The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by: Mark Twain

Themes

Adventure

Ironically given the book’s title, the theme of “adventure” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn tends to conjure a sense of immaturity and childish make-believe. The book begins by pointing backward to its prequel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and the boyish exploits that resulted in Tom and Huck striking it rich. Chapter 2 continues this type of adventure, with Tom and his “Gang” of highwaymen. This spirit of adventure as play follows Huck beyond St. Petersburg. But the real-life situations Huck and Jim find themselves in frequently demonstrate that adventure is not what Tom and his games have made it out to be. The first of these situations occurs in Chapters 12 and 13, when Huck gets excited about a wrecked steamboat, but quickly flees upon discovering that three real murderers are hiding out there. By the end of the book, when Tom returns and tries to enforce an overly complicated and “romantical” plan for Jim’s escape, the very foundations of adventure have come to strike Huck as childish and unrealistic. Even so, Huck retains some lust for adventure, which he demonstrates when he declares his intent to leave Pikesville and “light out for the Territory.”

Money/wealth

Money does nothing but cause problems in this book. Huck complains that ever since he came into a significant sum of money at the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, he has had to suffer attempts to “sivilize” and educate him. In the early chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the biggest problem Huck’s money brings him is his father, Pap. Pap mainly wants access to Huck’s money so he can buy more alcohol, and his capacity for anger and violence becomes clear when Huck refuses to hand over any cash. Further money-related problems arise following the initial appearance of the duke and the dauphin, who swindle common townsfolk out of their money. Their scams cause anxiety for Huck and wreak havoc in all of the small towns they visit. The only time money seems like it might have a redemptive power is at the end of the novel, when Tom gives Jim forty dollars to pay his way back north. For Jim, money holds the promise of liberation. But given the many problems money has brought throughout the book, it seems unlikely that money alone will guarantee Jim his freedom.