In his essay “The Pattern of Fictional Experience,” critic Ihan Hassan states that in contemporary literature “the hero is a man alone” (326). It is inherently American to be self-reliant and independent of society. In literature this independence is often explored through the archetype of the outsider. Mark Twain’s own obsession with the idea of solitude and society led him to explore the issue of identity in his stories, and the archetype of the outcast is particularly prevalent in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Twain stresses the importance of the independent vagrant hero. Huck Finn is the quintessential outsider and an adequate representation of the contemporary hero in American fiction. Readers are first introduced to the
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He is described in a fashion that hearkens back to the Dark Romantic period, even referred to as a “romantic outcast”—much like Mary Shelley’s outcast creature in Frankenstein is called a “noble and godlike” (Shelley, 156). Unlike the hero in ancient or Romantic literature, however, Huck Finn represents the new contemporary hero popular in modern American Fiction. Whereas the classic hero is “’a purely social creation [representing] a socially approved norm,” the modern hero has “no accepted norms of feeling or conduct to which [he or she] may appeal” and is often portrayed as a “rebel or victim” who is “at odds with [his or her] environment” (Hassan, 329). Huckleberry Finn is shown being at odds not only with the Widow Douglas and her attempts to “sivilize” him, but also with the town of St. Petersburg (Huckleberry Finn, 1). Vernon L. Parrington describes Huck’s significance as a hero by stating that his story is: a drama of the struggle between the individual and the village . . .Huck Finn is a child of nature who has lived close to the simple facts of life, unperverted by the tyrannies of village that would make a good boy of him (Parrington, 306).
Because Huck has had little formal education, he has the ability to be a “skeptical and pragmatic outsider” (Simpson, 3). Unlike the other children in the village—including Tom Sawyer—Huck has obtained the majority