The ending of the novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, by Mark Twain, is very relevant to the themes and ideas of the main body of the novel. Although it has been criticised for being too long winded and being the downfall of this great novel, it is very important in reinforcing the messages put forward in the rest of the novel; the greatest of which is the shortcomings of modern society and the hypocrisy and arrogance, and even stupidity of the people of Mark Twains time.
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The argument that Twain seems to put forward time and again in this novel, that the simple people, like the Phelps, the kind niggers like Jim and the uneducated but morally right like Huck are really above the aristocrats and big plantation owners, who are “civilized” and “cultured”, but carry on with pointless feuds, and keep niggers as slaves. These upper-class sorts think that they are far superior and much more important than anybody else, and an example of these and the conformation that they are so arrogant and stupid is Tom Sawyer.
Tom is a friend of Hucks from his old town where he used to live. He comes from a relatively wealthy family and has had a good education and upbringing. He is around the same age as Huck, but we can see the difference between these two, one who is “cultured” and “civilised”, and the other considered to be an outcast, even “feral”. Tom meets Huck at his Aunts house pretending to be him. In turn Tom pretends to be his brother, Sid Sawyer. This way they fool Toms Aunt and are able to focus on one problem; freeing Jim who is being held the Phelps to be a slave.
To Hucks amazement Tom agrees to help him free Jim, which would be to break the law, and because Tom comes from such a good family and is educated and so on, Huck never imagined that he would be willing to help him. However, Huck doesnt realise that Tom isnt breaking the law at all. Jim has been freed without his knowledge, but Tom just plays along to have an adventure. They find that Jim is being held in a small shack, easily opened from the outside, and Jim is shackled by a leg chain to a bed, which can be lifted to release the chain.
Huck devises a simple plan to release Jim so that they can escape together and continue down the river. However, Huck is castigated by Tom for being so simple minded and not thinking up something more imaginative and with “style”. Tom, being well educated and so on, has read many romantic type novels to do with prisoners escaping from jails such as Baron Trenck, Casanova, Benvenuto Chelleeny and Henri IV. He sees an opportunity to make his own great adventure out of this simple problem by making it as difficult as possible for Huck, Jim and himself.
He believes that they should do it in the same manner as it has been done in these books. This type of romantic illusion Tom holds towards Jims escape from captivity exemplifies the way the southern upper class fantasize about the way life should be. Tom lives in a dream world, oblivious to the dangers and problems he is causing to others to satisfy this fantasy. He puts Jim through hell, but Jim plays along because Tom is a white boy and he has learned to do what he is told by white men, no-matter how stupid or pointless it seems.
Tom also puts Huck through a very hard time, who plays along because Tom is well educated and from a good family so he must know how to do it right. Some of the ridiculous thing Tom does are to put a whole lot of snakes and rats and other unpleasant animals in the same room as Jim, because in the books the jails were all vermin infested, so it had to be this way here too. Also Jim had to carve a diary of his “stay here in prison for 37 years” into a granite rock. Although Jim couldnt write, Tom wrote the words and Jim just copied them. Then Tom insisted that Jim needed to be dug out, even though the door was easily opened.
At first he demanded that they use case-knives to do it, but eventually gave up and instead used picks and shovels, but called them case knives to keep up the illusion for Tom. Then he said that they needed to saw the leg of the bed off to let Jim free of it, and then eat the sawdust, even though the leg of the bed could easily be lifted up and the chain slipped off. The list goes on. They continue on in this way for a considerable amount of time, although to anybody else it seems ludicrous; however, Jim and Huck are helpless to do anything about it because of their social status.
Jim is a nigger, and Huck is a poor, uneducated boy. This situation symbolizes what is happening everywhere else in the Southern states in Mark Twains time. Niggers and the poor had no social status, while the rich and “cultured” controlled everything, irrespectively if it they were doing it intelligently or just plain stupidly. Huck does not totally agree with the way Tom is doing things, but plays along for the sake of keeping peace. This happens earlier in the novel with the King and the Duke. Huck knows that they are frauds but keeps quiet to avoid any trouble.
He states, “When I start in to steal a nigger, I aint no ways particular how its done so its done. What I want is my niggerand I dont give a dead rat what the authorities think about it nuther”. He is indifferent as to how its done, as long as its done. Richard P. Adams makes this statement about the ending of the book; “It is an immense expression of contempt for adult society, so easily and so thoroughly hoodwinked by a pair of audacious children; and the more absurd Toms antics become, the more the satire is built up” #1.
In the end the consequences of Toms stupidity is that he gets shot in the leg which very nearly costs him his life, however, any of them could easily have been shot and killed in the process. Because of Toms injury, Huck and Jim need to take him to the doctor, and soon after are caught and taken back to the Phelpss farm, where the whole thing is explained to Aunt Sally who nearly has a nervous breakdown. Finally the truth emerges that Jim has been freed, and is no longer a slave, and Huck is exposed and Tom is exposed by Aunt Polly who comes down the river to see what is going on.
Then Aunt Sally proposes to adopt Huck, but he has already decided that he can never be civilized, so he makes up his mind to light out for the territories. This is an important technique that Twain uses to try and indirectly point blame at anybody, but it is obvious to the reader. Huck does not decide to leave because he thinks that society is rotten, he decides to leave because he thinks that he is the one that is rotten, and cannot be civilized, so he decides to go somewhere far away from civilization.