The Final Episode of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The Great Importance of the Final Episode of Huckleberry Finn

One of the things many critics of Huckleberry Finn just can't

seem to understand is the final episode of the novel where Tom returns

and sidetracks Huck from his rescue of Jim through a long series of

silly, boyish plans based on ideas Tom has picked up from Romantic novels,

such as those of Walter Scott. Critic Stephen Railton dismisses these

final chapters as "just another version of their Royal Nonesuch" (405);

referring, of course, to the silly play put on by the Duke and Dauphin in

chapter 23. From one point of view, this whole "evasion" sequence seems

funny and humorous in the traditions of frontier and southwestern
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For one, Stephen

Railton says Jim's role is "haplessly comic" (401). Several critics argue that Jim

fits into the stereotypical figure of the black-face minstrel shows

popular at the time (Carey-Webb 24) (an accusation with profound repercussions,

to be addressed shortly). And remember how most of Twain's books

until this one, such as The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It , were

comic travel books. And it also seems likely that Twain is satirizing

Romanticism (another possible idea to be addressed later).

However, despite the humor (or maybe because of it), the book

remains very serious. As V. S. Pritchett puts it, "The curious thing

about Huckleberry Finn is that, although it is one of the funniest books

in all literature and really astonishing in the variety of its farce and

character, we are even more moved than we are amused by it" (307). Pritchett

goes on to say, "The value of a native humor like Twain's

is that it expresses a profound reality in human nature: the ability

of man to adjust himself to circumstance and to live somehow" (307).

There is truth in comedy. Comedians can tell us brutal realities that

dramatist cannot. As Pritchett explains later, "The subject of

Huckleberry Finn is the comical but also brutal effect of an anarchic

rebellion against civilization and especially
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