Freedom in the Characters of Huck and Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Corrupted families, a flawed society, and conflicting opinions- this is just half of what Huck Finn faces throughout his journey with Jim in Mark Twain’s novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The readers follow the unlikely pair, and an imaginative boy, Tom Sawyer, as they face their battles. Through these characters we can infer the real meaning of freedom: to be independent and free of physical, societal, and emotional captivity. Twain depicts the struggles to escape the imprisonment through the use of Huck, Tom, and Jim’s character’s and their internal conflicts.

Throughout the novel, Huck struggles to free himself from Southern society’s morals and become independent. In fact, while Jim is feverish with excitement at the thought of being free, Huck is “all over trembly and feverish, too, to hear him because who was to blame [for him being a free slave?]” (87). Huck was. From his guilt and inability to decide whether to turn Jim in or keep him, the readers can infer that he has no control over his conscience or any ability to make his own decision.

Therefore, he is captivated by society’s norms and he can only do what society allows him to: blame himself for Jim’s freedom. However, when Huck gets the chance to rid himself of his guilt and expose Jim, he instead makes a decision to protect him and do what’s right. Although Huck thought he had done wrong, “[he] reckoned he wouldn’t bother no more about it but after this always do whichever comes handiest at the the time” (92).

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Huck’s reluctance to blow Jim’s cover and realization of doing whatever his heart tells him to do, demonstrates that he is free from society’s moral rules. The same rules that dominate the South because of the racism that plagues it’s society.

Unfortunately, his freedom from society doesn’t last long as he soon returns to feeling guilty. When Huck writes a letter to Ms. Watson to reveal Jim’s whereabouts, he is, once again, falling for society’s beliefs. However, the letter doesn’t last long after much thought as Huck “took up…the [letter he’d written to Ms. Watson] and held it in his hand…then says to himself, ‘all right then, I’ll go to hell”” (214). Huck follows what he believes to be logical, rather than the lessons that he has been taught, thus freeing himself from societal struggles. His decision to follow his gut and throw away society’s cruel principles shows Huck’s official separation from the world.

The infamous and ambiguous Tom Sawyer, known for his wild imagination, often puts himself and his needs before others because he is held captive from reality, similar to the way Huck was trapped by society. In fact, Tom is always the leader of whatever situation he is in and uses his influence to control the pursuits, which are often based upon his ideal adventures. When Tom forms a gang of “robbers”, he named it “Tom Sawyer’s Gang,” proving that he craves attention. He stated that its members must “write their name in blood…and kill [anybody who’d done wrong to any member of the gang] and his family” (7-8). Unlike Huck’s straightforwardness, Tom likes to exaggerate things and make them as extravagant as possible.

Although in reality, Tom Sawyer’s adventures never go as planned, Tom’s ridiculous ideas suggest that he is unable to shake himself from his emotional captivity. Even when Huck recruits him on his pursuit to break Jim out of captivity, Tom is adamant on giving Jim the “Greatest Escape In History” and puts him through difficult and seemingly useless tasks. While planning, Tom has Huck “get [Jim] garter snakes,… rats, and spiders….. [because] a prisoner’s got to have some kind of pet,” while Jim plants a flower and waters it with his tears (263). There is no doubt that Tom is clever, however this demonstrates that his elaborate plans and infatuation with fantasy puts others at risk. Even though he said he’d free Jim immediately, Tom obviously isn’t capable of letting go of his wild imagination, even when Jim’s safety and freedom is at risk.

When Tom reveals that Jim was a free man the whole time, he created the whole plan to “free” the already free man because “[he] wanted the adventure of it; [he would’ve] waded neck-deep in blood to [experience it]” (290). Twain reveals how selfish Tom is by having him keep a vital secret that would’ve cause these things to never happen to Jim and using it to fulfill his own desires. While Huck is practical, Tom is ridiculously and constantly using others to benefit himself and his imagination.

Jim, being a negro in the South, is stuck in the racist stereotypes set by society and cannot be free from till he’s physically free from slavery. In the beginning, Huck and Tom is always tricking Jim and having him be the butt of his jokes. When the pair sneaks out of Ms. Watson’s house, Tom plays a trick on Jim while he sleeps that when he awoke “Jim said witches bewitched him and put him in a trance” (6). Twain depicts Jim as a fool, the stereotypical colored man, as one can infer that Jim is gullible and easily tricked. This can be seen as a negative, however throughout the book we see that Jim is not only gullible, but a trusting person because he values Huck’s companionship. When Jim runs away the same night Huck fakes his death, “a reward is put out on him…and they put [the blame] on him” (57).

Even though Jim escapes slavery, he is still not free. Because of society’s negative depiction of black people, Jim is immediately made responsible for Huck’s “death” even if there’s no actual evidence pointing to him. However, everything changes for Jim when he returns to the Phelps with Tom. When it had sunken in that Jim was not the bad man that he is portrayed to be, rather a big-hearted one that helped a wounded Tom, and a free man, “[they] had him out of chains in no time…made a heap of fuss over him, and fixed him up prime, and gave him all he wanted…and a good time” (292). The sudden change in attitude towards Jim and his portrayal of a loyal man represents his true break from society’s racist stereotypes and the world around him. Jim, who was once a troubled man enslaved, proves his loyalty and shows one that he’s just as equal as a white man.

In Twain’s novel, freedom is a luxury that doesn’t come easily. Before one can achieve it, they must be captivated by something. In this novel, one follows the pursuit of the trio, Jim, Huck and Tom, whom struggle with their internal conflicts to be truly free. One of the many reasons the book is considered The Great American Novel is because rather than depicting the negative side of Southern life back then, it shows a more positive picture. A picture that depicts an unlikely pair, a black man and white boys, going against the moral rules and standing up for what they believe is right – similar to the way american fought against the authoritative figure, Great Britain, to gain independence. In conclusion, to be free one has to fight their way through captivity and to value their freedom, because it involves many obstacles.

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Freedom in the Characters of Huck and Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. (2023, Feb 13). Retrieved from

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