While there are many themes expressed in the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn one makes a stronger presence by its continued, if not redundant display of itself. Far too often in society people’s lack of knowledge on a given subject causes their opinions and actions to rely strictly on stereotypes created by the masses. This affliction is commonly known as ignorance. This is curable but people have to become open-minded and leave their reliance on society’s viewpoints behind them. In the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the ignorance of society becomes extremely evident at many parts of the book.
Society forms ideals for all walks of life and then lets them become like stone in their minds. Thus, once a person has been put into a group they will remain there forever. The ignorance of society is clearly seen when one looks at Huck Finn, Jim the Slave, Pap, and the senseless violence of the Grangerfords and the Shepardsons. Many people see Huckleberry Finn as a mischievous boy who is a bad influence to others. Society refuses to accept Huck as he is and isn’t going to change its opinions about him until he was reformed and civilized.
The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson try to “sivilize” Huck by making stop all of his habits such as smoking, etc. They try to reverse all of his teaching from the first twelve years of his life and force him to become their stereotypical good boy. The rest of the town also refused to view him as good until they received visual proof of this. Until then, he will be viewed as someone undesirable. The only time that the town’s people are able to put away their views of Huck was when there was excitement to be found, like when they all crowded on the steamboat to see if the cannons can bring Huck’s body to the surface.
Everyone got interested in him and tried to show that they cared about him, but this is only after he is presumed dead. They take on these views to follow society in its ignorance. Few of them would have cared about Huck before because they didn’t know him and didn’t want to know him, but since taking interest in mysteries was the popular thing to do, society did it. Although Huck is viewed in an ignorant light, he was also in accordance with this novel and very ignorant himself. Huck said “I thought it all out, and reckoned I would belong to the widow if he wanted me, though I couldn’t make out how he
was a-going to be any better off then than what he was before, seeing I was so ignorant, and so kind of low-down and ornery. ” Huck talks about Pap with some disgust and disregard. While Huck is not completely afraid of him in this quote as he later becomes, he still does not show respect for his father. The following is a good representation of what Huck does and does not understand. “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. ” Huck wrote a letter to Miss Watson but tore it up. He decided that he would go to hell for Jim.
Another good example is when Huck was having problems with Jim wanting his children back. “… [Jim] would steal his children — children that belonged to a man… a man that hadn’t ever done me no harm. ” This quote shows that Huck is still troubled by helping Jim and that he still does not yet understand that Jim is just as human as those people who own his children. This shows a stage in his growth in understanding about slavery and Jim. Society once again set the stereotypes in another section of the book by their feelings toward Jim and Pap. Society automatically sees a black
person, and even further, slaves, as inferior. They never thought of slaves as human beings, only as property. A slave, such as Jim, could be the nicest, most caring person you have ever met, but since he is a slave he would be presumed incapable of such things. While society is doing this it will let a person whom is as evil as Pap go on without question. Society’s ignorance shines radiantly once again. They have the knowledge that Jim is a slave but make no judgments on his personality. This is shown when they assume that Jim killed Huck just because he ran away near the time of Huck’s death.
They don’t consider the motives of such an action, but just look at the surface facts that he might do this because he is savage, missing, and possibly in the area at the time. Pap is also suspected, but not as much as Jim even though he has a motive, and could have easily committed such an evil deed in one of his drunken stupors. Society, because of their lack of knowledge of the personality of Jim, automatically assumes that he is the one that committed the murder. Society makes superficial accusations because it doesn’t know what has really happened or of the true feelings of the two suspects.
Again, society isn’t the only ignorant party. Jim is awfully ignorant, and if you search for proof you need to look no further than any direct quote in which he is speaking. “What’s de use er makin’ up de camp fire to cook strawbries en sich truck? But you got a gun, hain’t you? Den we kin git sumfn better den strawbries. ” (When I typed this out it drove my spell check crazy! ) In another part of the novel the Twain illustrates the ignorance of society very well with the feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepardsons.
When Buck Grangerford was questioned about why he shot at Harvey Shepardson he first exclaims in disbelief that Huck doesn’t know what a feud was, and says “Why, nothing — only it’s on account of the feud. ” Then, however, he doesn’t know why the two families are feuding in the first place and hasn’t made any effort to find out.
It is remarkable that people will continue on an old grudge without knowing how it originated. On top of that, they won’t make any attempts to gain knowledge about the subject. Buck, in this fragment of the novel, represents how society often bases its actions on what it has been told by others without questioning the motives. When Buck was asked when the feud was started, he told Huck that he didn’t know, but replied, “Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon, and some of the other old people; but they don’t know now what the row was about in the first place. “
Without true knowledge of why the feud is occurring one might wonder how people could continue on with the killing. It may seem bizarre, but so are many of the other actions of society. When a large group of people takes one viewpoint others are often forced into this mentality even if they are more enlightened. People can oppress others into conditions by forcing their incorrect views on them. They often will not allow people to rise through the ranks without blatant proof of improvement.
The oblivious members of society who only consider the surface instead of looking deep for true knowledge can falsely accuse people. Society constantly judges people based on stereotypes of a certain group and it often fails to consider the personality of an individual. Society takes action without being properly informed or will take up arms against opposing groups just because someone who it respects has blindly told them to. The ignorance of Society constantly causes people, issues, and views to be regarded in adverse ways.