The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Themes

Themes and Colors
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Though Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn after the abolition of slavery in the United States, the novel itself is set before the Civil War, when slavery was still legal and the economic foundation of the American South. Many characters in Twain’s novel are themselves white slaveholders, like Miss Watson, the Grangerford family, and the Phelps family, while other characters profit indirectly from slavery, as the duke and the king do in…

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Huck lives in a society based on rules and traditions, many of which are both ridiculous and inhuman. At the beginning of the novel, Huck’s guardian, the Widow Douglas, and her sister, Miss Watson, try to “sivilize” Huck by teaching him manners and Christian values, but Huck recognizes that these lessons take more stock in the dead than in living people, and they do little more than make him uncomfortable, bored, and, ironically…

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There are two systems of belief represented in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: formal religion (namely, Christianity) and superstition. The educated and the “sivilized, like the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, practice Christianity, whereas the uneducated and poor, like Huck and Jim, have superstitions. Huck, despite (or maybe because of) the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson’s tutelage, immediately has an aversion to Christianity on the grounds that it takes too much stock…

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn belongs to the genre of Bildungsroman; that is, the novel presents a coming-of-age story in which the protagonist, Huck, matures as he broadens his horizons with new experiences. Huck begins the novel as an immature boy who enjoys goofing around with his boyhood friend, Tom Sawyer, and playing tricks on others. He has a good heart but a conscience deformed by the society in which he was…

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Huck and Jim both yearn for freedom. Huck wants to be free of petty manners and societal values. He wants to be free of his abusive father, who goes so far as to literally imprison Huck in a cabin. Maybe more than anything, Huck wants to be free such that he can think independently and do what his heart tells him to do. Similarly, Jim wants to be free of bondage so that he can…

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