Reaching Self Actualization Through Healthy Relationships
In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim helps Huck progress beyond Abraham Maslow’s lower levels of his Hierarchy of Needs such as safety and physiological needs to higher ones like belonging and self actualization. In Maslow’s 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, he explained that lower needs must be satisfied before higher order needs are met. Jim, through caring for Huck throughout the novel, provides Huck with food, safety, respect, and love. Huck is finally able to reach self actualization and grow in morality, although his new morals extend only to Jim, shown as he tears up a letter about Jim addressed to Miss Watson and decides to go to hell with his previous morals. Huck does believe that he is a bad person because his time spent in a racist, corrupt, and hypocritical society has warped and stunted his sense of morality. He is still stuck in an Antebellum South mindset but does moral things that he never would have done before meeting Jim. Twain does this to prove that prejudice is destroyed through spending time with learning about other people.
Huck is forced to live in environments that are completely unsafe for his life and future, mentally and physically, due to society preventing him from fulfilling the bottom tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. One of the first people Huck lives with is Miss Watson, a hypocritical woman who uses a shallow facade of morality and reputation to justify her words and action. She tells Huck that his desire to go somewhere new is wicked and that she was “going to live so as to go to the good place” (Twain 5). This teaches him to think that morality is borne of suffering, to sin is to be happy and have fun. She constantly tells Huck that he is doing things wrong and never gives him positive reinforcement that could boost his self esteem. She says things like “why don’t you try to behave?” telling Huck how to act all the time and educating him (Twain 5). She repeatedly reminds him of the fact that he was not born into society and does not fit in, that he is unaccustomed to being out of poverty and deprivation. Apparently, Miss Watson has not been teaching Huck correctly, as when he is asked to recite his tables, he says that six times seven is thirty five (Twain 19). She tells him over and over again to get things right when she is preventing that success herself. The next person who tries to take care of Huck is his abusive, racist, sexist, and alcoholic father, Pap, who is totally and completely detrimental to any development of child morally, physically, and mentally, preventing Huck from ever achieving any of the levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in his car (Maslow 1). Pap sneaks into Huck’s room and talks about he considers how the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson are raising him as putting on “a considerable many frills” (Twain 23). Pap demands to hear Huck read, saying that he will teach the two ladies a les...