In in a pragmatic way, giving realistic

In this essay I will approach the issue of narrative
structure and narrative technique in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, the
book from which “all modern literature comes”, as Ernest Hemingway stated.

As far as concerns the 
narrative perspective of the novel, the readers can notice from the very
first paragraph, in which Huck tells us that we don’t know about him without
having read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, that the story is written in the
first person, to be more specific in the first person limited.

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Huck is the central narrator of the novel; “Huckleberry
synchretizes the roles of narrator and actor, as he both narrates the tale, and
is its principal agent.”(Marteinson, 1).
Since the world of the novel
is seen by the reader through Huck’s eyes, from his perspective, we are dealing
with internal focalization, Huck being a homodiegetic narrator: “an
extradiegetic homodiegetic narrator like Huck Finn is, of course, identified
with a character in the story.”(Walsh, 3)

Given the fact that the narration is marked by
subjectivity, the narrator is an unreliable one. The reader experiences the
world of the novel through the eyes of a fourteen-year old boy whose lack of
education and understanding of the world and the events he’s describing
prevents him from being reliable. And this “unreliability” is precisely the
reason why Twain chooses Huck as the voice of his novel, as it allows him to
express his own ideas about slavery and the social values of the society of
that period (Carringer,
2):

“Clearly, Mark Twain cannot serve
even as the reporter of Huck’s narrative, and, besides, he is not to be
trusted, for we have it on Huck’s authority that he told some “stretchers” in
recounting Tom’s story.” (Quirk, qdt. In
Bloom, 19).

 However,
the fact that Huck is true to himself and doesn’t judge give him credit in the
readers’ eyes: “He grounds the truth in a recounting of
a mainly visual experience; he thus becomes the

ultimate guarantor of
what is described.”(Marteinson, 1)

As regards the narrator – storyworld relationship,
Huck becomes the observer of society. He sees the world in a pragmatic way,
giving realistic descriptions of the Mississippi River and offering an insight
into the society of that time, the people who inhabited the towns along the Mississippi.

According to T.S Elliot, Huck is an “impassive observer”; he doesn’t have
imagination, like Tom, but he has vision: he just observes the world, without
interfering or judging- “he allows it to judge itself”. Huck is both “passive
and impassive”. Although he seems to “always be the victim of events”, “he is
more powerful than his world”, being “more aware than any other person in it.

A representative scene
of this impassive observation is the dialogue he has with aunt Sally. Her reaction
at finding out about the accident with the steam boat and about the fact that
,,a nigger” died emphasizes the status of the slave in the eyes of the society.
Saying that it is a fortunate thing, as ,, sometimes people do get hurt” (Twain, Huckleberry Finn, 249), shows
how slaves are seen- as properties, inferior, ,,non-human”: ,,Although Huck’s narration
gives us no definitive assurance at this point that he disagrees with Aunt
Sally’s fallacious categorization of blacks as nonhuman—again both technically
and literally a “black-and-white” fallacy—we assume that he does disagree.” (Leonard, qdt. in Bloom 56).

Regarding the organization of the plot, the
sequence of events is chronological, the actions being narrated by Huck in the
order they occur and giving the impression that they have just happened. He tells
the story as he remembers it, the narrative,with a few exceptions, excludes
retrospection. thus there are only a few instances of flashback. One example of
flashback is when Huck recalls how good Jim was and how good he had been to him:
 “And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before
me all the time … and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing
… I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me,
so I could go on sleeping … and would always call me honey, and pet me and do
everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was …” (Twain, Huckleberry Finn,
Chapter 31).
Another example is the instance after Mary Jane’s leaving,  when he says that although he hasn’t seen her
since, he has thought “of her a many and a many a million times, and of her
saying she would pray for me”. (Twain,
Huckleberry Finn,
Chapter 28)

It is important to mention here that the River has a
decisive role in the course of events. As T.S
Elliot points out in “Introduction to Huckleberry
Finn”, the form of the novel is given by the River: “But for the River, the book might be only a
sequence of adventures with a happy ending.”(Elliot)

“It is the River that controls the voyage of
Huck and Jim; that will not let them land at Cairo, where Jim could have
reached freedom; it is the River that separates them and deposits Huck for a
time in the Grangerford household; the River that re-unites them, and then
compels upon them the unwelcome company of the King and the Duke.”(Elliot)

Apart
from its decisive role in the development of the events, the river also
represents a deviation from the plot through Huck’s detailed “descriptions of the great river and the surrounding forests”
(Britannica). Another type of
“deviation” from the plot consists in the
expandability of the stories (Mitchell,
qdt. in Budd), which are linked by Huck to the narrative line: Mrs’s
Watson’s stories about Moses (“After supper she got
out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a
sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had
been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care no more about him,
because I don’t take no stock in dead people.”), (Twain, Huckleberry Finn, Chapter
1).
Huck and Jim’s debate about King Solomon and the reference to Louis XVI (” He
was the most down on Solomon of any nigger I ever see.  So I went to
talking about other kings, and let Solomon slide.  I told about Louis
Sixteenth that got his head cut off in France long time ago; and about his
little boy the dolphin, that would a been a king, but they took and shut him up
in jail, and some say he died there – Twain, Huckleberry Finn,
Chapter 14)

Through Huck’s voice,
Twain creates a realistic
image of the society and culture of the South, expressing his own views on society, slavery (he
criticizes it through the discussions between Huck and Jim), royalty (through
the episodes with  the duke and the king
and also through Huck and Jim’s debate about king Solomon’s wisdom) or government
(through Pap’s encounters with the law etc.),  judicial system (although Pap beats Huck, the
judge initially decides to let Pap maintain custody of  Huck), religion, which plays a major role in
the choices, actions and beliefs of the society; the episode in which Huck says
that he will “go to hell” because he helped Jim is representative for the
beliefs of the society of that time regarding slavery.

In his
attempt to create a similar representation of Southern America, Twain uses
realist techniques, showing a great interest in detail. He presents real places
(St. Petersburg, Missouri, Massachusetts, Jackson Island , Cairo, the course of
the Mississippi River etc.), real historical events and phenomena (slavery), as
well as the customs, the  prejudices and
the characteristics of the society of that time.

The use of the colloquial is another technique
that contributes to the realism of the novel. Twain shows an  interest in how people spoke, trying to render
the sound and the voices of the southwest; it 
sounds like he’s transcribing their actual speech, which  makes Mark Twain sometimes very difficult to
read, the dialogues between the characters being written phonetically. “Twain
guides his reader, using the vernacular, directly into the scene so you feel as
if you are right next to Huck Finn, floating down the Mississippi River, as he
dictates the story to you.”  The use of the vernacular is meant to
contribute to the creation of a realist representation of the Southern America
of that period.

Despite
the author’s endeavor to create a similar representation of Southern America,
there’s a huge discrepancy between the realist principles and the beginning of
the book, when Huck makes it clear it is all fiction, that he is just a
character already known by the readers who read “The Aventures of Tom Sawyer”:
“YOU don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” (Twain, Huckleberry Finn, Chapter 1).
 Also, there is another detail in the first paragraph which undermines the
realism of the book – Huck says that although he “told the truth, mainly”,
there “was things which Mr. Mark Twain stretched” which contradicts the concept
of mimesis. “Clearly, Mark Twain cannot serve even as the reporter of Huck’s
narrative, and, besides, he is not to be trusted, for we have it on Huck’s
authority that he told some “stretchers” in recounting Tom’s story.” (Quirk, qdt. in Bloom, 19)

The
very reference of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is an anomaly which undermines
the realism of the novel, considering that, as Tom Quirk stated in his essay called “The Flawed Greatness
of Huckleberry Finn”, the setting of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
is prior to the year when “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” was published. In addition,
Samuel Clemens took the name of Mark Twain much later: “the setting
of Huck Finn is 1835–1845, Tom Sawyer isn’t published until
1875, and Clemens didn’t become Mark Twain until 1863.”

But
the plot of the novel also contains other anomalies, and one of them consists
in the observations that Huck makes, which, according to Quirk, are “beyond his experience and his years”. And one example
is the implausibility of Huck’s knowledge of the river, as he “knows the river
far too well.” Taking  into account that
it’s the first time that he makes the journey along the river. Another example,
as Quirk remarks, is Huck’s remark
regarding how well the Duke managed to fake the English accent when he
pretended to be one of Peter Wilk’s English brothers, considering that it is
unlikely for a boy like Huck  to know how
Englishmen talk.

However, despite the critics
regarding the “low mimetic” character of Twain’s novel, which, as Wallace
Martin stated, is “a mixture of historical, mimetic, romantic, and didactic
elements” rather than “a purely empirical reflexion of nineteenth-century America”
(Martin, 54), it can be concluded
that, through all its narrative characteristics, “The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn” is nevertheless  a worthy precursor
of the modern novel.