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Huck As A Traumatized Child In The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

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Mark Twain’s fiction The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn explores various themes. Be it standing as a foreground for moral debates, dealing with slave markets, a marvellous piece of adventure fiction, or a mere children’s book. Whatever it might be, it is surely one thing, it is a foundational piece which dealt with a 14 years old young boy severely affected by parental loss, lacking all possible affection with no serious concern by anyone on a journey of escape for freedom. While the story feels pretty adventurous yet the layers to it cannot be ignored. Mark Twain can be called a pioneer in projecting the traumatised child in the visible light after which writers such as William Faulkner, Toni Morrison followed the suit with Freudian lenses, gendering the subject, etc.

The depiction of childhood trauma was first professed in American literature with the commencement of Victorian Era. The development of literature focused on children was also highly invested in by Generation I Romantic poet William Blake. His illustrated work, Songs of Innocence an Experience, talked vividly about the plight of children and the veil of innocence over the most gruesome harsh realities of conditions of children in 18th century. Not much changed in 19th century children fiction, except that now the truth was more psychologically embedded and difficult to even admit as it was covered with so many layers. Therefore, Huck Finn though a child, is shown smoking, living alone in woods, travelling alone, all painted in the colour of ‘adventure’. It is needless to say that Twain doesn’t colour the children fiction in fairy tale colours. There is harsh reality wherein all children are party to unsolicited violence, and Twain isn’t afraid to layer up the reality though making sure that it is visible if only looked carefully by the reader. Thus, a sense of realism engulfs the story which ceases to be mere story as it takes up theme of slavery, superstition, escaping griefs, fear, etc.

Huckleberry Finn’s condition and situation in which he has lived throughout his life are depicted in such a matter-of-fact way that even the critics aren’t able to figure out the moral wrongs in his life. Huck frequently describes how he gets thrashed by his father, “whipped”, stolen away from his comfort zone just for the sake of money. His own mindset is thus projected as the one who doesn’t pay attention to these “normal things”. Therefore, the trauma which Finn is exposed can be inexplicable to he himself, for for him no beating day is a normal day. On the first look, it feels like everything will be fine and maybe the trauma faced by Finn won’t cage him forever, however his rejection of the stability Widow Douglas was ready to provide in the end, completely overthrows this hope. This young boy damaged by other people’s choices remains a “hero of the solitude”.

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There is a recurrent emphasis on ‘loneliness” in the story. Though a child who has friends, and is keen on going on real adventures frequently, Finn is strangely lonely. This is to say that he follows the path of escape as soon as he gets the opportunity, unaware that solitude cannot kill the trauma pain. Finn has been brought up parentless and invisible to society as a child. He was a drunkard’s son who was dutifully outcasted. His law-breaking attitude only made him hold worse position in the society.

The contemporary fiction is full of narratives wherein the protagonists’ parents are absent from the picture. There is a Freudian edge to it. The sense of abandonment strangely brings on the sense of freeness, however always tinged with realisation of not having a foundational, fundamental piece which parents provide. the protagonist then turns out to be a hero who defeats all odds. Huck Finn uses his own sense of morality diluted according to the situation and uses it to live in a world where every adult’s decision has only impacted him to feel worse. It is noteworthy that his little education and more of his experience has taught him all that he knows, and mostly often morally correct.

The level of violence frequently depicted in the story is also of another nature. The rules of the game, which is pirate like is indeed gruesome, the gang of Tom Sawyer feel no problem in “cutting the throat, and then burning”. The adventure of Huck Finn hides his psychological vulnerabilities thoroughly exploited by the traumatic situations he is induced to time and again.

Works Cited

  1. Doyno, Victor A. “Presentations of Violence in ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’” The Mark Twain Annual, no. 2, 2004, pp. 75–93. JSTOR,
  2. Rubenstein, Gilbert M. “The Moral Structure of Huckleberry Finn.” College English, vol. 18, no. 2, 1956, pp. 72–76. JSTOR,
  3. Lejkowski, Richard. “Childhood Trauma and the Imagination in American Literature” Graduate School-Camden Rutgers,

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