ot in MarkTwain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry
ot in MarkTwain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnIn Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twaindevelops the plot into Huck and Jim’s adventures allowing him toweave in his criticism of society. The two main characters, Huckand Jim, both run from social injustice and both are distrustfulof the civilization around them. Huck is considered an uneducatedbackwards boy, 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 run fromcivilization and are on the river, they ponder the socialinjustices forced upon them when they are on land.These social injustices are even more evident when Huck and Jimhave to make landfall, and this provides Twain with the chance tosatirize the socially correct injustices that Huck and Jimencounter on land. The satire that Twain uses to expose thehypocrisy, racism, greed and injustice of society develops alongwith the adventures that Huck and Jim have. The ugly reflectionof society we see should make us question the world we live in,and only the journey down the river provides us with that chance.Throughout the book we see the hypocrisy of society. The firstcharacter we come across with that trait is Miss Watson.
MissWatson constantly corrects Huck for his unacceptable behavior, butHuck doesn’t understand why, “That is just the way with somepeople. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothingabout it” (2). Later when Miss Watson tries to teach Huck aboutHeaven, he decides against trying to go there, “..
.she was goingto live so as to go the good place. Well, I couldn’t see noadvantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind Iwouldn’t try for it.” (3) The comments made by Huck clearlyshow Miss Watson as a hypocrite, scolding Huck for wanting tosmoke and then using snuff herself and firmly believing that shewould be in heaven.When Huck encounters the Grangerfords and Shepardsons, Huckdescribes Colonel Grangerford as, “…
a gentleman, you see. Hewas a gentleman all over; and so was his family. He was wellborn, as the saying is, and that’s worth as much in a man as it isin a horse.
..” (104). You can almost hear the sarcasm from Twainin Huck’s description of Colonel Grangerford. Later Huck isbecoming aware of the hypocrisy of the family and its feud withthe Shepardsons when Huck attends church.
He is amazed that whilethe minister preaches about brotherly love both the Grangerfordsand Shepardsons are carrying weapons. Finally when the feuderupts into a gunfight, Huck sits in a tree, disgusted by thewaste and cruelty of the feud, “It made me so sick I most fell outof the tree..
.I wished I hadn’t ever come ashore that night to seesuch things.”Nowhere else is Twain’s voice heard more clearly than as a mobgathers at the house of Colonel Sherburn to lynch him. Here wehear the full force of Twain’s thoughts on the hypocrisy ancowardice of society, “The idea of you lynching anybody! It’samusing.
The idea of you thinking you had pluck enough to lynch aman!…The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that’s what an army is-a mob; they don’t fight with courage that’s born in them, but withcourage that’s borrowed from their mass, and from their officers.But a mob without any man at the head of it is beneathpitifulness” (146-147). Each of these examples finds Huck againrunning to freedom of the river.
The river never cares howsaintly you are, how rich you are, or what society thinks youare. The river allows Huck the one thing that Huck wants to be,and that is Huck. The river is freedom than the land isoppression, and that oppression is no more evident than it is toJim.It is somewhat surprising that Huck’s traveling companion is Jim.
As anti-society that Huck is, you would think that he would haveno qualms about helping Jim. But Huck has to have feelings thatslavery is correct so we can see the ignorance of racial bigotry.Huck and Jim’s journey begins as Huck fights within himself aboutturning Jim over to the authorities. Finally he decides not toturn Jim in. This is a monumental decision for Huck to make, eventhough he makes it on the spot. This is not just a boy runningaway from home. It is someone who has decided to turn his back oneverything “home” stands for, even one of its most cherishedbeliefs.
In this way Twain also allows to let us leave ourthoughts of bigotry behind also and start to see Jim for who hereally is, a man.Even though Huck has made his decision about Jim, early in thevoyage we see Huck’s attitude towards Jim as racist. EventuallyHuck plays a mean trick on Jim and we see Huck begin to change hisattitude, “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up togo and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn’t eversorry for it afterward, neither” (86). Later on in the story Huckbecomes very caring and protective for Jim, where this reaches aclimax at the point where Huck saves Jim from two slave catchersby tricking them to think Jim is was Huck’s small pox riddenfather.
The dialogue between Huck and Jim also illustrates thatJim is more than someone’s property. He is a human being withfeelings, and hopes for a better future. He is not some ignorant,uncaring sub-human, but plainly the opposite. Twain does notnecessarily come out and say that slavery is evil, that is farabove Huck’s understanding, but he gives us the ammunition neededto make that decision for ourselves.
Huck and Jim’s adventures give us a chance to examine the societythey live in. It also gives us a chance to examine ourselves aswell as the society today. The story is over a hundred years old,but many of the social vices then, sadly, pertain to our societynow. There are more examples of human failings in this book, thetrickery and cheating of the King and Duke, the lack of caring bythe townspeople for Boggs, the naivet of the Wilks sisters andthe lack of common 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 one thingthey can only find on the river, freedom, but a person can onlystay on the river for so long, and so you have to go on land toface the injustices of society.
Quite a contrast, the freedom ofbeing without authority, being able to think for yourself, runningright next to the constraints made upon you by society.Somewhere deep within the story Twain is making a powerfulstatement, a wish for all humanity, that we can be brave enough tobreak with what others assume is correct and just, and makedecisions for ourselves and the ability to stand on our own and dosomething about it. We are that mob that stood outside ColonelSherburn’s house, we are the Grangerfords and Shepardsons, and weare the King and the Duke, and even the foolish townspeople inevery town they conned. Somewhere along the line we must becomeI, someone has to have the courage to stand up for what is right,to be what Colonel Sherburn would call a real man. Huck gives usthat chance, that ability to see things for what they are.
Hisadventures along with Twain’s sharp criticism are so uniquelycombined to give us that realization. The greatest thing is thatit is done so well that we almost think that we are the ones thatdiscovered it.