April 4th’s class emphasized two things: the formation of a literary plot structure, and how Huckleberry Finn‘s multiple themes fit into this composition. Beginning primarily with the plot structure, we learned that Huckleberry Finn follows a linear structure. While fairly typical in literary canon, the structure nonetheless includes five key elements to its construction: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
The exposition acts as an introduction. It emphasizes the setting, major characters, and overall story arch. Rising actions then dictate the main plot, emphasizing the rise of character development and growing tensions within the story. The pivotal point, however, comes with the story’s climax. Acting as a catalyst for the remaining story progression, the climax highlights a specific turning point, usually characterized by a certain decision or character action. The climax leads into the falling action, in which characters adapt to the consequences of the climax as they attempt to reconcile with the change/major point in the story (it is important to mention that our professor says that sometimes plot structures will eliminate the falling action segment of the work). Lastly, the resolution ties up the story’s loose ends. While our professor does note that there is the possibility for an open-ended work, resolutions usually finalize the story, uniting these previous elements into a solid component.
While this linear structure follows a set style, our professor also mentions that it is possible to have disparities between what one actually labels as a book’s exposition, rising action, climax, etc. For example, while our professor showed the class a standard plot structure for Huckleberry Finn, my own interpretation would be a little bit different. In fact, I would label my plot structure as follows:
-Exposition: Huck introduces his history and current situation; Huck goes to live with Widow Douglas and Ms. Watson; Huck goes to live with his father, Pap; Huck runs away from Pap and society, escapes to Jackson’s Island; Huck joins Jim. (Chapters I-IX)
-Rising Action: Huck and Jim’s adventures down the Mississippi River, including run-ins with the Grangerfords, Shepherdsons, the King, the Duke, and leading confrontation with the Phelps. (Chapters X-XXXIX)
-Climax: Tom and Huck instigate a rescue plan for Jim, Tom is shot in the leg. (Chapter XL)
-Falling Action: Jim returns to the Phelps; Jim is revealed to be a free man; Pap is revealed to have died. (Chapters XLI-XLII)
-Resolution: Huck plans for a new adventure out West. (“Chapter the last”)
Yet despite these plot structures, equally as important are the thematic elements dictating our understanding of the story. While on Tuesday’s class we discussed multiple examples of themes (including racism, independence, societal hypocrisy, etc.), what I thought was really significant were the themes we had to come up by ourselves.
The class had many interpretations on Huck and his story, and thus the themes were broad and meaningful. Some themes included youth and innocence, the importance of friendship, and dispersions in societal stigmas. My own group came up with the idea of a never-ending adventure, and that Huckleberry Finn is no more a presentation on societal realism than it is a support for wanderlust.
Twain’s important final detail, “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest”, emphasizes childlike fascination with newfound adventures and unexplored territory (Twain 220). This important factor ties in the whole story to many discussions we have had on what constitutes as appropriate children’s literature. While we as a class have debated on Huck being a role model, we cannot deny that even if he may or may not be an influence on children, he is the epitome of 19th century American idealism. Twain’s stories portrays life in 1800’s U.S., including all of the unpleasant realities in the American South.
As Tuesday was our class’ final day on this book, our discussion of themes help to evaluate the book in terms of its cultural context. The child himself, Huck, presents an embodiment of maturity and youth. His independence and general knowledge adapts well to the environment, but his longing for the next journey emphasizes child-like curiosity. Whether or not we as a class are aware of Twain’s true intentions does not undermine the significance of Huck’s role in verisimilitudinous literature.