The definition of freedom is both relative and rapidly changing; what one thinks makes an individual free could be drastically different from what someone else thinks. Additionally, one's idea of what freedom is and how it can be attained do not necessarily stay consistent over time. Both Jonathan Bennett and Nomy Arpaly offer their ideas of what it takes for an individual to achieve freedom. For Bennett, a strong intellect is the key to one's freedom. Arpaly on the other hand believes that one's emotions drive individual freedom. But these two perspectives do not quite run concurrently with Mark Twain's belief that one needs both a strong intellect and emotional consistency to achieve freedom. The question is if Huck Finn, the protagonist of the novel, is able to achieve this individual freedom. He may be the physically freest in the novel, but being so free in one capacity could create some major shortcomings in others.
At the beginning of the novel, Twain introduces a young, classless boy not more than twelve or thirteen who seems to be living the dream that many men can attest to when they were his age. Huck Finn is fresh off of an adventure with his friend Tom Sawyer, both of whom are now six thousand dollars richer. His mother had recently passed and his father was a drunk, leaving Huck with no allegiance to a family or ties to any other human being. With no adult figure in his life, Huck had no one to push him into school for a formal education or to learn the basic manners needed to be a fully functioning member of society and therefore was both uneducated and uncivilized. Huck had no qualms about not being able to read or to do basic arithmetic. For all intents and purposes, Huck was a free individual who embodied everything that Ralph Waldo Emerson believed in – self-reliance, self-reference, and self-responsibility. .
Upon returning to town, however, it became apparent that Huck was not as free as originally perceived.