Huck states, Its lovely to live on a raft, (XIX, 118) In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, the Mississippi River becomes a symbol of maturity, freedom and Huckleberrys escape from the constrained style of society and civilization; while for Jim the River becomes an escape from slavery and a corridor to the free world. The River becomes Huckleberrys shelter from his abusive father and a way out of Widow Douglass restraint.
The river guides Huckleberry to self-discovery and maturity. When faced with obstacles, Huckleberry is forced to act courageously and only through these circumstances, is he able to develop his maturity. Huckleberry states, It felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now (XXXI, 213) It is the river and what Huckleberry encounters on the river that helps him find purpose behind his own character. Although Huckleberry is a young boy, he depends on the river to help him find adventure and his identity. He states, a big storm after midnight with a power of thunder and lightningwe stayed in the wigwam and let the raft take care of itself (XII,66) Huck leaves Pap and St. Petersburg because he desires to begin his journey. In search for his significance, Huckleberry begins to feel attached to the river and becomes dependent on it for sustenance, the most important being that it provides them with comfortable transportation towards freedom. Huck states, We catched fish and talked, and we took a swim now and then to keep off the sleepiness. It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river (XII, 64) Huck becomes fond of the Mississippi River, and through it, he tries to actively seek his fate and anticipate the adventures that await him.
The river is Huckleberrys refuge from trouble and a place of peace. Huckleberry states, Two or three days and nights went by, I reckon I might say they swum by, they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely (XIX, 116) Freedom is something that comes unnaturally to Huckleberry. Due to his abusive father constantly telling him what to do, Huckleberry likes the feeling of being free, but he has a problem trying to figure out what freedom is to him. Huckleberry yearned for the feeling of freedom and felt as though the river was the only way to escape from the hostility and chaos of the land. Not only was the river a place where Huckleberry felt protected and secure, but it also became Huckleberrys safe haven in times of trouble. He states:
We said there werent no home like a raft, after all.
Other places do seem so cramped and smothery, but a raft dont.
You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft (XVIII, 116)
On the raft, Huckleberry and Jim feel completely independent, through the rivers serenity they are able to think freely about the course of their own actions.
The river aid both Huckleberry and Jim to realize the corruption and deception of a civilized world. However, it is by their choice that they are able to accept each other and for Huckleberry to help a runaway slave achieve freedom. Huckleberry states:
and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and
the only one hes got nowI studied it for a minute, sort of holding
my breath, and then says to myself: All right, then, Ill go to hell (XXXI, 214)
Huckleberrys conscience is what causes him not to betray Jim. He risks eternal damnation for a runaway slave, which shows that Huckleberry will no longer conform to societys principals, and decides to take up wickedness again (XXXI, 214) Also, the river becomes a place for Huckleberry and Jim to bond and abandon the thought of racism. Throughout the book, Jim is portrayed as ignorant, stubborn, and stupid. However, as they go through their journey together, Huckleberry starts to see him as a person, and not just as a nigger. Huckleberry states, for what you want, above all things on a raft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind towards the others (XIX, 125) Although society and Pap had a major influence on Huckleberry, he wanted to flee from the conformity and racist standards of other people. The river becomes the only place where Jim and Huckleberry find independence and it also becomes their protection in times of danger.