The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn begins with Huck introducing himself. He is wild and carefree, playing jokes on people and believing them all to be hilarious. When his adventures grow to involve new moral questions never before raised, there is a drastic change in his opinions, thoughts, and his views of “right and wrong”, and Huck’s “rejection of the values of society has tried to instill in him” (Wright 154). By the time the book is over, it is apparent that he has matured greatly since the beginning of the novel. Certainly the people and events Huck comes in contact with through his adventures causes this change, which include: Jim, the Duke and the King with the Wilks’ family, Pap and the Widow Douglas, and the time spent with the Grangerfords.
The person who affected Huck the most was Jim. Jim was Huck’s companion throughout the entire journey. At first Huck considers Jim only as a “nigger” because of the way he was brought up, yet Jim is much more than a stereotypical slave and Huck develops a deep feeling of loyalty toward him. During their adventure together, Huck always feels a duty to reveal Jim’s identity as a runaway slave, but is held back when he remembers Jim’s kindness and integrity “Jim would always call me honey and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was” (Twain 95). An example when Huck questions his morals and helps Jim is when they are traveling down the river when they come across men who are trying to capture runaway slaves. To resolve this problem Huck implies to the men that his father (actually Jim) has smallpox. Huck also eventually decides that his values overrule religion (by ripping up the note to Miss Watson to inform her about Jim), even though religion is still a force that should be though about. In his eyes, he is going to go to hell and suffer eternally because of helping Jim escape and not returning him back to his “owner”. He realizes that Jim is more human than he was led to believe. Huck’s view of “right and wrong” also changes. He still lies and plays jokes, but now he feels some guilt whenever he does this. An example of this is when he tricks Jim into believing he was dreaming about the fog. When Jim says, “en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren’s en makes ‘em feel ashamed” (Twain 90), this makes Huck feel bad enough to apologize and he finally realizes that tricking Jim is wrong and that he has feelings. Huck has a lot of trust in Jim, but other people on the journey have helped the rebellious boy grow up.
The Duke and King also changes Huck’s way of thinking. They made him realize that the life of a thief and con man was not a way to live because it hurt other people. While they were trying to scam the Wilks’ money, Huck chose to help the innocent Wilks girls, instead of the King and Duke. Huck’s morals kicked in and he learned to think of others instead of himself. The Duke and King were very unappreciative for Huck’s help while the Wilks’ girls were very grateful “I shan’t ever forget you, and I’ll think of you a many and a many time, and I’ll pray for you too!” (Twain 188). The lying charlatans and the kindhearted girls taught Huck that you can not cheat your way through life.
Another man that taught Huck about cheating through life was Pap. He taught Huck many things during his childhood, most of which were unethical “Pap always said, take a chicken when you get a chance, because if you don’t want him yourself you can easy find somebody that does, and a good deed ain’t ever forgot.” (Twain 71). “It was kind of lazy and jolly, laying off comfortable all day, smoking, fishing, and no books, nor study.” (Twain 32) Huck likes his father’s way of life better than the “sivilized” life of the widow, but he later learned that the widow’s way was better.
Huck did not like the “sivilized” ways of the widow, but throughout the book it is clear that he learn moral values while living with the widow “but the widow said it warn’t anything but a soft name for stealing, an no decent body would do it.” (Twain 71).
Huck matured a great deal while he stayed at the Grangerfords. During his short stay with the family, he experienced the cruelty of humans through fighting and death. Unquestionably the Grangerfords taught Huck the strong emotions of love, hate, and sorrow. He found a boy his own age yearn to kill when he asked Buck what a Shepherdson had done to him “Why, nothing-only it’s account of the feud.” (Twain 111). Buck’s death made him realize how fragile life is and how awful war is.
In conclusion, all the people and events on Huck’s journey change his life and way of thinking. At the beginning of the book, Huck is a rowdy, young, southern boy who has very little respect for slaves and has an “immortality of youth” way of thinking. By the end of the book, Huck respects slaves because of his friendship with Jim, he realizes how fragile life is because of his brushes with death, gains many moral values, and it is apparent that he has matured greatly since the beginning of the novel.