Essay about Society in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
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Society in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Sometimes making a stand for what is right, especially when it is totally against the customary beliefs of your society, is not an easy accomplishment. In the novel Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the main character Huck encounters many situations where there is a question of morality. Considering the traditional protocol of his society, Huck has to choose either what his conscience feels is right versus what the customary public views are. In many cases Huck goes with what his conscience feels is right, which always is the proper selection. Ironically, what Huck believes in, unapproved of in the 19th century, is the basis of accepted beliefs in our modern world. Huck lives with the…show more content…
After a long raft-ride, Huck and Jim are finally about to reach Cairo, which on their arrival would make Jim free. With the smell of freedom, Jim rambles on about how he would buy his wife and then steal his children. This sets off a spark in Huck, igniting his conscience and making him very uneasy. Huck couldn't believe that Jim would steal property from a man that hadn't done him any harm. Huck then begins feeling guilty about helping Jim escape from Miss Watson, since she had never done anything to him and didn't deserve for Jim to be stolen from her. At his departure for the town, on a mission to turn Jim in, Jim leaves Huck with these words. " Pooty soon I'll be a shout'n' for joy, en I'll say say, it's all on accounts o' Huck; I's a free man, en I couldn't ever ben free ef it hadn't it ben for Huck; Huck done it. Jim won't ever forgit you, Huck; you's de bes' fren' Jim's ever had; en you's de only fren' ole Jim's got now". (pg.86-87) Hearing these words, Huck realizes how much Jim's friendship means to him and decides not to turn in Jim. Finally, the last test of Huck's conscience comes when he finds out that the "king" and the "duke" have sold Jim. Huck gets to thinking about how wrong he was to help Jim escape, and decides he should write a letter to Miss Watson. He then changes his mind, seeing that Jim would be worse off as a runaway slave because he would be treated horribly, and Huck
In these early chapters, Twain is satirizing the "sivilized" sciety that Huck has found himself thrust into. Most notably, the characters of the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson prove themselves religious and moral hypocrites. One of the more minor acts of hypocrisy Huck notices while in their care is the matter of smoking. He reports it thus:
Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn't. She said it was a mean practice and wasn't clean, and I must try to not do it any more. That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it. Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it. And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.
So she won't let Huck smoke, but she herself will consume tobacco in another form: the very definition of hypocrisy. This is just one example of the social criticism Twain offers. The most glaring examples come in the form of the two women's religious practices, and the fact that they own slaves. For Twain, and hopefully for all people who consider themselves moral or people of faith, this is one glaring contradiction that cannot be reconciled. Calling their slaves in to say prayers before nighttime shows that they themselves see no problem with this arrangement.
Although Huck can't name it yet, he knows that there is something very wrong with his situation. He doesn't recognize the discrepancy between Miss Watson's criticism of him, & her insistence on describing herself as a good person, one going to heaven. This shows his innate awareness of people's actions, and sets up his later decision to remain with Jim wihtout turning him in.