, Research Paper
RESPONSE TO HUCKLEBERRY FINN: CHAPTERS 19-26
With this next chunk of the novel begins a series of great swindles which Huck finds himself involved in when he and Jim meet up with the ?Duke of Bridgewater? and ?Looy the Seventeenth, rightful King of France?. The two con-artists lead Huck and Jim from town to town with a new scam every time, while our two main characters wait on them hand and foot. However, in the midst of all this bizarre fraudery, Mark Twain manages to express some very powerful truths about human nature.
The first scam leads us to a camp meeting in the small town of Pokeville, where a type of religious revival has commenced. Taking advantage of the rowdy unrestrained atmosphere of the meeting, the king creates a pitiful story, claiming to be a wretched pirate who, thanks to camp Pokeville, has seen the light and is ready to repent and purge himself of his sins. He goes on to state that he will aspire to help all pirates in the Indian ocean to change their wicked ways, though it might take him ages since he was penniless. Of course, the gullible crowd believes his every word and starts up a collection box to raise money for the poor deprived pirate, treating him as though he were a hero.
Here, Twain makes a statement about the prevalence of ignorance amongst humans and their reactions to that of which ignorant. They are impressed by the unfamiliarity of the ?pirate?, and once they see that his foreigner has happily adapted to their ways, they are flattered and the aspect of insecurity disappears. Swept away by this, they allow themselves to be conned out of their money in the name of charity.
The next swindle occurs in Bricksville, Arkansas, a run-down lethargic town of bickering loafers and drunks. Huck finds himself the witness to a murder when one of the town drunks ignores a warning given to him by Colonel Sherburn, a detached citizen of Bricksville. After Sherburn shoots the infamous drunk, the whole town gathers around and threatens to lynch Sherburn. At this point, Sherburn makes a forceful speech expressing his views and opinions of the community. Twain takes this opportunity to speak through Sherburn, relating his own views to the reader about American society.
Unlike the revelation of the ?pirate? in the previous con, Sherburn never adapted to the ways of the society, as he didn?t find them to be up to his standards, thus the people felt intimidated by him. He realizes that the threat of lynching by the citizens of Bricksville are is insubstantial because they are weak. They think that the threat alone proves that they have courage, and yet had they been alone, they would never have stood up to Sherburn. He asserts that strength doesn?t lie in numbers, it lies within. He then relates this idea to society on a more general level by saying in chap.22, ?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 with courage that?s borrowed form their mass, and from their officers.?. Twain mocks the idea of ?brave America? by stating that the average man is a coward. The media pounds it into them that they are all so brave and strong, when in reality, they are all timid and insecure push-overs, hiding under the courage of those in charge, and under a blanket of false pretences.
Another theme which Twain encoorporates into the scene is that of human insensitivity and cruelty. After the murder, the town heads off to the circus where a ?drunken man? attempts to try to ride one of the circus horses. Instead of the crowd showing concern for the well being of the man, they laughed and jeered like crazy. Huck?s attitude differs to that of the crowd when he says, ?It warn?t funny to me, though; I was all of a tremble to see his danger.?. Twain presents Huck as an individual, different from the average member of society. He actually found the situation alarming, whereas the others found it thoroughly entertaining. The circus used humanity?s lack of compassion to their advantage, and appealed to it by including such a segment in their attraction.
The final hoax for this section of the book occurs when the four travelling companions offer a lift to a young man they meet on the river bank. The young man tells the two crooks about a death which had occurred in his village and how the benefactors of the man?s, his two brothers, will have not yet shown up form England. The King sees an opportunity for a new scam and questions the young man to no end so that he might acquire a good back ground of the dead man.
He then uses his new found knowledge to trick the people of the village into thinking that he and the duke are the relatives of the poor dead Peter Wilks. Yet again, the two manage to use the ignorance and gullibility of the people to their advantage, as they put on a marvellous show of emotion. They even throw in little extras to make their act more believable, such as in chapter 25 when they offer the total sum of cash which they receive from their inheritance to their nieces, saying that they are not about to ?rob? yes, rob? sech poor sweet lambs as these ?at he (Peter Wilks) loved so at sech a time?, knowing that they would make even more money by selling the property and servants. Once more, Twain emphasizes the connection between crime and ignorance, and how the two con-artists are continuously successful due to the fact that they know how to benefit from the people?s ignorance. As the King says in chapter 26, ?Hain?t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain?t that a big enough majority in any town??.
Thus far, the novel had proved to be an entertaining series of adventures and encounters, sprinkled with deeper meanings and profound insights to human nature.