The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by: Mark Twain

Point of View

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is written in the first-person point of view, which allows the reader to experience the story through Huck’s eyes and identify closely with the narrator. The story is told entirely from Huck’s perspective, and Huck refers to himself as “I” throughout the novel. Readers experience both external events and Huck’s internal thoughts and feelings from his vantage point. Even when Huck is being deceitful, as when he dresses as a girl and lies to the woman he meets in order to get information about his father, Huck’s actions remain sympathetic, because the reader knows his motivations. In one sense many of Huck’s actions are not that different from the king and the duke – all three tell stories to manipulate people – but because we know Huck’s motives are altruistic, his actions seem justified. We don’t see the story from the perspective of the king and duke, so we can only assume they are as selfish and greedy as their actions suggest. It is necessary for the reader to relate closely to Huck so that the moral stakes of his dilemma about helping Jim are high, and the reader is fully invested in Huck’s decision.

Huck can be an unreliable narrator, and his naïve misreading of situations creates dramatic irony, which contrasts Huck’s essentially good nature to the cynicism and hypocrisy of adults. Dramatic irony refers to situations where the reader knows more than a character in a book, and Twain employs it often in Huck Finn. Early on Huck fails to understand that the Widow Douglas prays before taking her meals: “When you got to the table you couldn’t go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn’t really anything the matter with them.” An extended example comes later when Huck goes to the circus. Because he is unaccustomed to the tropes of the performance, he is amazed that the clown has such witty comebacks and that the apparently drunk man in the audience turns out to be a performer: “then the ringmaster he see how he had been fooled,” he says, not guessing the ringmaster is in on the deception as well. These instances develop Huck’s character as innocent and uncorrupted, in opposition to the manipulative and jaded characters he meets with Jim.


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