The Mississippi: The Big River in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master’s degree in Linguistics.

While not a character, the Mississippi River plays a monumental role in ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Identify the significance of this historical water system in Huck and Jim’s journey, and Jim’s eventual road to freedom. Updated: 12/06/2021

The Mississippi River

The Mississippi River was vitally important for trade and transportation in the 1800s during Mark Twain’s lifetime, and this importance comes through in his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Mississippi River is the second largest river in the United States (behind the Missouri) at 2,350 miles long. It was actually longer in the time of Huck Finn, though. Current damming and other river-control methods, designed to help the boats running trade, have somewhat changed its course and size. However, the general course of the Mississippi remains the same. It begins in Itasca Lake in Minnesota, and runs south all the way down to where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Basically, it runs almost the entire north-to-south length of the United States.

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  • 0:04 The Mississippi River
  • 0:51 The River in the Novel
  • 1:56 Huck and Jim’s Journey
  • 3:02 Jim’s Road to Freedom
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary

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The River in the Novel

The Mississippi is hugely important for Huck and Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and for the story itself. The river serves as an ongoing plot device, which is an object or character created to drive the plot and keep the story moving.

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Sometimes, the river also gets them into trouble. A night of deep fog along the river separates Jim and Huck for a short time, which is frightening for both of them. The river also causes them trouble when they come across stranded steamboats. Their raft breaks up against one of the boats, stranding them there with a band of violent thieves.

For the most part, though, since rafting the river is their main source of travel, the river is the escape route that gets them out of trouble. For example, when the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons get into their all-out fight near the end of Chapter 18, Huck and Jim jump on the raft as quickly as they can, and the Mississippi takes them away from the carnage.

Since they physically move away from each event and location once they’re back on the river, the Mississippi keeps the plot moving, taking Huck and Jim from one adventure to the next.

Huck and Jim’s Journey

Huck and Jim travel around 550 miles on the Mississippi. They get on the river at Huck’s hometown of St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg is a fictional town but is supposed to be located where the actual town of Hannibal, Missouri is. They then take the river, getting off and on periodically, all the way down to the Phelps’ farm, which is somewhere near Chatham, Mississippi.

This is a map of what Jim and Huck’s journey would look like if they traveled the Mississippi today.

Huck

In total, they travel through 4 different states: Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Mississippi. As they go, they see evidence of the Mississippi’s importance: barges and other types of ships transporting goods and people down the river.

At the end, when they get to the Phelps’ farm, Aunt Sally is expecting Tom who has traveled by boat from St. Petersburg. Tom would have essentially gone the same route as Huck and Jim, though presumably with fewer stops along the way. Tom’s parallel journey shows how important the Mississippi was for travel at that time, since it was by far the fastest transportation method in the area.

Jim’s Road to Freedom

The Mississippi serves also as a means of escape for Jim, a runaway slave. Jim uses the river to get away from Miss Watson and on to freedom. Of course, the Mississippi only runs south, so as the journey goes on it actually becomes more dangerous for Jim. This fact helps keep the plot moving as well, as it introduces new dangers and obstacles. Huck and Jim have to keep moving to prevent Jim from falling into the hands of slavers. They also regularly have to disguise him or make up stories so that people don’t think he’s a runaway slave.

Lesson Summary

The Mississippi River was extremely important in Mark Twain’s time for transporting goods and people in that part of the country. It spanned a good majority of the US, north to south, going from Itasca Lake in Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. The river was also vitally important in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, serving as a plot device, or an object or character created to drive the plot and keep the story moving. It carries Huck and Jim from adventure to adventure, getting them in and out of trouble all the time, and helping Jim to escape his being enslaved.

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The Mississippi: The Big River in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master’s degree in Linguistics.

While not a character, the Mississippi River plays a monumental role in ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Identify the significance of this historical water system in Huck and Jim’s journey, and Jim’s eventual road to freedom. Updated: 12/06/2021

The Mississippi River

The Mississippi River was vitally important for trade and transportation in the 1800s during Mark Twain’s lifetime, and this importance comes through in his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Mississippi River is the second largest river in the United States (behind the Missouri) at 2,350 miles long. It was actually longer in the time of Huck Finn, though. Current damming and other river-control methods, designed to help the boats running trade, have somewhat changed its course and size. However, the general course of the Mississippi remains the same. It begins in Itasca Lake in Minnesota, and runs south all the way down to where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Basically, it runs almost the entire north-to-south length of the United States.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

You must c C reate an account to continue watching

Register to view this lesson

As a member, you’ll also get unlimited access to over 84,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.

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Resources created by teachers for teachers

I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Jennifer B.

You’re on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Just checking in. Are you still watching?

  • 0:04 The Mississippi River
  • 0:51 The River in the Novel
  • 1:56 Huck and Jim’s Journey
  • 3:02 Jim’s Road to Freedom
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

The River in the Novel

The Mississippi is hugely important for Huck and Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and for the story itself. The river serves as an ongoing plot device, which is an object or character created to drive the plot and keep the story moving.

Sometimes, the river also gets them into trouble. A night of deep fog along the river separates Jim and Huck for a short time, which is frightening for both of them. The river also causes them trouble when they come across stranded steamboats. Their raft breaks up against one of the boats, stranding them there with a band of violent thieves.

For the most part, though, since rafting the river is their main source of travel, the river is the escape route that gets them out of trouble. For example, when the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons get into their all-out fight near the end of Chapter 18, Huck and Jim jump on the raft as quickly as they can, and the Mississippi takes them away from the carnage.

Read Post  Is It Better To Raft Or Canoe Down Delaware River

Since they physically move away from each event and location once they’re back on the river, the Mississippi keeps the plot moving, taking Huck and Jim from one adventure to the next.

Huck and Jim’s Journey

Huck and Jim travel around 550 miles on the Mississippi. They get on the river at Huck’s hometown of St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg is a fictional town but is supposed to be located where the actual town of Hannibal, Missouri is. They then take the river, getting off and on periodically, all the way down to the Phelps’ farm, which is somewhere near Chatham, Mississippi.

This is a map of what Jim and Huck’s journey would look like if they traveled the Mississippi today.

Huck

In total, they travel through 4 different states: Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Mississippi. As they go, they see evidence of the Mississippi’s importance: barges and other types of ships transporting goods and people down the river.

At the end, when they get to the Phelps’ farm, Aunt Sally is expecting Tom who has traveled by boat from St. Petersburg. Tom would have essentially gone the same route as Huck and Jim, though presumably with fewer stops along the way. Tom’s parallel journey shows how important the Mississippi was for travel at that time, since it was by far the fastest transportation method in the area.

Jim’s Road to Freedom

The Mississippi serves also as a means of escape for Jim, a runaway slave. Jim uses the river to get away from Miss Watson and on to freedom. Of course, the Mississippi only runs south, so as the journey goes on it actually becomes more dangerous for Jim. This fact helps keep the plot moving as well, as it introduces new dangers and obstacles. Huck and Jim have to keep moving to prevent Jim from falling into the hands of slavers. They also regularly have to disguise him or make up stories so that people don’t think he’s a runaway slave.

Lesson Summary

The Mississippi River was extremely important in Mark Twain’s time for transporting goods and people in that part of the country. It spanned a good majority of the US, north to south, going from Itasca Lake in Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. The river was also vitally important in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, serving as a plot device, or an object or character created to drive the plot and keep the story moving. It carries Huck and Jim from adventure to adventure, getting them in and out of trouble all the time, and helping Jim to escape his being enslaved.

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