Moral Development Of Huckleberry Finn Essay, Research Paper
Darci Ford Mrs. Horton English III-AP Sunday, February 21, 1999Moral Development of Huckleberry FinnMark Twain s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is based on a young boy scoming of age in Missouri of the mid-1800s. The adventures Huck Finn muddles into whilefloating down the Mississippi River depict many serious issues that occur on the dry land ofcivilization better known as society. As these somber events following the Civil War are toldthrough the young eyes of Huckleberry Finn, he unknowingly develops morally from both theconforming and non-comforming influences surrounding him on his journey to freedom.Huck s moral evolution begins before he ever sets foot on the raft down the Mississippi. His mother is deceased, while his father customarily sleeps with the pigs in a drunken state. Huck grows up following his own rules until he moves in with the Widow Douglas and her sister,Miss Watson. Together, the women attempt to sivilize Huck by making him attend school,study religion, and act in a way the women find socially acceptable. However, Huck sfree-spirited soul keeps him from joining the constraining and lonely life the two women have instore for him.The freedom Huck seeks in Tom Sawyer s gang is nothing more than romanticchild s-play. Raiding a caravan of Arabs really means terrorizing young children on a SundaySchool picnic, and the stolen joolry is nothing more than turnips or rocks. Huck is disappointedthat the adventures Tom promises are not real and so, along with the other members, he resignsfrom the gang. Still, Huck ignorantly assumes that Tom is superior to him because of his moresuitable family background and fascination with Romantic literature.Pap and the kidnapping play another big role in Huck s moral development. Pap iscompletely antisocial and wishes to undo all of the civilizing effects that the Widow and MissWatson have attempted to instill in Huck. However, Pap does not symbolize freedom; hepromotes drunkenness, prejudice, and abuse. Thus, Huck escapes the cabin to search for thefreedom he yearns for.It is after Huck Finn escapes to Jackson Island that he meets the most influential characterof the novel, Jim. After conversing, Huck learns things about the runaway slave that he had neverbeen aware of. Jim has a family, dreams, and talents such as knowing all kinds of signs about thefuture , people s personalities, and weather forecasting. However, Huck sees Jim as a gullibleslave. He plays tricks on him like the rattlesnake event that nearly gets Jim killed. At this pointin the novel, Huck still holds the belief that blacks are essentially different from whites. Also,Huck s conscience reminds him that he s a low-down and dirty abolitionist for helping Jim runaway from his owner. Huck does not see that Jim is looking for freedom just as he is. The first adventure Huck and Jim take part in while searching for freedom is thesteamboat situation. Huck shows development of character in tricking the watchman into goingback to the boat to save the criminals. Even though they are thieves, and plan to murder anotherman, Huck still feels that the forfeit of their lives would be too great a punishment. Some may seeHuck s reaction to the event as crooked but, unlike most of society, Huck Finn sees good inpeople and attempts to help them with sincerity and compassion. Getting lost in the fog while floating down the Mississippi River leads to a major turningpoint in the development of Huck Finn s character. Up to this event, he has seen Jim as a lesserperson than himself. After trying to deny the fog event to Jim, he says, It was fifteen minutesbefore I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a slave; but I done it, and I warn t eversorry for it afterward, neither. He continues by explaining how he could never do such a thingagain. Huck has clearly gained respect for Jim here, which explains the risks he is willing to takefor Jim later in the book.A short yet significant scene is when the men on shore want to check Huck s rat forrunaway slaves. He escapes by tricking them into thinking that his dad is onboard with smallpox.
This scene shows a negative view of human nature. The men had helped Huck until they realizedthat they were in danger themselves. They put their own safety above that of others, and whilethis is sometimes acceptable, it is by no means a noble trait. On the other hand, Huck risks hisown freedom to see that Jim finds his.The feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepardsons adds to Huck s distaste forsociety and it s teachings. In this adventure, Huck learns what a feud is and also witnesses thehorrid aftermath the hostility brought upon the two families. Another part of Huck s moralmetamorphosis in this event is that he has come to miss the one man that has given him fatherlylove throughout the excursion.The Duke and the King join Huck and Jim in the middle of the novel. The two con-menuse Huck and Jim to fulfill their greed and desires. Like the two men from the steamboatoccurrence, Huck knows that their schemes are wrong. However, Huck insists to help them andconsequently learns the hard way that an individual is judged by his/her company.The con-men s attempt to mascarade as the brothers of the late Peter Wilks is animportant part of Huck s development. The Duke and King try to take Peter s estate, however,Huck decides to return the money to Peter s three daughters. This action demonstrates furthermoral growth, as does his choice to abandon the two con-men. Huck also learns how contriving people can be while attending the funeral of PeterWilks. Women would walk up to Peter s daughters and kiss their foreheads, and then put theirhand on their head, and looked up towards the sky, with the tears running down, and then bustedout and went off sobbing and swabbing, and give the next woman a show. Huck hasnever seenanything so disgusting. When Huck Finn sees one of the daughters crying beside the coffin, itmakes a deep impact on him. Not only did he experience his first bout with puppy love, he alsofeels compassion for an innocent victim. All right then, I ll go to hell! represents the highest point in Huck s moral development. He has decided to go against his conscience by freeing Jim, and in doing so, reject society. Whilethe society he has grown up in teaches that freeing slaves is wrong, Huck has evolved to a pointwhere he can realize that what he feels is right, and that his own beliefs are superior to those ofSouthern civilization. Jim has taught him what it is like to feel free while gliding down theMississippi. When Huck would need safety from the dry land, Jim has always been his haven. However, the next situation Jim and Huck go through will bring another turning point–for theworst.When Jim is caught by Tom Sawyer s relatives, Huck decides he will get his friend back. He sees Uncle Silas as such a good man, but fails to see that he owns slaves like all the rest. Also,just as Jim looks up to Huck, Huck looks up to Tom Sawyer, and let s his useless rescue attemptsjeopardize Jim s freedom. Jim does show compassion yet again when he attempts to save theDuke and King from being tarred and feathered, but there is an apparent stagnant period inHuck s development during the rescue attempt sharade. Huck let s Tom Sawyer take thecontrols and sits quietly while Tom puts Jim through ordeal after ordeal. When it is made certain that Jim is a free man, Huck learns the truth about his father sdeath and who was in the floating house at the beginning of the journey. It is made evident to thereader that Huck thanks Jim for protecting him from the gruesome nature, and does not regret the adventures he and Jim had together. Huckleberry Finn was able to raise above the rest of society. As a young boy, he learned manythings about the cruel world, and what freedom really means. Huck will never accept sivilization and he will always go back to the safety net of the Mississippi River. Though therewere times when Huck made the wrong decision, the reader must realize that growing up is atrial-and-error. Society has come a long way since the Civil War, and it is important to realizethat people like the characters, Jim and Huckleberry Finn, have made freedom accessible to allthat need a harbor from the dry limits of society soil.