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Anti-slavery Ideologies In The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

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For a writing piece to be considered an ‘Unreliable Narration’, there are three main criteria that, generally speaking, must be met: What the author knows, what the narrator knows, and what the society in the story believes is acceptable. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn meets these specifics by exhibiting a tale in first-person point of view of a homeless, uneducated twelve or thirteen year old boy who simply goes by “Huck”. Huck lives in a Southern town plagued by age old prejudice beliefs of racism and practices of slavery. He is especially naïve to the social implications of his actions throughout the novel up until the ending, thus making him an unreliable narrator. This leaves a large portion of the novel’s message open to interpretation, thereby contributing directly to the theme of Mark Twain’s vehement anti-slavery idealogies.

An illustration of this can easily be seen in the character Jim and his relationship to Huck. In this case, Huck is an unreliable narrator, and his naïve misreading of situations creates dramatic irony, which contrasts the cruelty of slavery in the South to Huck’s carefree and joyfull idiosyncrasies.

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To elaborate on the idea of an unreliable narrator contributing to the theme, take for instance Jim’s plight for freedom. He flees from the evil slaveholder Miss Watson in order to pursue a free life. His only wish is to save his family from the cruelties of slavery. During a journey down a river to continue to flee from oppression, Jim protects Huck, not in the manner of a slave servant, but rather as a friend. Twain utilizes an unreliable narration through Huck to exemplify the common, yet evil, practices of slavery in the South while also encouraging empathy for Jim. As mentioned before, only in the final section of the novel does Twain develop this internal and external conflict concerning slavery: If Huck were to free Jim, that would condemn Huck to Hell. If he chooses not to, that would force Jim into a life of misery. This leads Huck to abandon all things “sivilised” in order to free Jim from the literal chains and metaphorical shackles of slavery.

In addition to this, Huck’s unreliable narration is shown through his blatantly racist ideas that Jim had “an uncommon level head for a nigger.’ This portrays Huck’s indoctrination of prejudice believes set upon him by the South. Or in other words, Huck displays what the current society deems as acceptable. To reiterate, everything in the novel is filtered through Huck, the reader then has to rely solely on him to accurately convey whatever happens in the novel. And yet one cannot overstate the truthfulness and rather earnest way Huck carries himself. All of this can directly add on to the underlying theme of racial equality through the lens of a young, uneducated, and filthy boy.

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Anti-slavery Ideologies In The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
“Anti-slavery Ideologies In The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
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Anti-slavery Ideologies In The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2022 Dec 1]. Available from:
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