Marc Twain’s American Novel Huck Finn sees Huck and Jim travel down the Mississippi to pursue their dreams of happiness and prosperity. Their visions of the American Dream and their goals differ. One young man wants to reunite his family while the other just wants to live in the wild. Because they are both dreamers as well as schemers, their goals align. To make dreams come true, you need to have many things at once: opportunity, luck and support.
Huck Finn’s Story isn’t really the “Great American Dream” story. You won’t find a hardworking, honest group of people who have persevered against all odds. Marc Twain is proud to point out that Huck Finn’s story is actually the exact opposite. Many characters are simply trying to make quick money with little or no effort. There are many schemes to get rich quick that don’t work or backfire, causing unintended problems for the characters. One could easily pick out the “King”, and the “Duke”, but I could also mention the man who hunts for Jim on the Island for a glorifying raise. Ironically, Jim, the slave, is the only “real American” character in this story. He does a full day’s work. His goal is simple, and he does it with justice. You see him trying to free his family from slavery.
My family enjoys listening to audio books. One of our favorites is “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. As he recounted interviews with people who have been successful, he highlighted a common thread. They had an opportunity to excel in almost all cases and to be great. One of those essays was about Bill Gates. He was able to code every day, which made him a great programmer. His opportunity was that he had virtually (somewhat illegally) unlimited computer access at the University. This was a very unusual thing in the late sixties/seventies. Even sneaking out of his house at odd hours to work on his masterpiece was a common occurrence. He was able to get this opportunity partly because the university was nearby and partly because he had to be as single-minded as Jim.
You almost always needed help to accomplish something great. Batman had Robin. Bill Gates had Paul Allen (a super-rich co-founder of Microsoft, that no one knows about), and Huck had Jim. Marc Twain enjoys illustrating how Huck and Jim were able to grit through difficult times while letting time fly in the good times. They were there for each other through it all. When I think about success, I think about sports. You always have support from teammates, fans, and even your coach. You can’t do it alone, but successful teams work together and must overcome adversity. Huck and Jim were successful in their travels.
Huck Finn is in a key way the American dream. It’s about two people starting with nothing and ending up with everything they want. Sometimes it does change the “Dream”, but I believe that’s what makes it such an iconic story. People mistakenly think that the American Dream is about getting rich and living a comfortable life. Huck Finn argues that success is more about improving on where you are.