There is no doubt that one of the most important literary elements in a work is characterization: The creation of a group of personalities who function as representatives of a fictional world are as vital to a novel's story as its many themes. For Twain, the challenge was to embody fictional characters with realistic traits and personalities; that is, his characters had to be as believable and as recognizable as the people readers confronted every day. To accomplish this feat, Twain frequently called upon his childhood experiences to create some of the most memorable characters in American literature.
The expanse of characters that blanket the pages of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are numerous. Certainly Huck is an incredible character study, with his literal and pragmatic approach to his surroundings and his constant battle with his conscience.
Huck's companion, Jim, is yet another character worthy of analysis. At a period in American history when most African-American characters were depicted as fools or "Uncle Tom's," Jim's triumphant but humble passage from simple house servant to Tom's savior is an outline for the heroic figure. He embodies all the qualities — loyalty, faith, love, compassion, strength, wisdom — of the dynamic hero, and his willingness to sacrifice his freedom and his life for two young boys establishes him as a classic benevolent character.
Both Huck and Jim can be viewed as the heroes of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But if the two characters are the chief agents of good, the loathsome Pap Finn is the novel's most pitiful and despicable character in terms of exemplifying the characteristics of a depraved, squalid world. When Pap reappears, with hair that is "long and tangled and greasy" and rags for clothes, it is a reminder of the poverty of Huck's initial existence and a realistic representation of the ignorance and cruelty that dominated the institution of slavery and prejudice in America. Pap is suspect of both...