Human Nature- Exposed Essay, Research Paper
Human Nature: Exposed
More than a century ago, Mark Twain probably composed the single-most important piece of American Literature to ever be composed. This work, widely known as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, essentially follows young Huck on a series of adventures and experiences with his close friend (and runaway slave), Jim, as they both escape society’s burdens. The novel, in a sense, encompasses everything good, bad and in between about and concerning the society of that time. A majority of the novel takes place along the Mississippi river, with Young Huck, and Jim each striving to attain a common goal, freedom from the woes of society. In their journey, they come across many different people, and encounter many strange and new experiences that all relate to a common theme that is evident throughout the novel. As their journey progresses, the reader witnesses many horrific and surprising acts, all performed by none other than man himself. Looking deeper into the symbolistic meaning of many of these passages reveals that man, in essence , is cruel, silly, and hypocritical in nature.
Through his writing, it becomes apparent that Twain supports the thematic idea of the human race being hypocritical. For instance, take the scene in Chapter 20 where a group of people in Arkansas are listening to the sermon of a preacher. In this descriptive passage, it can be inferred through Twain’s writing that the average person of this time was in fact “blinded” by religious influences. The significance of this event can be observed later on in Chapter 21 where Twain describes the horrific abuse of animals. “There couldn’t anything wake them up all over, and make them happy all over, like a dog-fight–unless it might be putting turpentine on a stray dog and setting fire to him…” (Twain 140). In putting the two preceding passages in perspective a distinctive irony becomes visible. The same type of individuals whom practice religion in good faith turn around and perform cruel acts to animals, for sport of all things. This is hypocritical because the basis of religion is definitely not to support or defend
such acts, but that doesn’t seem to have any adverse affect upon the average person
who is merely “blinded” by glamour of religion and what it stands for, not having any intention of carrying out it’s plight. So all said and done, Twain wanted to make it clear to the reader in a subtle way that these two scenes, in conjunction support the statement that Twain’s writing makes the human race out as hypocritical in nature.
In addition of Twain using the experiences that Huck and Jim undergo to illustrate that man is hypocritical, he uses these experiences to show us that man is cruel and savage as well. Take, for instance this quote from Huck after he witnesses the massacre of the Grangerfords by the Shepardsons. “It made me so sick I most fell out of the tree. I ain’t a-going to tell all that happened–it would make me sick again if i was to do that” (Twain 115). That particular excerpt merely illustrates to the reader what savage acts humans are capable of doing. The horrific acts that humans commit become that much more disturbing when it can be shown that such violence has no reason or justification. Twain tells that to us when Huck is asking Buck Grangerford about when the feud all started. “Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon and some of the other old people; but they don’t know what the row was about in the first place” (Twain 108). The mere thought of such senseless killing, for reason which aren’t even known by the ones fighting, is quite disturbing to say the least. Twain most likely included this in the novel in order to show us what makes humans so savage and cruel, to kill without reason.
The instances in which Twain, through his writing, exemplifies mankind as cruel are not limited to the ones described in the proceeding. The instance in chapter 30, where the Duke and King sell Jim to Mr. Phelps for 40 dollars illustrates what cruel acts man will resort to just to attain personal wealth. The following quote illustrates how the Duke and Kings cruelty impacted Huck. “…but it warn’t no use–Jim was gone. Then i set down and cried; I couldn’t help it.” (Twain 211). There’s only so much one can say about instances like this, only that it is beyond comprehension how the Duke and King live with themselves after the acts they perform. Perhaps the old saying “what goes around comes around” actually applies in this case, because later on in chapter 33 the Duke and the king get tared and feathered by a mob of angry
townspeople. Here Huck describes what he is thinking while he witnesses it happen. “..it seemed like i couldn’t ever feel any hardness against them more in the world. It was an dreadful thing to see. Humans can be awful cruel to one another” (Twain 231). So it would appear, that no matter what, the root of people, no matter how it’s intended is cruel.
Yet another aspect of humanity Twain satirized through his writing is our inherent silliness through the actions we conduct in our every day lives. Here, in this passage Huck describes how he views the Wilkes funeral. “Well, the funeral sermon was very good, but pison long and tiresome; and then the King shoved off and got off some of his usual rubbage…” (Twain 182). Essentially, through this Twain is just making fun of the way mankind mourns the dead. Twain most likely wouldn’t bring such a passage into the book if he had not intended it to convey such a message. Twain also in a way makes fun of human nature in the way we are superstitious and hold faith in certain things such as religion. “..the preacher was lining out a hymn. he lined out two lines, everybody sung it, and it was kind of grand to hear it..” (Twain 131). The description of how the people listening to the preacher echo his words like mindless drones, is essentially humorous and silly, according to Twain. Through the little insignificant things we do, it can be interpreted as silly when you look back and analyze it.
As stated before, Twain in his writing of Huck Finn illustrates to us that man is indeed a hypocritical and ironic sort. Perhaps it’s important we touch base upon that again through this one passage describing the actions of the Duke and the King. “First they done a lecture on temperance; but they didn’t make enough for them to both get drunk on.” (Twain 209). That excerpt merely supports the underlying theme of the novel that man is a debase species. Through describing the class of individuals that the Duke and the King fall into, he satirizes society in a negative way. However this negative satire helps us to closer understand our society and perhaps change it for the better. Another instance where it can be suggested that the human race is hypocritical and ironic is through Huck Finn himself and the words he says right after he makes the crucial decision to free Jim. “It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was
said.” (Twain 214). Although Huck made a positive resolution, the fact those words were said indicate that there is an apparent struggle between what he is feeling in his head and his heart, and that in my eyes, makes him a hypocrite, supporting the fact that all humans are essentially of a hypocritical nature.
Whether or not a century ago Mark Twain intended to imply that the human race was in fact cruel, hypocritical and downright silly is essentially unknown, most would tend to believe that it was. In this novel, Twain does achieve and illustrate that theme successfully through the usage of many literary techniques such as symbolism and satire. “But what is the significance of all this?” you might be asking yourself, well frankly if one thinks about it hard enough, if we take one big step back and look at the world as a whole, we can see it is in fact flawed. Perhaps, when we read novels such as this one, it can help us to more completely understand the world around us and in turn perhaps inspire us to change our world for the better, eliminating all of the cruelty and hypocrisy we see today.