Huck Finn: Christianity’s Mob Instinct Essay, Research Paper
This paper was written by a junior in the Honors English program. It?s the goddamn hardest english class at the whole school. This paper received a borderline B plus, A minus in a 5.0 class, so it counts as a 4.0 on the grading scale. This is a quality bullshit paper, and if you believe its ideas, you must be an atheist like me, do not turn this in to a Christian teacher. Not only will it offend him, he will castrate you. Fortunately, my teacher is a nice guy, but a really tough grader. Enjoy this paper, and at least read it before you turn it in. It has errors in grammar, spelling, and probably punctuation. We make a lot of those when we get little sleep, and it?s late. It analyzes how Christianity causes people to mob together for no apparent reason at all. Just read the last sentence of the intro paragraph for the thesis statement. Have a nice day!
Life?s troubles embittered Mark Twain towards many institutions of society. In his novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain expresses these deep feelings with sarcasm, wit, and humor. Slavery stands out as the obvious target for his clever prose, but singling out slavery as his only detested institution defeats his one of his many points in this novel. He shows the reader howwe live in a hypocritical society. So many traditions and ingrained customs in our society contradict reasonable thought, yet we continue with our lives unaware of our stupidity. Twain decries Christianity?in this case followers of Christ? as one of these traditional but harmful institutions. In his eyes, the religion of Christianity strips humans of their individuality and self consciousness. Twain depicts Christians as gullible, and spineless fools; they appear just like any other mob in his book. This instinctual huddling of the masses leads Twain to write about our lack of motive or aspiration in our lives. He defiles our most sacred institution as a mob behind a man dead almost two millennia. With his clever writing and Huck?s characterization in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain reveals Christians as a transparent and hypocritical mob of conformists.
Mark Twain?s crafty writing compares Christianity to any other lynching mob. The leaderless, spineless people follow along with no say and no desire to dictate their future. This mob instinct among humans occurs frequently, but rarely as strong as the bonds of Christianity. Twain portrays Christians as the same type of men Colonel Sherburn criticizes in his speech upon the balcony. These people desire leadership, because they hold little thought or ideas they can call their own. In society, people gather together to support someone else?s ideas, or, as Twain?s character Sherburn says:
You didn?t want to come. The average man don?t like trouble and danger? But if only half a man?shouts, ?Lynch him! lynch him! you?re afraid to back down?afraid that you?ll be found out to be what you are?cowards?and so you raise a yell, and hang yourselves onto that half-a-man?s coat-tail, and come raging up here, swearing what big things you?re going to do. (146-7)
The intense fear of society?s disapproval of their actions looms too strongly in the lives of these people. An irritating self awareness of outward image infiltrates the conscience of the crowd, transforming the people into a mob. The awareness of unholiness devastates their confidence, convincing them to join the mob of Christians. What difference exists between collecting around one man and one book? Twain draws no line dictating a division between the lynch mob, and the mob of Christians at the revival. However, both parties find their peers? approval and praise through distinct means. Nevertheless, the appealing acceptance of the individual into the consolidated crowd still draws both groups into their instinctive mobs. Fear that ?you?ll be found out to be what you are?cowards?? (147) molds the people into a mob. Peer pressure, a pressure to conform to your surroundings, matches this description well, and Twain cleverly demonstrates how our instincts to ?fit in? as a worthy member of society lead us into situations we might normally avoid. Instead of the pressure to agree with others? actions, Christianity relies on its moral foundation to persuade the masses into believing. Bible followers stand behind the Good Book as a source of knowledge, truth, and ethics. Just like the Puritans? colonies, Christian?s ?holier-than-thou? attitude challenges the public?s purity. Unwilling to back down from a challenge of this magnitude, many people conform to the religious way. After the mischievous Huck decides to confess his sins, and writes his letter to Miss Watson, he ?felt good, and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now.? (213) Through Huck?s inner struggle toward redemption in the eyes of the mob, Twain portrays how silly and immature Christianity appears when viewed in simple terms. Finn believes he can pray, because he confessed his sins, and therefore can redeem himself. In his own way, Huck exposes Christianity as a farce and a facade of spiritual holiness. His facade of Christianity breaks under the close scrutiny of the reader. Confusing acceptance by God with acceptance by Miss Watson, a member of the mob, demonstrates how the religion simply panders to other?s beliefs, not rational morals or ethics. Huck?s attempt at acceptance by his religion almost results in an endeavor to please his peers with a travesty of his morals, much like the lynch mob. Twain forces us to acknowledge the crux of the problem with Christianity: we conform too much to other?s imposed morals based on religion, rather than to the actual religion itself. The fear of sinning and going to hell hardly strikes as much fear into a man as the threat of ostracism from society. Huck decides ?All right, I?ll go to hell?, and tears up his letter of confession (215), but he also realizes and fears:
It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I?d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That?s just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and he don?t want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide, it ain?t no disgrace. The more I studied about this the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feeling. (212)
Huck?s heart supports his actions, but his tainted conscience poisons the rest of his body. Although he carries through with the plan, Huck continues to believe he had made a regrettable decision until Tom?s revelation. Hoping to accomplish a good deed for a friend, his religion degrades his good heart into self loathing for his so called sin. The apprehension of his discovery as a criminal lies in the exposure to his extremely religious society. Huck fears his town?s reaction the more than the reaction of any angry god. To him, the public?s reaction to his crime matters primarily in his contemplation of the consequences. God?s wrath pales compared to the disapproval of the Christian public. Licking the boots of the townspeople in shame haunts Huck as a deep embarrassment, because he loses face in front of his peers if the news of his sinful escapades reaches home. His first thought dwells upon the reaction of his friends to his wrongdoing; Providence remains only the second consideration. Even though Huck ?don?t take no stock in dead people? or the Bible?s passages, (2) he recognizes the importance of appearing religious and upright. Christians ingrained this set of morals in Huck, and Twain?s flagrant disregard for these rules in his writing demonstrates his aversion to religion. The author clearly intends us to see how the approval by a religion?s followers controls our lives, not the actual religion. They seek only the satisfaction of their fellow believers, not the appeasement of God. Mark Twain proves Christians resemble a mob; Like Sherburn?s cowards want to show their ?courage? by lynching, Christians wish to demonstrate their faith and piety to their peers by maintaining a facade of religious sanctity.
Christianity?s transparent facade of peer pressure rather than actual belief in God lends itself to various abuses of the religious system. Twain demonstrates the hypocritical and gullible nature of Christians who allow peer pressure to control their outward appearances. He also shows how the Christian?s mob instinct backfires when they encounter people who can use the system to their benefit. Because Christian?s rely on each other for support in the mob, they act together, often stampeding blindly like bison tumbling to their deaths from a cliff. The same maintenance of appearances that keeps them together harms the Christians at the revival meeting. When the king begins his speech, he gains support from other members of the mob, because he ?was going to start right off and work his way back to the Indian Ocean, and put in the rest of his life trying to turn the pirates into the true path.? (132) The instantaneous recognition received by the king as a leader or preacher of the mob?s doctrine relates only to his position as a member of the Christian mob gathered in Parkville. A Christian trusts another brother of the faith most of all. The instinct to keep with his kind deludes a Christian into acting without thinking about his individual feelings. The tendency to proceed on blindly with the crowd of Christians also creates hypocritical behavior. Twain shows how religion?s morals flex under the pressure of the mob?s changing desires. These morals occasionally reverse their standing due to the mob?s new cravings for acceptance by peers. The author divulges the true hypocritical character of Christianity?s mob:
?Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing [smoking a pipe] that had some good in it. And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.(2)
Huck?s sarcasm with the statement ?of course that was all right? voices Twain?s displeasure with the Christian way. Widow Douglas neglects her own deceptive practices, while carping Huck?s smoking habit as unclean and disgusting. She draws attention away from incriminating herself in this sinful penchant for tobacco by reprimanding someone else outside the protective mob of Christianity. Not only does the Widow protect herself, she defends her religion, because she knows little else beyond the Bible?s safe haven. Even though the widow snuffs her sinful tobacco, she ?was going to live so as to go to the good place.? Huck ?couldn?t see no advantage in going where she was going.? (3) The facade of heaven as a reward for mob members draws them ever closer in their circle. Here Twain reveals the instability of the mob?s standpoint. People constantly shift their morals to conform to a new thought that they form around like sharks after blood. The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons bent their Christianity to provide a reason for killing each other in a senseless slaughter. ?Thou shalt not kill? remains one of the most important of the Ten Commandments. However, the two religious families favor feud over faith in their duel to the death. Although Buck admires the Shepherdsons, ??If a body?s out hunting for cowards he don?t want to fool away any time amongst them?becuz they don?t breed any of that kind? (109), his family still lacks the bravery to drop the meaningless facade of Christianity while battling the other family. Why maintain a false appearance of Christian faith, even though the family kills on ?account of the feud?? (107) The family simply strives to emulate the cultivated aristocracy of the South by looking as though it belongs to the same mob. Both warring clans attend church regularly, and hear a sermon ?all about brotherly love? (109) which they praise as a fine speech. Yet the families come equipped with guns and begin fighting directly after church. This event in Huck?s trip down river epitomizes the hypocritical nature of the mob. For Twain, the use of Christianity frequently deviates from the actual religion to accommodate the needs of the mob?s members. I believe Machiavelli expressed this sentiment well when he exclaimed, ?The Church has appropriated God for its own ends.? Members of this massive mob ignore or alter their rules for their own pleasure or gain. Mark Twain furnishes sufficient proof of the hypocrisy and gullibility of Christian. He evinces the flexibility and transparency of Christianity?s mob tactics through clever writing.
Mark Twain further insults Christianity through Huck?s characterization as a person of rational thought who has decided against religion. Huck Finn?s blatant rejection of Christian morals presents the worst insult to Christianity in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At the start of the novel, Huck wishes he was in hell, simply to experience a new place, because he wanted a change. Huck cannot grasp the concept of hell as a place of pain and suffering. For members of the mob, hell?s threat of eternal suffering equates with the fear of being found a coward by the lynch mob; Huck?s understanding falters because he grew up without these threats. Each person joins the crowd to look as though he discovers God, but entrapment ensues if he wishes to leave the mob. The pressures of staying in the circle stack too heavily in the favor of the Christians. Huck?s carefree and lax attitude toward religion, however, leaves him outside the ring of friends. Twain?s depiction of moral thought outside the all encompassing sphere of Christianity exemplifies his backlash against the religion. His characterization of Huck makes the statement, ?People remain basically good, without joining the mob of men trying to appear better than the rest of society.? Huck?s rationalization of his stand against the morals of Christianity supports this statement, and represents a huge infringement on Christian values. The decision to rescue Jim is a climactic point for Huck?s individualistic leanings. At first, he resolves to quench the last smoldering ember of doubt deep inside him that wants to set Jim free. ?Deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can?t pray a lie?I found that out.? (213) However, Huck decides in favor of ?sin? after carefully pondering the situation. The nagging doubt left in Huck roots itself deep within his heart. Although all his ?sivilized? Christian morals told him to leave Jim alone, Huck continued with his plan to ?go the whole hog? (212), because he knew the right path. (212) Huck?s conscience of the heart erodes his once firm decision, whereas the mob member ??thinks as long as he can hide, it ain?t no disgrace.? (212) God seems more lenient with the mob, perhaps because the members manipulate his figure for their own gain. No one escapes God in Huck?s mind, and Huck truly believes he deserves no punishment, because he committed no sin. Huck?s rugged individualism shines as an example of an excellent characterization. The protagonist defeats the whole mob by rationalizing his actions as good and moral. Huck?s statement ?All right, then, I?ll go to hell?(214) represents his decision to go against the ingrained morals of Christianity, but not a surrender to their pressure. Just as he describes nigger Jim?s kindness as ?whiteness inside?(276), the only way Huck can describe this rebellion against Christianity employs the threats that it makes against sinners. For him, using the term ?going to hell? expresses his perception of Christian?s disapproval of his deeds; this rings true, because the mob deems any unsanctioned action as sinful. The rebellious spirit alive (and kicking) in him mirrors Twain?s feelings upon the matter of Christianity. Mark Twain wants the reader to notice how a simple boy can think his way through Christianity?s tangled web of morals. If a country bumpkin holds the ?will? of God as interpreted by Christians in less prestige than his own rational mind, this way of thinking undermines the whole mob mentality. Mob instinct and mentality accomplish nothing when compared to the few minutes of deep thought by Huck Finn. The church doctrine spewed forth from the Christian mob affects only those who cannot think for themselves in this novel. Twain?s cleverly planned and individualistic Huck Finn relies on his brain, not the approval of his peers, to make decisions of importance, thereby destroying the rationale of the mob.
The foundations of Christianity rely on the belief of a man dead almost two millennia, but Huck ?don?t take no stock in dead people.? (2) Christianity?s most powerful weapon, public condemnation, holds power over many people. Christianity?s rating system flexes, however, when the members of the mob need to change their morals, desires, or views. This flexibility leads to the hypocrisy and transparency of the mob. Twain breaks apart the mob into pieces the reader understands. People of rational thought can peer through the mysticism surrounding the Christian God, and Twain represents God as an abused relic. Cast aside by Christians in favor of appealing each other, God?s ?will? or good intentions receive ill treatment by his self appointed trustees. Twain places the entire mob system in jeopardy with his characterization of Huck. He represents the simple folk before they became drawn into the mob and stuck fast in the maelstrom of Christianity?s moral hypocrisy. Mark Twain voices strong opinions against this mob of believers, not because they harm others with their belief in God, but because they try to fit every man into their scheme. Just as every coward attempts to appear brave by joining a swarming lynch mob, the contest for moral and holy goodness wages war using the same fear. The pressures of peers force both groups into these predicaments: no backing down, and no deviant thoughts. Mark Twain may believe Christianity basically ethical, but the mob members subscribe to the mob?s morals, not necessarily the same morals as those found in the Bible. Mark Twain reveals Christians as a transparent and hypocritical mob of conformists. Perhaps we should reconsider joining this deceiving mob pressuring us into ?salvation? and think for ourselves. After all, Christians condemned and banned The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as subversive and blasphemous, yet Mark Twain?s singularly remarkable novel prevailed. Its individualistic author and protagonist share a place in our memories because of this trait.