Self-Structure and the Rhetorics of Social Discourse in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Date of Graduation

Fall 1994


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Donald Holliday


In this thesis, I argue that Mark Twain's runaway slave, Jim, displays the characteristics of a brilliant modern rhetor; that is, Jim accounts for the historical and cultural complexities influencing the meaning of the linguistic sign and applies several effective rhetorical strategies based on this knowledge. Significantly, I borrow Toni Morrisons's term "American Africanism" to assert that Jim consciously becomes with or embodies Africanist American stererotypes influencing "white" American racial discourses. In other words, Jim appropriates an ethos consistent with antebellum "white" rhetorics aimed at racial subordination. To explain Jim's ironic decision, I employ Marshall W. Alcorn's theory of self-structure: a theory defined in his article "Self-Structure as a Rhetorical Device: Modern Ethos and the Divisiveness of the Self" and ironically rooted in both sociolinguistic and psycho-analytic philosophies. In the end, this study seeks to identify the technique and trace the influence of social discourses on the self-structure of Huckleberry Finn, and map Huck's moral growth in the context of rhetorical argument.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Brett Patrick Desnoyer