Its common for humans to shape their opinions and actions according to the people they’re surrounded by. They tend to assimilate themselves rather than indulge in unique behavior. But Huckleberry Finn is naturally recalcitrant. Having grown up without reasonable guidelines he acts on impulses and his own judgment. This makes him quite hard to govern, as many women through out the novel discover. Yet it also instills in him a shrewd sense of subjectivity.
“ The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain hails individual determination of morals in midst a society with twisted ethics, where what is sinful is simultaneously considered socially acceptable. Along the Missouri river Huck’s perception of the world matures through varied exposure to indecency. At the beginning of the novel Huck resists Widow Douglas’ attempts to “civilize” him. To him the word means well-mannered, well dressed, stuffy, boring and educated. It also connotes confinement. This idea is particularly important in light of the last line of the book “Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it.
I been there before” (p. 281) By this point Huck has had far more experience with “sivilized” people. He has seen society in all its racist, violent, deceptive and cowardice facets. In many of his “adventures” he encounters violence in a way that almost seems commonplace. Mr. Sherburn shooting a harmless fool in the middle of the day in front of his daughter is one example. The Duke and Dauphin being tarred and feather is another, along with the mortal family feud that breaks out between the Shepards and the Grangerfords.
When people do wrong, they are not punished by officials. The legal system is virtually absent throughout the novel. Ruthless masses see it as their duty to punish criminals. But the murder of the Duke and the king is a harsh consequence for mere theft. The mass commits a far greater sin than the criminals themselves. Yet the mass’s offense meets no opposition. Considering this, Jim is the most civilized, in the true sense of the word, of all the people Huck encounters. He doesn’t harm a soul throughout the novel, yet the “sivilized” folk go around killing one another.
The fact that the one character that is considered below civilization, the one that is running away and there by initiates the whole story, is actually far more civilized than the society that brands him uncivilized is highly ironic. So by the end of the novel Huck’s resistance of “being sivilized” has less to do with his rambunctious spirit than with the disgust he feels for societies hypocritical, aggressive nature. The Duke and Dauphin play a major part in exposing Huck to society’s less than admirable qualities. The most notable traits of the Duke and the King are the names they give themselves.
Much a person would say that these are ironic names for them, since they are such low lives and far from being royalty. Yet Huck in a conversation with Jim equates their actions with those of Kings. “You couldn’t tell them from the real kind (…) all kings are mostly rapscallions as fur as I can make out. ” (p. 148) He lists examples such as Louis XIV and Henry the Eighth who “used to marry a new wife everyday and chop off her head next morning. ” (p. 149) What Twain seems to be saying is that weather a person has money or a title or other peoples respect or even the word of God to back him up is irrelevant.
An immoral action remains the same for everyone, even regardless of race. In Huck’s logic though power automatically entails corruption. It is ironic that the duke is more tolerable than the king, the more respected you are by society, the more retched you truly are. Therefor the word “king” assumes a negative connotation, for example when Huck says to Jim that sometimes, “when (the duke) is drunk there ain’t no near-sighted man could tell him from a king. ” Huck is not only appalled by the scoundrel’s actions but by the common-folk’s reaction to them.
This ties in with the cowardice nature of a mass as addressed in the former paragraph. Not only does the anonymity of a mob allow for violence, but for over exaggerated false emotions. Often the King brings out the nature of people to follow what the majority does. He exploits serious emotions such as grief and empathy and turns them into public spectacles. After he preaches in the shed and brings everyone to tears Huck remarks that “It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race”. By this he means not only ashamed of the Kings lies, but of the public’s false display of emotions and need for drama.
This need for drama is evident at many points in the novel, but especially when half the town is crowding around the shop window to see Boggs die. Tragedy is a source of entertainment. People seem to completely lack sensitivity. They display private emotions freely and exaggeratedly as long as they are not alone in doing so but part of a mass. This robes their emotions of all legitimacy and adds to the hypocrisy that Huck sees. The fruits of Hucks maturation process become more evident when contrasted by Tom’s narrow-minded childish games.
Even fellow rapscallion Tom Sawyer is a follower of customs, lacking in original thought. When it comes to freeing Jim he wants to do everything the “proper” way. He goes to a great extent to execute his rescue according to what is common in literature. This is probably largely due to the fact that he knows there is no actual danger, since Jim is a free man. Tom’s deception can be excused, by saying he’s only a rambunctious boy having a laugh. On the other hand he could be considered spoiled and inconsiderate. He is so bored by his white, happy life that he feels the needs to fabricate struggles.
He completely objectifies Jim, seeing him merely as a toy; a source of entertainment. In this way Huck’s friend is like every other racist they encounters along the river who doesn’t regard Jim as a person. In fact Huck is surprised when Tom offers to help them. He thinks: surprise oder so. QUOTE By this point in the novel Huck’s definition of a morally correct action has been completely altered. He is impressed by his friend’s willingness to do something that is regarded by society and even God as immoral. Doing immoral things has become something noble.
For Huck has discovered that what is socially considered honorable and appropriate (in this case selling Jim back into slavery) is in fact quite the opposite. And what is considered morally unacceptable, freeing Jim, is in the eyes of the characters now actually a virtuous act. This is Twains highly satirical way of emphasizing the populous’ illogical ethics and appraising individual determination of morals. The whole situation becomes more ironic in light of the fact that Tom is not truly freeing Jim, but only trying to have a laugh.
He’s impressed that some one with a good background would want to soil their “soul. ” By this point, Huck considers it something “honorable” to defy all that is socially and even religiously acceptable, and do something because you feel it’s right. Twain defies moral ideas like those of Emanuel Kant which state that an immoral action is an immoral action regardless of the means achieved by this action. According to this for Example, one shall never tell a lie, even if one does so to save a persons life, for lying is wrong regardless of the situation. Twain holds the opposite.
He excuses all kinds of deplorable actions as long as it’s the individual’s intent to do good. One Example would be Huck lying to save Jims life (QUOTE). This scene also shows how Huck’s fibs have grown from jokes pulled for his own amusement, to calculated safety precautions for his friend Jim. Twain holds, like Martion Luther King 100 years after him, that it is in fact ones duty to break unjust laws. The pinnacle of Hucks rejection of common values is when he proclaims, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” and tears up the letter he wrote telling Mrs. Watson “her runaway niggers” whereabouts.
It is evident in this scene that Huck has a very astute sense of what he personally feels comfortable doing and what not; in other words what he deems right and wrong. He has a highly developed conscience, more so than many other characters in the novel. And further more he acts on it. Huck also exhibits empathy; something that his fellow deceivers Duke, King and even Tom in reference to Jim, completely lack. This is especially evident when he confesses to Mary Elizabeth. Throughout his whole stay at the _ _’ “QUOTE”. He risks his own safety to protect Mary Elizabeth from further deception and possible loss of money or property.
This probably also has something to do with the fact that he fancies her. Yet his act doesn’t come across as a selfish one, with the intent of earning approval. Since Twain gives us access to Huck’s every thought the reader knows his divulging is rooted in genuine compassion for the orphans situation. His keen conscience is therefor evident and his potential interest in Mary Elizabeth only minimally relevant. Definitions of “civilized” highly depend on time and place, as a variety of standards have been set up throughout history. Yet Twain convinces that it is always the individual’s obligation to question.
This is underscored by his satirical portrayal of towns where murder is tolerable and freedom a privilege. The corruption of majority is also present throughout the story, showing sins that are inexplicably rendered appropriate as long as they are carried out by a large enough mass of people. The reversal of moral and immoral actions in light of social acceptability is also highlighted. And finally the reader along with Huck is encouraged to view himself in complete disregard of social customs and thereby harken to his own conscience. For what is more wonderful than the freedom to question established values?