In determining his self image, Huck deals with conformity and freedom by riding of his own identity, trying on different identities that do not belong to him, and shaping these new found tributes into an identity which best suits his conscience. “‘Is I me, or who is I? ‘”93. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn begins with Huck under the care of Widow Douglas. “She took me for her son, and allowed that she would civilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time”1. Huck has become so used to being free that he sees the Widow Douglas” protection as confinement.
Huck finds this unacceptable because he loses his freedom amongst “The bars and shackles of civilization”17. Huck wants to rid the shackles Widow Douglas place on Huck. He wants to be “Comfortable all day, smoking and fishing, and no books nor study”27. Huck feels that he belongs out under the stars and in nature, where the community cannot bound him. Huck then faces the return of his drunkard father. When Huck”s father comes back to the town, he only intends to steal money from his son. “‘I ain’t heard nothing but about you being rich. That”s why I come.
You get me that money tomorrow-I want it'”23. Huck”s own father does not feel one bit inclined to treat his son with respect. Then his father takes him to a log cabin deep in the woods and Huck once again faces confinement; “He always locked the door and put the key under his head”26. Huck”s escape, flight, and the changing of his identity are his only release from being in the log cabin. Then after escaping from it all, Huck is left with his freedom. The raft on which Huck and Jim travel demonstrates one of symbols of freedom in the story.
To Huck, the raft seems to be the safest place that brings freedom on which he can grow and experience life. “You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft”128. However, when duke and king enter the scene, the raft is no longer free. King and duke rob Huck and Jim of their isolation from society and the real world. The only way Huck can escape from society is to rid himself of his own identity. He attempts to slip into the identities of others to experience things in a different way than they normally would be.
Huck”s longing for freedom is his only self desire. His freedom requires that he find a conscious, moral identity. He must discover his true self and know himself as a person and as an individual in order to be free. However, other characters in the story put on different identities for much different reasons than Huck. Huck learns from these peoples” downfalls. One example would be king and duke. “They made a body ashamed of the human race”178. Huck learns from them that there comes a time when to draw the line and when lying becomes unnecessary.
King and duke both put up fake identities in order to scam people of their money. Huck discovers the truth about king and duke but he feels that “If they wanted us to call them kings and dukes, I hadn”t no objections, long as it would keep peace”137. Huck feels this way because he learned from his father that “The best way to get along with his kind of people is to let them have their own way”138. Throughout the experiences on Huck”s journey, his identity slowly adapts to his conscience.
One aspect of his identity which appears earlier on in the book is his religion. Huck has learned to adapt to the views of society and to make them into what he feels is right according to his conscience. An example of this is when Huck talks about turning Jim in and decides “All right then, I”ll go to hell”89, when he ends up deciding that he does not want to turn him in. Huck actually improves his conscience by refusing to turn Jim in. However, Huck thinks that he is making it worse. Huck has no self-conscious sense of the change that has occurred in himself.
All of this reveals Huck”s deformed conscience because he thinks he is doing wrong when he is really doing the right thing. Also, the subject of Jim and black people as a whole causes some change in Huck. At the beginning of the story, Huck does not even think blacks are human, but throughout Huck and Jim”s journey along the river together, Huck learns otherwise. At one point, Huck even “Goes and humbles himself to a nigger”95, and another time he promises to keep the reason why Jim ran away a secret even though “People would call me a low-down Abolitionist and despise me for keeping mum”98.
These are some of the many examples throughout the story that show us that Huck really cares for Jim and that he truly changes his views of blacks. Even though Huck knows that black people are not supposed to be respected, Huck cannot go against what he feels is right and gives Jim the respect that he deserves. Throughout this journey, Huck encounters many different situations in which he learns to adapt and react to each in a way that he feels suitable. Huck learns his own morals and finds his own truths. “‘I knows what I knows'”86.
Huck learns about life and the real world. He observes how cruel and heartless the human race is. He then gathers what he has learned and combines it into an identity which suits him. Huck knows that the way he was made him “Ashamed of the human race”178. This enables him to create a conscience with which he finds himself comfortable. Huck finding himself really did cause a struggle considering all that he had to accomplish in order to do so. Huck overcomes obstacles to find his identity. In the end, “He done it”272.