Word wouldn’t try for it.” (3) Thecomments made
Word Count: 1220In Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of HuckleberryFinn, Twain develops the plot into Huck and Jim’sadventures allowing him to weave in his criticism of society.
The two main characters, Huck and Jim, both run fromsocial injustice and both are distrustful of the civilizationaround them. Huck is considered an uneducated backwardsboy, constantly under pressure to conform to the”humanized” surroundings of society. Jim a slave, is not evenconsidered as a real person, but as property. As they runfrom civilization and are on the river, they ponder the socialinjustices forced upon them when they are on land. Thesesocial injustices are even more evident when Huck and Jimhave to make landfall, and this provides Twain with thechance to satirize the socially correct injustices that Huckand Jim encounter on land. The satire that Twain uses toexpose the hypocrisy, racism, greed and injustice of societydevelops along with the adventures that Huck and Jim have.The ugly reflection of society we see should make usquestion the world we live in, and only the journey down theriver provides us with that chance.
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Throughout the book wesee the hypocrisy of society. The first character we comeacross with that trait is Miss Watson. Miss Watsonconstantly corrects Huck for his unacceptable behavior, butHuck doesn’t understand why, “That is just the way withsome people. They get down on a thing when they don’tknow nothing about it” (2).
Later when Miss Watson tries toteach Huck about Heaven, he decides against trying to gothere, “…she was going to live so as to go the good place.
Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she wasgoing, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.” (3) Thecomments made by Huck clearly show Miss Watson as ahypocrite, scolding Huck for wanting to smoke and thenusing snuff herself and firmly believing that she would be inheaven. When Huck encounters the Grangerfords andShepardsons, Huck describes Colonel Grangerford as, “…agentleman, you see.
He was a gentleman all over; and sowas his family. He was well born, as the saying is, and that’sworth as much in a man as it is in a horse…” (104). You canalmost hear the sarcasm from Twain in Huck’s description ofColonel Grangerford. Later Huck is becoming aware of thehypocrisy of the family and its feud with the Shepardsonswhen Huck attends church.
He is amazed that while theminister preaches about brotherly love both theGrangerfords and Shepardsons are carrying weapons.Finally when the feud erupts into a gunfight, Huck sits in atree, disgusted by the waste and cruelty of the feud, “It mademe so sick I most fell out of the tree..
.I wished I hadn’t evercome ashore that night to see such things.” Nowhere else isTwain’s voice heard more clearly than as a mob gathers atthe house of Colonel Sherburn to lynch him. Here we hearthe full force of Twain’s thoughts on the hypocrisy ancowardice of society, “The idea of you lynching anybody!It’s amusing.
The idea of you thinking you had pluck enoughto lynch a man!…The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that’s whatan army is- a mob; they don’t fight with courage that’s bornin them, but with courage that’s borrowed from their mass,and from their officers.
But a mob without any man at thehead of it is beneath pitifulness” (146-147). Each of theseexamples finds Huck again running to freedom of the river.The river never cares how saintly you are, how rich you are,or what society thinks you are. The river allows Huck theone thing that Huck wants to be, and that is Huck.
The riveris freedom than the land is oppression, and that oppression isno more evident than it is to Jim. It is somewhat surprisingthat Huck’s traveling companion is Jim. As anti-society thatHuck is, you would think that he would have no qualmsabout helping Jim. But Huck has to have feelings that slaveryis correct so we can see the ignorance of racial bigotry.
Huck and Jim’s journey begins as Huck fights within himselfabout turning Jim over to the authorities. Finally he decidesnot to turn Jim in. This is a monumental decision for Huck tomake, even though he makes it on the spot.
This is not just aboy running away from home. It is someone who hasdecided to turn his back on everything “home” stands for,even one of its most cherished beliefs. In this way Twain alsoallows to let us leave our thoughts of bigotry behind also andstart to see Jim for who he really is, a man.
Even thoughHuck has made his decision about Jim, early in the voyagewe see Huck’s attitude towards Jim as racist. EventuallyHuck plays a mean trick on Jim and we see Huck begin tochange his attitude, “It was fifteen minutes before I couldwork myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but Idone it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterward, neither”(86). Later on in the story Huck becomes very caring andprotective for Jim, where this reaches a climax at the pointwhere Huck saves Jim from two slave catchers by trickingthem to think Jim is was Huck’s small pox ridden father. Thedialogue between Huck and Jim also illustrates that Jim ismore than someone’s property. He is a human being withfeelings, and hopes for a better future. He is not someignorant, uncaring sub-human, but plainly the opposite.Twain does not necessarily come out and say that slavery isevil, that is far above Huck’s understanding, but he gives usthe ammunition needed to make that decision for ourselves.
Huck and Jim’s adventures give us a chance to examine thesociety they live in. It also gives us a chance to examineourselves as well as the society today. The story is over ahundred years old, but many of the social vices then, sadly,pertain to our society now. There are more examples ofhuman failings in this book, the trickery and cheating of theKing and Duke, the lack of caring by the townspeople forBoggs, the naivete of the Wilks sisters and the lack ofcommon sense in Tom Sawyer.
There is cruelty, greed,murder, trickery, hypocrisy, racism, and a general lack ofmorality, all the ingredients of society. All through theadventure you have Huck Finn and Jim trying to find the onething they can only find on the river, freedom, but a personcan only stay on the river for so long, and so you have to goon land to face the injustices of society. Quite a contrast, thefreedom of being without authority, being able to think foryourself, running right next to the constraints made upon youby society.
Somewhere deep within the story Twain ismaking a powerful statement, a wish for all humanity, that wecan be brave enough to break with what others assume iscorrect and just, and make decisions for ourselves and theability to stand on our own and do something about it. Weare that mob that stood outside Colonel Sherburn’s house,we are the Grangerfords and Shepardsons, and we are theKing and the Duke, and even the foolish townspeople inevery town they conned. Somewhere along the line we mustbecome I, someone has to have the courage to stand up forwhat is right, to be what Colonel Sherburn would call a realman. Huck gives us that chance, that ability to see things forwhat they are.
His adventures along with Twain’s sharpcriticism are so uniquely combined to give us that realization.The greatest thing is that it is done so well that we almostthink that we are the ones that discovered it.