In the very beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck refers to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which he claims Twain tells the truth “mainly.” However, in a critical article titled “Huckleberry Finn and the Problem of Freedom,” author Sanford Pinsker argues the novel to be deeply subversive for “it tells the truth not ‘mainly,’ but right down to the core.” The truth, as Pinsker frames it to be in the article, is anyone—black or white—cannot be genuinely free due to the corruption that freedom invites.
Pinsker describes Huck as “the satiric lens through which we see the world’s endless capacity for cruelty.” That being said, every account of cruelty the novel offers is carried out by someone who possess freedom. For example, there’s Pap who beats and steals from his son, the Sheperdson/Grangerford rivalry that leaves multiple parties dead, the Duke and Dauphin who con people for a living, Sherburn who murders Boggs in front of his daughter, the townspeople who find amusement in “putting turpentine on a stray dog and setting fire to him, or tying a tin pan to his tail and see him run himself to death” (Chapter 21), and of course the largest manifestation of inhumanity that is the institution of slavery. Meanwhile, Jim, who serves the role of most charismatic character and father figure to Huck, claims he would be a rich man if he only owned himself (chapter 8).
This article made me question the concept of freedom and those who are born with it. Can someone truly appreciate their freedom if they’ve never had to fight for it? Perhaps that would explain why freedom is so often misused. Moreover, is a nation that pledges liberty and justice for all actually free if it also has an “endless capacity for cruelty?”
Link to the article: http://www.vqronline.org/essay/huckleberry-finn-and-problem-freedom