The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huck's Roles as Defined by the River and the Shore

Whenever Huck Finn steers his raft from the free currents of the river to the brambles on the banks of the Mississipi he renews his interaction with the society of the American south. When Twain's narrative comes ashore with Huck, the narrative becomes centered on the roles Huck is expected to play, and the roles everyone around Huck is trying to play. Everyone seems knows what the roles are, but they are less sure if the people around them are filling the roles accurately. Speech becomes the primary means through which people investigate roles. The role-less river life becomes defined by silence in contrast to the constant questions on the shore.

The roles played by the people Huck meets are centered around "the legend" that W.G. Cash speaks of: "the assumption that every planter was in the most rigid sense of the word a gentlemen," and that any upstanding citizen was as well. The form of the gentleman was well defined, but no one's position as a gentleman was so defined. According to Cash, the people had an uncertainty that comes with making an assumption about one's own identity; the people of the south had "an uneasy sensation of inadequacy for their role." They needed to "drive...

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