For example, throughout the novel “Huckleberry Finn “, Mark Twain depicts society as a structure that has become little more than a collection of degraded rules and precepts that defy logic. This faulty logic manifests itself early, when the new judge in town allows Pap to keep custody of Huck. “The law backs that Judge Thatcher up and helps him to keep me out o’ my property.”
The judge privileges Pap’s “rights” to his son over Huck’s welfare. Clearly, this decision comments on a system that puts a white man’s rights to his “property”–his slaves–over the welfare and freedom of a black man.
Whereas a reader in the 1880s might have overlooked the moral absurdity of giving a man custody of another man, however, the mirroring of this situation in the granting of rights to the immoral Pap over the lovable Huck forces the reader to think more closely about the meaning of slavery. In implicitly comparing the plight of slaves to the plight of Huck at the hands of Pap, Twain demonstrates how impossible it is for a society that owns slaves to be just, no matter how “civilized” that society believes and proclaims itself to be.
In addition, childhood has been described by the author, as an important factor in the theme of moral education: only a child is open-minded enough to undergo the kind of development that Huck does.” It was a close place. I took…up [the letter I’d written to Miss Watson], and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I know it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “
All right then, I’ll go to hell”–Em dash intended here? and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming…”It, describes the moral climax of the novel. Jim has been sold by the Duke and Dauphin, and is being held by the Phelpses spending his return to his rightful owner.
Thinking that being at home in St. Petersburg, even if it means Jim will still be a slave and Huck will be a captive of the Widow, would be better than being in his current state of peril far from home, Huck composes a letter to Miss Watson, telling her where Jim is. When Huck thinks of his friendship with Jim, however, and realizes that Jim will be sold down the river anyway, he decides to tear up the letter.
The logical consequences of his action, rather than the lessons society has taught him, drive Huck. Huck decides that going to “hell,” if it means following his gut and not society’s hypocritical and cruel principles, is a better option than going to everyone else’s heaven. This is Huck’s true break with the world around him. At this point he decides to help Jim escape slavery once and for all, and he realizes that he, Huck, will not be re-entering the civilized world: he has moved beyond it morally.
Since Huck and Tom are young, their age lends a sense of play to their actions, which excuses them in certain ways and also heightens the profundity of the novel’s commentary on slavery and society. Huck and Tom know better than the adults around them, but they lack the guidance that a proper family and community should have offered them.
Furthermore, Huck and Tom encounter individuals who seem good (Sally Phelps, for example), but Twain takes care to show us that person as a prejudiced slave-owner. “Preacher be hanged, he’s a fraud and a liar”.
The shakiness of the justice systems that Huck encounters lies at the heart of society’s problems: terrible acts go unpunished, yet frivolous crimes, such as drunkenly shouting insults, lead to executions Sherburn’s speech to the mob that has come to lynch him accurately summarizes the view of society given in this book: rather than maintaining collective welfare, society is marked by cowardice, a lack of logic, and profound selfishness.