Transcendentalism in Huck Finn

Transcendentalism in Huck Finn

Modern readers often gain much insight from analyzing works of literature long since written. Posterity can benefit from the primordial lessons instilled in these celebrated classics, and can be influenced by their examples. Certain novels have swayed today’s world more than others – critically acclaimed novelist Ernest Hemingway opined that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, epitomizes the “Great American Novel.” Hemingway stated “All modern American literature comes from Huck Finn… there has been nothing as good since.” This is a bold statement, because it gives Twain, as the author, unprecedented influence over today’s minds. It stands to reason that the themes expressed by Twain in Huck Finn resonate in many modern works. Huck Finn is perhaps one of the most-analyzed works of the last two hundred years, and many of its central themes have already been identified: the mundane ones of anti-slavery, loss of innocence, and coming-of-age. However, there are still some surprising truths to uncover. Twain was an admitted Transcendentalist, a proponent of esoteric ideology that gained popularity in the 19th century. It is likely that Twain was so involved in and affected by Transcendentalism that he, if only subconsciously, attempted to spread the philosophy to the world. Upon close examination, it becomes clear that Twain utilizes his position as a novelist to advocate the ideals of Transcendentalism. Twain uses Huck Finn as a medium for spreading subtle propaganda of Transcendentalism, stressing the inherent goodness of the individual human, emphasizing emotion over logic, and encouraging a deep connection with nature.
Transcendentalism emerged in the 1830s, a New Thought approach to refuting the state of culture and society. Intellectuals like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau advocated the philosophy, positing that everyone’s goal should be the cultivation of “reason” and liberation from the confines of “understanding.” Mark Twain was...

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