47 pages 1 hour read

Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1884

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Symbols & Motifs

Illusion and Costumery

When in public, Huck spends less time as himself than he does under an assumed identity. By necessity, Jim must always stay hidden or assume a different identity for fear of capture, enslavement, or death. On the margins, morality must remain malleable and slippery, and so too must identity. Huck is never adept at this alteration of identity; early on Judith tells him he makes a terrible girl, and his attempts to be an English servant are laughed at by anyone with the slightest knowledge of English custom. Yet Huck understands the value of maintaining such illusions, even poor ones, at important junctures. When it comes time for him to tell the truth to Mary Ann, the young girl he’s allowed the duke and the king (through their own barely functional illusions) to nearly swindle her out of her inheritance, he understands that her lack of experience in cunning will get them all in trouble. He sends her away rather than bear a truth her expression is likely to reveal. In Miss Watson’s idea of heaven, it may be that everyone tells the truth and no one ever misrepresents themselves. In Huck’s world, however, a different reality—several different realities—holds true.