Chapter The Last

‘The conclusion of the story is actually a variation of its beginning, and is anticipated in the opening chapters. The book finally achieves a circular form that, in tension with the linear episodic dimension established on the trip down the river while Huck is ‘educated’, provides much of its lasting resonance. The end of the book lies in the beginning.’ Basset

To what extent do you agree with this view?
In what ways in the end of the novel problematic?
How would you describe the tone at the end of the novel?
What is Huck’s plan at the end, ‘I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally, she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.’

Mrs S Dutson


  1. The ending certainly is a variation on the beginning. It feels as if Huck has ended up right back where he started, having to “light out for the Territory ahead of the rest”. Once again, Huck is having to escape the oppressive Southern society and run away. Furthermore, the realisation that Jim was free, for quite a significant part of the book, means that all of Huck’s dangerous adventures were in vain, reducing the attempts to free himself and Jim as nothing more than a game. Twain makes us question the meaning of the story by making Jim a free man. It may seem futile at the end of the book, but the reader is encouraged to remember the development of Huck through the story – possibly the most important part of the story. He has grown into a resilient and extremely independent boy, with the help of Jim. Obviously, he is still young and receptible to mistakes and influences (such as the last few chapters with Tom, where Huck takes on the role of follower). He has more journeys to go on and more lessons to learn. The tone reflects this: he has a burning desire for independence and freedom, and it is admirable.
    Yet, the tone is not entirely positive. It seems that Huck no longer wants to have childish adventures, like the stories in Tom Sawyer’s books, but to truly escape society and retreat from the hypocrisy he has endured. There is a pessimistic tone to Huck’s writing, as he longs to get to the West, free from the South entirely. It is understandable – we have encountered so many characters who are flawed and insincere, their lives and morals confusing and contradictory. Therefore, even though Basset claims that the story is a “circular form”, Huck is not truly back at the beginning. He has experienced a lot from his adventures and will learn and develop more. The adventures he had have had an impact on him, one that the reader can easily decipher because we have grown to know Huck through the course of the book. Rather than call it a circular narrative, it feels as if Huck has a lot further to go, except we are cut off from his adventures because of the “trouble it was to make a book”. Despite the pessimistic longing to “light out for the Territory ahead of the rest” and retreat from the society he has been so affected by, there is still hope, because of the character we have seen grow. Twain leaves the ending ambiguous and leaves the reader to make a judgement on what they have read.

  2. At the ending of the novel, we can see a more in-depth view of what Huck has done is all worth it, from escaping his ‘sivilize’ed society and strict carer to having many dangerous adventures and troubled situations, just to end up in the end up in the same position. Knowing this, i completely agree with the view that ‘the end of the book lies in the beginning’. In the final chapter, we can see Huck telling the readers that Tom is ‘Tom’s most well now, and got his bullet around his neck’ and also knows how much trouble it is to write a book since he had to document many of his adventures, some, he was lucky to come out of alive. The end of the book may seem problematic for many people as there was no real ending, no real realisation of growth, no real experiences which Huck and Tom would feel that had shaped him to be a better person as they are still stuck in the same restraints they had in St Petersburg. As the reader, we can tell that the tone at the end of the novel was saddened as Huck-finn didn’t properly reach his sufficient end goal of freedom from a ‘sivilized’ society and the constraints that comes with that society. It makes the reader reflect on the whole book and makes the reader question if all the trouble was worth it to reach the ending which the book had. When huck states ‘I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest’ at the last few sentences of the book, we can believe that Huck did finally reach his final goal of freedom as he had stopped writing his travels, and we can also believe that to Huck, this wasn’t going to be the final destination for him after all.

  3. Although both Huck and Jim have both undergone significant changes in their character, I agree that the cyclical novel returns to its beginning with the conclusion that Aunt Sally wants to adopt and “sivilize” Huck, mirroring that of Mrs Watson’s actions during the opening chapters, with Huck seeking the freedom that he so desperately craves. However, the difference is that at the end of the novel Huck has now experienced the pure bliss of freedom on the raft with Jim and there is little chance he will ever conform to societal constrictions like those in St Petersburg now he is aware of the life he could live. The problematic aspect of the novel, I believe, can be founded in the closing lines as there was no precise ending, it is abrupt and feels almost unfinished, one may argue that this is a ploy by Twain to keep an opening for a following novel. Never the less, as a reader we seek affirmation of Huck’s growth and his realisation of the indoctrination suffused inside the oppressive Southern society in which he lives, yet we are faced with a complaint over the effort required to write his novel “if I’d a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it, and ain’t a-going to no more.” Twain appears to be conflicted, in large part, this may be due to his struggle to decide between the novel being a social commentary and a children’s adventure novel. Thus, causing the tone at the end of the novel to be slightly despondent as there is the prevalent notion that all of Huck and Jim’s efforts were futile, Jim was free all along and he risked his life several times for something he already had. Despite this, Huck’s got an ambiguous outlook toward the future he will possess as he is going to “light out for the Territory ahead of the rest”, Twain may be suggesting that Huck still has further to grow in terms of his personal development which counteracts the cyclical element of the novel. The ending of the novel is truly open to personal interpretation as each reader can reflect on what they have just read.

  4. The final chapter of the novel mirrors the opening in terms of the choices that Huck has to make; he can choose to be constricted by the rules and norms of the southern society or he can decide to go forth alone but face the dangers of the world. However, the events in the story have furthered the character development of Huck which guides him to the decision he makes. In helping Jim become a free man and going against the critical racist’s views, Huck has become a symbol of independence and freedom as for the first time in his life he has been free of constraints on his raft with Jim. Huck’s plan to remain free and avoid going to Aunt Sally’s is his final act of free will in the book, it depicts that, Huck, an innocent boy that is free from the influence of others opinions and values, chooses to stay that way and would prefer to face the dangers of his adventures then to be civilised by society. Through this, we see Huck’s personal growth and are left with the tone of hope in that more can follow the example of Huck and have their own opinions that have not been influenced or manipulated by others.

  5. Huck’s final lines are evidence to the idea of the novels cyclical structure as he says: ”Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it.” This line directly resonates with his line at the beginning where he is talking about living with Widow Douglas and Miss Watson. This echoing desire to be away from civilisation and follow his own rules is what stems Huck’s plan to leave again. His plan to ‘go-to light out for the territory ahead of the rest’, is Huck essentially going west. Furthermore, his desire to go west essentially mimics America’s expansion towards the West; to ‘go west’ was to find one’s destiny and escape legislation and rules that constricted them. The reasoning for this idea to go west is shown through Huck’s journey down the river as he has seen what Southern society has to offer as well as how its people behave and the climax to the book is this realisation that he never wants to be apart of it. So while the beginning of the book reflects the ending in many ways, it is different in that Huck now has the confidence to go forward on his own and follow his instincts.

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