Précis on Mark Twain’s Writing Style in Huckleberry Finn
The writing style of an author plays a significant part in the creation of different elements of a piece of writing. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel about life in the nineteenth-century regions along the Mississippi River. The narration is characterized by the use of vernacular language and regional dialects, which affects the perception of readers. Mark Twain creates sympathy for his characters using dialects, sarcasm, distinct vernacular, flawed grammar, and descriptive imagery.
The presentation of dialects is a significant part of the narration allowing the author to explain the life of the characters of the story. One of the principal methods of conveying the ideas of the writer is the application of the specific dialects of the Mississippi River neighborhood. In particular, they serve as the marker of the “regional, social, and educational distinction” of the personages (Huber 130). This idea demonstrates that the use of the local language allows Twain to convey the particularities of the life of the characters with reference to their background. First of all, the application of the slang word “sivilize” is the example of the intention of the writer to emphasize the local characteristics of the language of Huck (Twain 5). The regional identification provides the chance to demonstrate that the events happen in the southern areas of the country where slavery was still legal. As a consequence, readers might understand the complicated life of the slave Jim and develop the feeling of sympathy towards him. The social aspect of the use of dialects concerns the background of the characters belonging to the lowest stratum of society. Finally, the specifics of the language of the main characters reveal their poor education, mainly due to Huck’s father educating the boy on the streets and Jim’s being the slave. All these factors contribute to the creation of compassion for the personages.
The writer applies the literary device of sarcasm to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the society and emphasize the suffering of the characters. In particular, one of the significant elements of the presentation of the tendency of people to lie is the scene when Jim reveals that Miss Watson “said she wouldn’ sell” the slave and negotiated about his sale despite the promise (Twain 63). This pretense and hypocrisy became the common element of the narration, demonstrating the sarcastic characteristic of the behavior of humans. The other satirical aspect concerns the religious criticism. Mainly, Twain exposes the conflicting behavior of the Widow Douglas, who attempts to demonstrate her ethical and moral virtues and curses and mistreats the boy at the same time (Doyno 143). These episodes are the representation of the sarcastic moods of the author towards the society, which pretends to be morally educated and consistent in the beliefs and words but contradicts itself. Moreover, these elements of the text contribute to the creation of the image of characters that suffer from the inconsistent behavior of the community. Namely, Jim and Huck become the victims of the hypocrisy and moral degradation of the people surrounding them.
The characters of the story use a particular vernacular as the sign of the racial problems existing in the society. The main characters of the novel use contractions and slang words, which is portrayed with vernacularized spelling, which signifies that their speech differs from the standard English language. According to Trombley and Kiskis, “Jim and Huck use vocabulary and grammatical constructions that linguists have identified as distinctively African American” (165). This statement identifies the difference in the way the personages communicate to underline their contrast to the society presented in the novel. The African-American characteristic of their language reveals the desire of the writer to focus on the racial problems existing in the nineteenth century in the southern part of the United States. Such an emphasis on the racial distinction between the characters and their speech that is characteristic of African-American and lower class language influences the emergence of sympathy towards the personages. Mainly, they become the embodiment of the problems of the black population of America, making the readers empathize with the challenges and troubles of Huck and Jim.
The use of incorrect grammar in the novel aims to present the characters in a human way and as the emphasis of their purity and unfeigned nature. The personages often use awkward grammar constructions and syntax (Trombley and Kiskis 62). The specifics of their language defines how the readers perceive the social life and education of the characters. Namely, this factor determines the understanding of the background of the characters belonging to the lowest stratum of society. At the same time, they do not pretend to be someone else, and their speech demonstrates their tendency to be faithful to their nature and their origin. These features of speech contribute to the creation of the image of Huck and Jim as real and lively. All these factors lead to the emergence of the connection between the audience and the personages, defining how the readers regard the boy and the man. In particular, their perception of the characters as lively and genuine affects the emergence of the feeling of sympathy.
The use of the imagery is the other element allowing the author to create the connection between the audience and the characters. The vivid pictures and the descriptions of nature and settings stimulate the imagination of the readers making them depict the scenes in their imagination. This technique contributes to the establishment of the bond between the story and real life adding the elements of realism to the story. As a consequence, these believable feelings of fear and disappointment become a part of the reality of the audience. It makes the readers sympathize with Huck and Jim in their misfortunes.
Thus, Twain applies various techniques in the language and speech of his characters including dialects, sarcasm, vernacular, flawed grammar, and descriptive imagery. The use of the local languages of the region along the Mississippi River reveals the regional, social, and educational distinction of the characters. Sarcasm becomes the tool of the representation of the problem of hypocrisy existing in the society. The vernacular of the personages contributes to the emergence of the racial issues.
The incorrect grammar emphasizes the vividness of the characters. Finally, the creation of pictures contributes to the establishment of the connections between the readers and Huck and Jim. All these methods make the audience sympathize with the characters. Therefore, these techniques are effective because they motivate the readers to have compassion for the characters.
Doyno, Victor A., and Victor Doyno. Writing “Huck Finn”: Mark Twain’s Creative Process. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.
Huber, Sophia. African American Vernacular English as a Literary Dialect: A Linguistic Approach. Vol. 6. Herbert Utz Verlag, 2018.
Trombley, Laura E. Skandera, and Michael J. Kiskis, eds. Constructing Mark Twain: New Directions in Scholarship. Vol. 1. University of Missouri Press, 2011.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Spark Pub., 2014.
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