Morality And Huck Finn Essay, Research Paper
Morality of Huckleberry Finn
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known to his readers as Mark Twain, is now recognized as a prominent writer of the American Realism period. Twain’s novels are realists in their own rite. They explicate the value of morality and justice. His most famous work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is perhaps the greatest representation of his sarcastic social criticism. Had Mark Twain had it his way, many literary critics, readers, and even members of the general public would have been shot, according to the warning he placed before the text of his book. However The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remains the prominent critical allegory of its time. The purpose of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is to highlight the similarities and differences between the morality of Huckleberry, the main character, and that of society at the time, creating a satirical social commentary. The reader meets Huckleberry Finn as a young teenager, about thirteen or so. Huck by no means fits the popular perception of a “good boy” at the time. However, his innocence is demonstrated in his games with one of his friends, Tom Sawyer. Both Huck and Tom have read many fantasy stories about crooks and pirates, and they are both intrigued with what they see as the romantic lifestyle this entails. They, with another boy, “run away” from home briefly to become criminals themselves. They all make a pact to attack and kill rich men on the river, taking their money and seducing their wives. The true meaning of this is exemplified when the other boy wakes up crying and says he wants to go home, back to his mother. Tom admits he misses his Aunt Polly and even Huck says he misses the Widow Douglas a bit. Here it is clear just how innocent a young boy Huck is. His wild plans of raiding and looting are disrupted by his longing for home, after only a night away. Huck’s mother died shortly after he was born, and his father was an alcoholic who neglected and beat him, so Huck was informally adopted by the Widow Douglas, a relatively wealthy member of the higher class of his Mississippi hometown. The Widow hires a tutor named Miss Watson to school Huck. At this time, political correctness did not exist, and religion was taught in schools as standard curriculum, so Huck had lessons from the Bible as well as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Miss Watson’s teachings of heaven and hell primarily focused on Huck’s dynamic ability to cause mischief and trouble under any circumstances. Huck claims that if doing what is considered wrong gets him to hell, than he would rather go there because he would want to be with Tom Sawyer anyway. An interesting note is how Huck’s system of morals works. He never refers to anything as right or wrong, but as good and bad. This and his rejection of Miss Watson’s teaching and ideas of conformity show his resentment of popular opinion and societal influence. He is separate and unaffected by the voice of public opinion and the rules of society. Later on, Huck’s father reappears and kidnaps him. He takes Huck to a shack on the river in the woods and locks him in. Since his father drinks, Huck is beaten, but never complains. It is obvious that he has no respect for the man at all. His father intends to get the money that Huck found with Tom and spend it on his delinquency. This shows his lack of love for his son. Unfortunately, he underestimates Huck, who escapes the shack and kills a wild boar, using its blood and some of his hair to make it seem as if someone broke into the shack and split his skulls with an axe, dragging his body off. Huck hides and sees his father return to the mess, whereupon his father falls on his knees and curses because of the loss of money. Huck escapes by canoe down the river to an island. At this point in the story, Huck joins with another important character in the book; Jim. Jim was a slave of the Widow’s, but after word of Huck’s death got around, he overheard her making plans to sell him. Hearing this, he fled to the same island as Huck. Huck’s rejection of societal approval is exemplified here. He talks to Jim as a fellow human; as an equal. He never talks down to him or disrespects him. With Jim, his innocence is also shown. At one point, they find a dead body on an island. Huck looks away and feels sick and scared. Despite his child-like fantasies of being a pirate, the thought of the death of a fellow human being disturbs him. The pair of Huck and Jim plan to travel to Louisiana, a free state, to free Jim. The river is an archetype for the path of life. It specifically represents Huck’s moral values applied to his travels, and he and Jim are the sole travelers on the River. Here again he is separate from society. During his travels, Huck’s “good and bad” system of morals develops, showing Huck’s maturity and sense as a young man. Jim and Huck are sidetracked on their journey, meeting a pair of cons they refer to as the King and the Duke. They reluctantly end up in a plot of the King and Duke to swindle an inheritance out of a southern family. Huck sees this as bad, and develops a plan to expose the King and the Duke, which ends up working due to the appearance of the real heirs to the inheritance and the ensuing exhuming of the body of the deceased, implicating the King and the Duke as frauds. During this time, Huck does a lot of praying, despite his rejection of Miss Watson’s teachings. He prays for the daughters of the dead man, because they accept the King and the Duke as their family and treat them as long lost uncles. He also says that he hopes the Widow and Miss Watson are praying for him. He does not pray for himself because he believes he is going to hell anyway. During the formulation of Huck’s plan, Jim is sold to another family. Huck comes up with another plan, this one of rescuing Jim. Tom Sawyer shows up at this point, having traveled to the destination by road, an important note. He comes up with a more childish and over-extravagant way of getting Jim out, which almost gets Jim killed. Tom’s coming by the road represents someone traveling using the morals taught to him by society. He is irresponsible and immature. His childish ways almost get a friend killed. In the end, all three escape unscathed by the sickle of Death and reach their goal, with a few bumps on the head. Huck’s journey on the river, separate from societal input transforms him into a moral character. His moral code of conduct has him believe that when he lies or steals in order to do good, he still will be sent to hell. Huck respects those who do good and frowns upon those who do bad, such as the King and the Duke. He also develops religious values, as he prays for those who are in need, such as the daughters of the dead man. Huck manages to do this without the influence of society. His morality and respect of other life is developed through his experiences on the river. His religious values are developed through his own feelings and beliefs. This all shows how the voice of society may be powerful, but is not necessarily the morally correct one.