In some works of literature, the main character often finds himself or herself in conflict with the social or moral values of his environment. Choose one novel or play of literary merit in which the character is at odds with the people around him or her, or with society at large. Write an essay in which you explain how these conflicts are essential to the overall meaning of the work. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: An Analysis of Conflict In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, author Mark Twain introduces the conflict of an individual versus society.
Huckleberry Finn, the protagonist, embarks on an adventure of his own in order to escape the society that has done him wrong. With a runaway slave as his companion, Huck ventures out on the Mississippi River, observing and analyzing all aspects of the world around him. On his journey, Huck not only uncovers the hidden hypocrisy of his so-called “civilized” society, but also discovers his own inner conscience and sense of morality. Set in pre-Civil War Missouri, Huckleberry Finn’s tale captures the essence of southern society during that time period.
During the early nineteenth century, slavery was still a predominant establishment in southern life. Those who owned slaves saw nothing wrong with the practice, for they had been raised believing slavery was just and acceptable. And the slaves themselves were born into the system simply accepting their fate as inferior beings. The reader sees this strange predicament in almost every situation Huck is faced with, from his temporary stay with the Widow Douglas to his encounter with Mrs.
Loftus. During his stay with the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson, Huck is constantly pestered to be more well-mannered and “civilized. ” Miss Watson feels that Huck is in need of a spiritual saving, and so “By-and-by they fetched the niggers in and had prayers, and then everybody was off to bed,” (Page 2). While she tries to save Huck from eternal damnation, she fails to realize that she herself is practicing a much more damning institution.
She ironically preaches salvation, but she herself is involved with slavery – something the Bible condemns. Another example of this irony is Huck’s confrontation with Mrs. Loftus. Although she seeks to aid Huck, she ultimately is part of the reason he is in danger. Her husband is on a search for Jim, who is wanted for not only being a runaway but also for being a suspect in Huck’s “murder. ” With this, the Loftus family puts Huck in more danger than he already was in.
As Huck observes the hypocrisy of his society, he feels more inclined to break away from their way of life and instead form his own conclusions about what is right and what is wrong. Huck’s struggle against society and its attempts to civilize him is the starting point of the conflict in the novel. He feels trapped by the standards society has set for him. In order to avoid his culture’s influence, Huck flees his life with the adults that have done nothing but set a bad example for him.
As he forms a relationship with Jim, a runaway slave, Huck truly begins to question the morals upheld by his society. To Huck, being associated with a slave is one thing, but aiding one in escaping is an entirely different and more dangerous predicament. When Jim is captured, Huck must decide whether to turn Jim in, as society demands, or to protect and help his friend instead. Eventually, though, Huck’s inner conscience and humanity prevail, and declares that he rather “go to hell,” (Page 170) than let Jim be enslaved again.
Huck’s sacrifice to save Jim in return for his own eternal soul is the ultimate climax of the story. After dealing with the conflict of a morally corrupt society, Huck’s decision to disregard the norms set for him and make up his own mind creates an epic conclusion to the story. In the end, Huck not only frees Jim from bondage but also metaphorically liberates himself of society’s control over him. With this moral reckoning, Huck can learn from the mistakes of his society and set a new path for others to follow.