Many people view character as the most important thing in a man. Others often look past this and see their social or economic status as deciding who they are. They think these things are what define a person. In reality it is things like ingenuity, free will, and morality that make a great man. In contrast such characteristics like hypocrisy, greed, and cruelty are what bring someone down. Through his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain displays the characteristics of a man he admires, and those he is contemptuous of through the actions of his characters.
One admirable characteristic Twain shows is Ingenuity. Like most positive qualities in the novel this is shown through the main character Huck. He displays great ingenuity when he is being held by his father in the cabin. Being able to escape showed much of this trait, but Huck took it one step further. He knew his father would be able to track him very easily if he just left and ran off into the woods. By taking an axe to the front door and spreading the pig’s blood around made it seem as if Huck had been murdered. He also took many items from the cabin to fake a robbery as well.
Up to this point in the book Huck is shown as being very child-like, and immature. After this incident though, the readers become aware of his resourcefulness and ingenuity. Another example of this characteristic is shown through Jim. This is another character that Twain wants his readers to identify with as being admirable. He shows ingenuity by suggesting to Huck he should dress as a female to gain information in the town. Although Huck fails to convince the women he meets for then entire time, it is because of his own slip up, and he still gets the information he needs.
Free Will is something Twain does not take for granted in every person. In the novel he shows right from the beginning how much free will a character like Huck can have. On the first page of the book he says: “The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer I lit out” Although it seems like a normal thing for a thirteen year old boy to say we soon realize that Huck has made this decision based on some rather mature observations.
Although he eventually goes back to the Widow, it isn’t long before he is on the raft and the island, escaping the “sivilized” world. Twain’s views here are obviously that this sort of free will is what makes people individuals. Another characteristic in the novel is morality. The main display of this is shown through Huck at the end of the novel when he has a big decision on his hands. “I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.
I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”? and tore it up” He forced to choose between tearing up his letter to Miss Watson and freeing the slave Jim, and sending the letter, telling her of his whereabouts. This choice wasn’t about getting caught or not, it was about morals. At the time it was considered morally wrong to help free a slave. Huck realized this, but also thought about the time he spent with Jim, and the friendship they had acquired.
Twain clearly shows us through the actions of Jim in the whole novel that he feels slavery is wrong. So in choosing to help free his black friend, and go to hell if that be the consequence, Huck shows us his high morality. As well as admirable traits, Twain also uses The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to display traits he is contemptuous of. It is clear which of these traits were thought of as good and bad by looking at which character displays them. In the case of Huck and Jim only characteristics in which Twain was fond of are shown.
In contrast the characters who show the opposite traits are those of the antagonist type. The first of these is antagonist traits is hypocrisy. It is shown in the form of the robbers on the river boat. Obviously these characters do not display any virtuous traits, and are quite hypocritical when they say “”‘See? He’ll be drownded, and won’t have nobody to blame for it but his own self. I reckon that’s a considerable sight better’n killin’ of him. I’m unfavorable to killin’ a man as long as you can git aroun’ it; it ain’t good sense, it ain’t good morals.
Ain’t I right? ‘” We do not have to look to deep into this to find that they simply trying to justify their actions, when really all they have accomplished is condemning them. Another trait Twain finds equally disreputable is greed. This is shown mainly through the King and Duke who will stop at nothing to sap money from the unknowing people. The Last quality is Cruelty. This is shown through the worst of the characters, Pap. He ruthlessly beats his son Huck and goes on drunken rages throughout the whole book.
In a time of much hate and racism Mark Twain used his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to show what characteristics make a virtuous person, and which ones make the opposite. He showed traits such as ingenuity, free will, and morality through his protagonists, and hypocrisy, greed, and cruelty through his antagonists. This way the reader not only identifies with the character they are fond or not fond of, but the traits that that they display as well. Twain proves that it is not what a man has that defines him, but who he is.