Huck considers the fact that he wants to turn Jim in to them, feels obligated to turn Jim in to them, but is too weak to do so. Huck understands the laws surrounding runaway slaves but his connection with Jim makes him too weak to follow through, as he believes he should. That’s how societies view of Jim plays in. Jim’s plan to save up enough money as a free man and then buy his family, or steal them away if necessary troubles Huck because of the magnitude of the robbery and the obvious violation of what’s excepted in society. Although Huck as stolen things before, essentially kidnapping people upsets him. Smaller thoughts like Miss Watson’s fate and their ignorance to where exactly they are, crop up. We also discussed if Jim recognizes that Huck is considering turning him in when he thanks Huck profusely. We thought Jim was cunning and guilting Huck into making sure he remains a runaway. Overall, Huck is distraught because he is struggling to figure out his own morals while reconciling them with how he’s been brought up and what he’s been told is acceptable in society. The decisions Huck makes in this chapter speak more to his true character and beliefs than the events previously in the text.
The final aspect of chapter 16 we discussed were the two rather large problems that happen at the end of the chapter. They miss the town of Cairo, so they miss the Ohio river which will take them to the free states, and their raft is split in two by a steamboat, splitting Huck and Jim up. The metaphorical significance of a steamboat, the height of industrial prowess at the time, splitting Huck and Jim apart is almost tangible and connects back to one of the first paintings of the era that we were shown. The industrial, societal, norms are a pick that’s being driven through Huck and Jim’s relationship, both by Huck and outside forces.
In class today we examined the swindlers that Huck encounters in chapters 20 through 23 which include the King and the Duke, Sherburn, and the Circus. We first examined the King and the Duke who through their many exploits convince many a common man to give up their hard earned money. They do so through their well thought out schemes, from their play to their swindling of the printer, and conning the camp meeting. They are extremely clever and resourceful characters, but also not the brightest seeming like Shakespeare’s fools. However, these fools unlike Shakespeare’s fools, these fools are directing Huck’s journey now which might suggest something of their journey. These two characters become a role model for Huck, and not very good ones. Although Huck already has relatively loose morals, the King and the Duke have even looser morals and would loosen Huck's morals further. We explored these character’s “Americany” qualities. These characters are named after a concept that never has existed in America, but rather existed in the old world, Europe. Their vigilante scheming seems gypsy-esque, but at the same time their opportunistic fraudulent actions reflect the image of an American self made men. Next we discussed Sherburn who is a very conflicted character. He is a straight shooter, he tells Boggs he will shoot him if he keeps yelling about Sherburn cheating him past one, and follows through. Sherburn's actions seem justified because Boggs was given a clear ultimatum, and this action seems fair and just when juxtaposed to the sporadic lynch mob that had materialized. However, his actions are unjust because he has no authority to shoot someone. The last of the swindlers is the Circus, the Circus like the King and the Duke, completely controls its audience. Huck too is bought over by the Circus in childish wonder just like the common masses of the town. All three of these swindlers are opportunists who are able to control the masses through their fraud in their very American pursuits. Their frauds point to perhaps the biggest American fraud, Slavery. Americans enslaved Africans, and benefited at the cost of others. In all of these rapscallions as Huck would call them, not one shows remorse. The only person who shows any remorse is Jim when he tells of the one time he had lost his patience with his newly deaf child and beat the child. Throughout the various schemes and antics that Huck relates, Twain is consistently critical of the white people's behavior, and only when it comes to Jim does he give a sympathetic portrayal.