First Level of Inquiry: Grammar-Stage Reading
1. Who is the central character?
2. What is the book’s most important event in which the central character changes?
The main character is Huckleberry Finn.
The most important event is actually a process. Huck has grown disgusted with the duke and dauphin because of how they mistreat people, especially the daughters of the deceased Mr. Wilkes; but he fails to escape the pair. When they are again plotting and planning to scam the townspeople, Huck attempts another escape, but finds Jim missing from the raft. He learns that Jim was sold to a temporary owner.
Huck is frustrated; all of his efforts to get Jim to freedom have been wasted. Then he begins to question his conscience. He knows that Jim is Miss Watson’s property, and he is harboring stolen property by keeping Jim, which is considered disgraceful. He is confused about what the right thing to do is. He tried to pray about doing what society says is right: to turn Jim in; but he knew he was lying. He wrote the letter anyway and set it aside to think about how Jim had treated him: with dignity and loyalty. Jim had once called Huck his only friend. That’s when Huck ripped up that paper and declared that if going against what society said was right meant going to hell, then he would go to hell. He would “go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again.”
This process and final pronouncement is the culmination of Huck’s continuous battle between doing what society says is right or doing what his conscience knows is truly moral and good. Keep in mind: Huck is surrounded by a culture that continuously demonstrates it is not interested in doing right but rather doing what benefits [them] most at the expense of others. Society has been unfair and without common sense; those who should be protected are taken advantage of or ignored, and there is no law and order or justice.
Huck chooses to use common sense and follow his heart to tell him what is right. Frankly, in a culture that is as corrupt and lacking as Huck’s, one can always rely on his God-given moral compass; for God put it on the hearts of men, even unbelievers like Huck, to know what is right and wrong.
Coming Next: What does the main character want?