Huckleberry Finn Symbolism
Students will explore the themes within The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by examining symbolism and character relationships throughout the text.
1. Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience
3. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
4. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
II. Before Reading Activities
Prior to reading Huckleberry Finn, the teacher should introduce the concept of symbolism. Students need to know and understand that a symbol is something that stands not only for itself but for something larger than itself. After introducing the concept, the teacher should have students brainstorm about symbols within their lives, their society, and the world. By discussing symbols in the context of their own lives, they will be more prepared to recognize and explain them within the novel.
III. During Reading Activities
Throughout the reading of the novel, the teacher should have the students keep a running list of characters that includes their physical and personality descriptions. Students should use their lists to help them determine the importance of the relationships among those characters. For instance, the relationship between Huck and Jim is the most pertinent to the novel. It's important to understand the time period, their ages, and race when determining why their relationship is significant. Students should then be looking for symbols that represent character relationships. For Huck and Jim, the raft is symbolic for their relationship; it represents their freedom to develop their relationship and escape the constraints of a society, which oppresses black people. Students should mark other such symbols that are not only significant for the role they play in the novel (i.e. the raft is necessary to travel) but also for the ideas they represent.
IV. After Reading Activities
After reading the novel, the teacher might consider allowing the students individually or in pairs create a poster that provides a character analysis for two characters, discusses their relationship and its significance to the novel, and discusses a symbol that has significance to the novel as a whole (i.e. it relates to a major theme, such as racism, stereotypes, prejudice, superstition, friendship, etc.)
Students could create posters that include a visual of their symbol and a write up explaining its significance to the novel and to the characters it accompanies. They can be assessed by on their understanding of the content, descriptiveness, and presentation skills.