The Search For Morality Essay, Research Paper
The Search For Morality
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the opinion is expressed that society is deaf and blind to morality. Mark Twain exposes a civilization filled with hate and hypocrisy, ignorance and injustice, all through the eyes of an impressionable youth known as Huckleberry Finn. Through his adventures Huck discovers his own conscience, and capacity for loyalty and friendship. He plays a dangerous game filled with life-altering decisions that determine who he is as a person in the world.
The game Huck plays occasionally gets him into a rare moral dilemma. He has to choose between violating the entire code of social, religious, and conventional behavior, which the world has taught him, and betraying the person whom he loves most in his life. Huck s ailing conscience prompts him to write a letter, advising Miss Watson that her slave, Jim, is in Mr. Phelp s possession. After writing the letter he says, I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn t do it straight off but laid the paper down and set there thinking-thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell (Twain).
This is just one instance where Huck shows promising signs of breaking free from the close-minded upbringing that has been instilled upon him. Huck s adventures are a sort of right of passage to adulthood. He discovers new ways of thinking, acting, and living that he would never have gotten to even consider if he were not exposed to them in the real world. As Huck matures, his values evolve from a selfish, loner attitude to a loyal and dependable friend. When a problem does arise for either Huck, Jim, or even newly found friends along the river, the once self-centered, ignorant, young boy uses his moral judgment to do what is right.
Most amusing is the struggle Huck has with his conscience in regard to slavery. His conscience tells him, the way it has been instructed, that to help the runaway slave, Jim, to escape is an enormous offense. Not to mention that Jim belonged to Miss Watson, who had always treated both he and Huck very well. Huck feels that aiding in stealing Miss Watson s property will no doubt carry him to the bad place. Huck s deep affection for Jim ultimately induces him to violate his conscience and risk eternal punishment by helping his friend, and slave, Jim to escape. The whole study of Huck’s moral nature is as serious as it is amusing, his confusion of wrong as right and his abnormal mendacity, traceable to his training from infancy, is a singular contribution to the investigation of human nature (Hartford).
Twain writes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the best way that a story is written, by telling it. This book is an eyewitness account
through Huck s eyes. He lets the reader enjoy the tale unaccompanied by signposts or directions on how he or she should understand it and profit by it. Life teaches its lessons by implication, not by didactic preaching; and literature is at its best when it is an imitation of life and not an excuse for instruction (Perry). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is literature at its best. Mark Twain simply gives the reader a pleasurable coming of age, adventure on the Mississippi with a runaway slave. In his preface he even instructs his readers to just enjoy the story and not to look for a moral. In doing so, Twain actually intrigues the reader and motivates them to find their own meaning in what he has written. It is almost as if he uses reverse psychology on his readers. By telling them to pay no attention to any moral or ethical values presented in the book, these themes become more apparent and integral than if Twain had not mentioned them at all.
Regardless of whether Mark Twain thought his audience should find a moral in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or not, there are some universal truths that shine brightly throughout the novel. The moral of the book, though it is not scrawled across every page, teaches the necessity of manliness and self-sacrifice (Atlanta). Also, as stated in the quote to which this response replies, Twain presented hateful hypocrisy and ignorance in his fictional society in hopes of initiating stronger ethical and moral values in our actual existence.
Perry, T. S. Rev. of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.
The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. May 1885:
The Hartford Courant. Rev. of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. February 1885: 20
The Atlanta Constitution. Rev. of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. May 1885: 26
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: