Huckleberry Finn is not an escapist, but a free spirit who only wants to live deeply disentangled from the bonds of society. An escapist is someone who flees from his/her responsibilities, while a free spirit is a person who knows no boundaries, and cannot be tamed by society. It may appear at first that Huck is an escapist, for he enjoys not having to go to school when living with his father.
He escapes from the cabin and his fathers abuse; however, he escapes from his fathers cabin out of the necessity of survival, not because he didnt want to accept responsibilities. Even though Huck did enjoy fishing and relaxing in the sun during his stay with Pap, it wasnt the responsibility that he was escaping, but the rules that society had imposed on him. Huck didnt mind learning new things and being knowledgeable, but he did not like to get dressed up, to have to go to school, to be well behaved and polite, and to learn good manners.
I was kind of lazy and jolly, laying off comfortable all day, smoking and fishingand my clothes got to be all rags and dirt, and I didnt see how Id ever got to like it so well at the widows where you had to wash and eat regularIt was pretty good times up in the woods there, take it all around. (p. 31) Living in the woods is harder work, having to catch food and build fires to stay warm, but Huck doesnt mind work as long as he can do it how he wants to. Huck is always going against society and cannot live by its rules.
Society told him it was wrong to help a runaway slave, but when he paddled out to go turn Jim in he just couldnt let himself. He decided that he didnt care what society thought was right, and that staying true to Jim was the best thing to do. I knowed very well I had done wrong, and I see it warnt no use for me to try to learn to do rightThen I thought for a minute, and says to myself hold n; spose youd a done right and give Jim up, wouldve you felt better than what you do now? No says I, Id feel badWell, then says I, whats the use you learning to do right when its troublesome to do right and aint no trouble to do wrong.
His spirit is free and uncorrupted by the prejudices of society. By listening to his heart, Huck makes a good choice. He still takes responsibility for his own actions although not according to the standards put on him, but by those he puts on himself. He is no longer as selfish, as he becomes more mature he learns to respect other peoples feelings and needs. Even though he doesnt want to live in their world, Huck still has feelings for the people he meets and cares for. Traveling down the Mississippi is heaven for a free spirit like Huck.
Surviving on their own terms Huck and Jim borrowed vegetables and hunted for meat. We shot a water fowl now and then that got up too early in the morning or didnt go to bed early enough in the evening. Take it all around we lived pretty high. (p. 71) Huck is completely satisfied with this life style. He has everything a free spirit needs; a good companion, enough food and water to comfortably survive, and of course a swift moving river carrying him down the path of life. The huge river is a school for the free spirited.
The river is where Huck found out he belongs; there he can be free from societys rules. He can travel along next to the civilized world, stopping and visiting for a while, and then move on before stopping in further down, to get another glimpse of society and learn a little bit more. No one can tell Huck to stay and live in one spot, and no one can tell Huck how to live. In the end, he had become more mature, even though he didnt follow societys traditional standards of the transition from boyhood to manhood.
Huck does not graduate from high school or gets his first job, but instead went on an adventure down the Mississippi. This journey gave him a more mature outlook on life that could not be accomplished by sitting in a classroom all day. At the end of his journey, he was faced with having to return to the society he had been free of during his adventure. However, he decided it would be best to leave again, not escaping, but continuing on in life, reaching out for more than what most people settle for.
But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally shes going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I cant stand it. I been there before. (p. 287) If Huck were alive today, he most likely would have been put in a reform school, diagnosed as ADD, or punished to the point of rebellion. However, Huck did not have to escape from his responsibilities, he merely freed himself from the world in which he did not belong, into one of movement, change and adventure, where he could take on responsibilities in his own free spirited way.