n 19th century America in the South and the main characters are represented by low social castes and it is through their experiences and their view points that society’s values and norms are challenged by the young protagonist.
Twain presents Huck as a young, independent boy endowed with both strength and stamina of character. He is characterized by 19th century society as an “outlaw” and an “outcast” (Johnson 1996, 5). Yet the reader is left with the distinct impression that this characterization of Huck is more of a condemnation of the society in which he is viewed as an outcast and an outlaw. Johnson (1996) explains that Huck’s outcast status is derived from society’s failure. Huck’s childhood “has scarcely been an idyllic one, nor has he lived the life of a typical carefree boy” (Johnson 1996, 5).
Twain characterizes Huck as a sensitive and unselfish individual who struggles with moral choices, often questioning the hypocrisy of societal values and demonstrating his own sense of right and wrong. Huck’s society characterizes him as a misfit who is almost always in “some kind of trouble, or out of sympathy” with those in control (Johnson 1996,5). Early on Huck is seen as an incompatible fit even with his good friend, Tom Sawyer and his gang. This characterization of Huck continues and strengthens as the plot moves along. For instance, in Huck’s brief encounter with the Grangerfords, he cannot understand their social values and contradicts it in helping their daughter escape with the son of a family the Grangerfords are feuding with.
The biggest manifestation of Huck’s characterization as a misfit however, is his determination and efforts to help Jim the slave, escape the Phelps, rather than turn him into Miss Watson. In summary, Huck is characterized as “continually at war with society, and with society’s values” (Johnson 1996, 6). It is through his experience on the run with Jim, that Huck matures and is able to