, Research Paper
In the Style of Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is said to be "
the source from which all great American literature has stemmed" (Smith
127). This is in part attributed to Mark Twain’s ability to use humor and
satire, as well as incorporating serious subject matter into his work.
Throughout the novel Twain takes on the serious issue of Huck’s moral dilemma.
One such issue which is particularly important in the novel is pointed out by
Smith: He swears and smokes, but he has a set of ethics all his own. He believes
that slaves belong to their rightful owners, yet in his honest gratitude toward
his friend Jim, he helps him to escape the bonds of slavery. (181) This is
something that tears at Huck throughout the novel and helps Twain show how
complex Huck’s character really is. "The recognition of complexity in
Huck’s character enabled Twain to do full justice to the conflict of vernacular
values and the dominant culture" (Smith 125). Throughout Huck and Jim’s
adventures Huck is constantly playing practical jokes on Jim who seems to take
them all in stride. But unknown to the reader Twain uses this aspect as another
notch in Huck’s moral 2 growth. Critic Frank McGill points this out: Huck’s
humble apology for the prank he plays on Jim in the fog is striking evidence of
growth in Huck’s moral insight. It leads naturally to the next chapter in which
Twain causes Huck to face up for the first time to the fact he is helping a
slave escape.(119) Another serious issue addressed by Twain is the abuse that
was given to Huck by his father. Huck was kidnaped from the Widow Douglas by his
father who had heard of his inheritance. Huck’s father then took him to a cabin
far away in the woods where he kept the boy a prisoner, beating him and half
starving him. Twain tells us how Huck felt about life with his father: Before
long Huck began to wonder why he had even liked living with the widow. With his
father he could smoke and swear all he wanted, and his life would have been
quiet pleasant if it had not been for all of the constant beatings. (156) Huck
would soon after grow tired of the beatings and fakes his death to escape the
cabin. The humorous side of Twain is probably what he is most well known for.
Humor is considered an art form by many writers. Jane Bernadette states the
difference between humor and comical stories: The humorous story is strictly a
work of art high and delicate and only an Curran 3 artist can tell it; but no
art is necessary in telling the comic and the witty story; anybody can do it.
The art of telling a humorous story-understand, I mean by word of mouth, not
print-was created in America and has remained at home. (159) Twain satirizes the
south for its seriousness on certain matters. "I think one of the most
notably southern traits of Mark Twain’s humor is its power of seeing the fun of
southern seriousness"(Bernadette 175). Twain also satirizes the society of
the ?day’ by describing the colonel Grangerford as "the symbol of
southern aristocracy"(245). Twain also goes on to satirize the south’s
racism. One such instance is pointed out in the novel when Aunt Polly hears of a
steamboat explosion. " Good gracious is anyone hurt?" "No",
"it just killed a negro" (209). Religious satire is another aspect
that Twain uses. An easy illustration of this is the Widow’s attempt to teach
Huck religious principles while she persists on keeping slaves. "Huck’s
principles of morality make him more ?Christian’ than the Widow even though he
takes no interest in her lifeless principles"(Bernadette 288). Twain’s
humor has been mistaken by some to be racist or politically incorrect. "The
humor of Mark Twain contains a sense of the incongruous which frontiersmen felt
in a region where civilization and uncultivated nature come face to face"
(McGill 95). In conclusion I think that the style and structure of Mark Twain’s
work not only exemplifies him as a humorist but as a serious writer as well ; a
writer who cannot be Curran 4 categorized by any one aspect of his writing.
"To remember him only as a creator of boyhood adventure or as a relic of an
American frontier or the voice of idiosyncracy is to do him disservice"
Bernadette, Jane. American Realism . Toronto: Educational Resources
Corporation, 1972. McGill, Frank. American Writers. Montana: University of
Montana, 1974. Smith, Henry. Mark Twain: Development of a Writer. London: Oxford
Press, 1962 Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Penguin