Finishing “Huckleberry Finn,” it struck me that there’s no romance in the story, not even a steady female character. So in this respect the novel is somewhat similar to “Moby-Dick”, its main historical contender for the “title” of Great American Novel.
But Huck doesn’t quite go as far as Moby in casting off the ladies.
Huck is briefly teased by the Grangerford daughter, Sophia, as part of her effort to elope with her very own Romeo from the rival Shepherdson clan.
And Huck really takes to and begins to admire Mary Jane Wilks, a girl whom he thinks has more “sand” in her than any that he has known – a compliment to her courage!
It made my eyes water a little to remember her crying there all by herself in the night, and them devils laying there right under her own roof, shaming her and robbing her; and when I folded it up and give it to her I see the water come into her eyes, too; and she shook me by the hand, hard, and says:
“Good-bye. I’m going to do everything just as you’ve told me; and if I don’t ever see you again, I sha’n’t ever forget you and I’ll think of you a many and a many a time, and I’ll pray for you, too!”—and she was gone.
Pray for me! I reckoned if she knowed me she’d take a job that was more nearer her size. But I bet she done it, just the same—she was just that kind. She had the grit to pray for Judus if she took the notion—there warn’t no back-down to her, I judge. You may say what you want to, but in my opinion she had more sand in her than any girl I ever see; in my opinion she was just full of sand. It sounds like flattery, but it ain’t no flattery. And when it comes to beauty—and goodness, too—she lays over them all. I hain’t ever seen her since that time that I see her go out of that door; no, I hain’t ever seen her since, but I reckon I’ve thought of her a many and a many a million times, and of her saying she would pray for me; and if ever I’d a thought it would do any good for me to pray for her, blamed if I wouldn’t a done it or bust.
This is a development in Huck that I don’t see commented on much. You can’t read that lovely passage above and not see that he’s falling in love – and it’s arisen out of respect for the girl. That’s amazing.
Also, it’s two women, in some of the funniest passages in the novel, who see through Huck’s lies and disguises better than almost anyone else: Judith Loftus and Joanna Wilks.