The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Mississippi River: Revealing the Dichotomy Between Civilization and Freedom College

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been dually noted one of America’s greatest masterpieces of literature and one of America’s biggest controversies of literature. Mark Twain develops his story along the Mississippi River where young Huckleberry Finn helps a slave, Jim, escape to his freedom. In a criticism of Twain’s novel, T.S. Elliot says, “…Twain has two elements which, when treated with his sensibility and experience, formed a great book: these two are the Boy and the River” (348). The river makes Twain’s literature “great” and controversial because it functions much more than just the setting of the novel: the river is a multi-faceted symbol that plays a crucial role in illustrating the dichotomy between civilization and freedom.

Though the Mississippi River provides the literal route to freedom for Huck and Jim, Twain’s depictions of the river reveal that true freedom only exists in nature. The geography of the river provides literal and figurative protection for Huck and Jim. They had “mountains on the Missouri shore and heavy timber on the Illinois side, and the channel was down the Missouri shore at that place so we warn’t afraid of anybody running across us” (74). Huck and Jim do not have to worry about anyone...

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