The Role of Women in the American Literature; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

It might be credible to say that the old generation in any Muslim society is very feminist. In other words, they respect women, personally speaking. Yet, the West seems to have a different direction. Huckleberry Finn is one of the American masterpieces, as Hemingway said, where Mark Twain tried to focus on the American society and how women were treated in the 19th century. Yet, do the issues Mark Twain have tackled related to sexism in a way or another? Does this novel consider as a powerful one as it is dealing with such heated and striking topics like “racial prejudice”? Do these topics go naturally and normally or they are more than this? Can the reader say that Mark Twain is anti-feminist?


Throughout the western history, women have been subject to gender bias based on being the physically frailer fraction of any society. This always leads to a harmful sight of women. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, deliberately, there is no exception to this disgrace and stigma on women. Through society’s views, it is flagrant to observe the women in the novel are nothing unique. They appear very typical and dependent  The society expects them to do so much; after all they merely do what they are told to do.

Back to the writer’s life, his wife, Olivia Clemens, is very much reliant on her husband. She serves with no other true spot in life than to look after her unhealthy children and to run a house. She is always sick and attempts to hinder her husband’s ability as a writer. So did Twain place women purposely in such a bad situation or is it the society who inculcates this stigma and renders him into this style of writing? Throughout the novel, the most appeared women character, Miss Watson, plays into society’s system and policy. “Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on, had just come to live with her, and took a set at me now, with a spelling book. She worked on me middling hard for about an hour… I couldn’t stand her much longer.” (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain, page 2). “Once the thankless task of spinning cloth had been pushed off to unmarried women as a way to earn their keep in the home, the word spinster came into common use during the early 19th century Miss Watson is the image of everything an old maid stands for.” (O’Brien, 1973).

Personally speaking, Miss Watson is judged as a communal outsider surviving in the shadow of others. She makes others around her uncomfortable including Huck and Jim. The single stereotype of the downgrading of the individual to the role of caretaker is shown in her character. As unmarried woman stayed at home, she was expected to take care of elderly or ill relatives. It is no more than all her life and work. Miss Watson fits into society’s view of an old maid and Twain shows Miss Watson as a typical old maid of that time. Twain’s use of words brings up a psychological picture of feeble, frumpy, middle-aged woman who is somewhat dejected, and her desire to be like other “ordinary” women.

Miss Watson is not the only character mentioned in the novel. Her widow, Douglas, is no more than a caretaker of Huck. In this role, she represents the society. She is kind in her sight when civilizing Huck and making him a religious man. Nothing else could be expected out of a woman, especially a widow; she has no man for her. For her role in civilizing Huck, he respects her. So it has to be mutual? The one who commenced respect is women. If they respect, men will be respectful, in my point of view. As Douglas is a gentle woman, Twain shows through her that men like a woman with a kind hand. Yet, is this the reason why Miss Watson was an old maid while Widow Douglas was married? It might be. Widow Douglas gains her respect by people around her especially Huck. He always attempts to avoid all misdemeanors as he always worries of she gets disappointed of his behaviors.

Another example of women is Sally Phelps, the aunt of Tom Sawyer and the wife of Silas Phelps, who is a typical housewife and is totally dependent upon her husband. She has the same function of civilizing Huck. She does all the things any common wife has to do. In a way or another, she depicts what an average married woman has to do. The society gives her no right and she is helpless in her relationship. As an inferior creature, she is completely controlled by men and the society. Twain uses women to demonstrate how easily they can be taken.

Other young female characters have other functions of looking pretty for young boys like Huck. The mentioned three sisters in the novel carelessly give their father’s fortune to the men without any hesitation that these are their British uncles. Not only does Twain explicate how the female gender can be tricked, but how they must also be rescued.To conclude, Twain describes the situation in which women have been treated in the 19th century. Women can be described as individuals, such as the Aunts, Miss Watson, and Widow Douglas. They can be self-contained and hard working women, and well-educated. None of them could effortlessly be scammed; even though Aunt Sally is misled more than once. They do truly care about the boys and ill-relatives. As shown in Aunt Polly’s character. Yet, this is what they have to do. Women should be creative in other fields. It is not only taking care of children and ill-people. Instead, they have to empower themselves with information and date of distinguished and peculiar fields as politics and journalism, in my opinion.


One response to “The Role of Women in the American Literature; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  1. I like your comments. The women of the West have even ‘lost’ the right and often the ability to do such things as making garments: garments are cheaper when made in sweat shops, ie. in factories in Pakistan etc. where women work long hours for little money, far from their families, no ‘health and safety’ regulations, as we know, many losing their lives because of this exploitation; food is grown in countries, East of Europe (mostly) again working for long hours and low pay; machinery, tools, toys are made by working class people, the poor. The working people are exploited, with women taking away even lower reward than the poor men. And work is hard to find. It is only through taking action that change can come about. Actions of the very brave, such as Samer Issawi; Mahmoud Sarsak; Malaka Mohamed. It IS political.

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