Adventures of Huckleberry Finn begins with a notice cautioning against readings that attempt to find motive, moral, or meaning in the narrative, in short, with a proscription that contest the grounds of reading itself. Such a command is only intelligible in light of the relation elaborated in the text between, on the one hand, conscience or mortality, and on the other hand, cognition, as embodied by the formal requirements of plot. The novel suggests that the strictures of morality are as necessary to human identity as plot structure is to narrative. Moreover, both morality and plot are indebted to a process of narcissistic projection that produces meaning by generating distorting images of self and other. Morality is an ambivalent force, both aggressive and constitutive in its effects, while plot, in its capacity to control the disclosure of information, is manipulative and strategically exclusionary. The structure of Huckleberry Finn observes the requirements of plot, but Twain's complex use of irony complicates the novel's formal linearity and affords a critical perspective on the process of narcissistic projection underwriting both plot and mortality.

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