Morality is what sets humans apart from the animal kingdom. We act on our beliefs, instead of our instincts, which perhaps makes us the flawed species. As humans, we all develop our own set of morals of which we use to make decisions in our day to day life. We use this moral compass to differentiate between right and wrong, but what we see as the right thing to do is not necessarily our own opinion, but societies. Adventures of Huckleberry finn by Mark Twain demonstrates that morality and society are one and the same.
Huck has the opinions and morals of society constantly thrown in his face, and instead of giving into those values, he creates his own. Huck was raised without a mother, who provides an essential role in determining a child’s morals and beliefs. Huck’s motherless upbringing allowed him to develop morals of his own based on experience, not on hand-me-down morality. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn also shows us how stereotypes created by society influence the way we act towards others. Religion is definitely the largest component to determining one’s morality.
Religion literally lays out societies laws and values, and how can one argue with something when they believe their afterlife depends on it. These were not only issues that came up in our past, but in our present and most definitely our future. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will always be relevant to society as long as humans walk the earth. By nature, humans desire to fit in with society and fear rejection. Huck teaches us that society isn’t always right, it is our individual opinions that should determine our actions, not what the general population believes.
If there weren’t people to voice their opinions about the treatment of african americans, then we would still have slave to this very day. Also, if these lessons are not continually taught to future generations, history may one day repeat itself. Morals tend to get passed down from generation to generation. You raise your kids the way you parents did you, and their parent did for them. You teach them what you think is right and what you think is wrong, and that becomes their morals, “The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me” (Twain 3).
Translation, “The Widow Douglas she took me for her son so she could brainwash me into believing her own set of morals. ” The Widow took Huck into her home, not out of the goodness of her heart necessarily, but out of the desire to mold him into one of societies little clones. The moral compass we create in our own head is easily molded by outside influence, for Humans seem to have this compelling desire to fit in with the rest of the population.
Huck grew up without a mother so he was essentially a “blank slate” that was able to develop his morals based on his own personal experiences, not those forced upon him, “Huck Finn, a motherless, isolated child who has neither well-developed cognitive skills nor solid perceptions of social reality, does in fact develop morally” (Altschuler 32). Hucks isolation from society, many would assume, would make Huck a rather immoral and almost barbarian like individual, but instead Huck is found to be more ethical than most of society at that time. Huck’s moral compass is relatively non judgmental.
Despite his pre-programmed definition of a black person, he still be-friends Jim and goes well out of his way to help free him, risking his own life for a man that is just considered property. Huck, even when he thinks that he is making the wrong decision (though it would actually be considered a selfless and caring path), follows to the beat of his own ethical drum as opposed to that of societies. Huck exhibits what John Locke would consider genuine human nature. Huck is naturally selfless and caring for others, sometimes that faith in people gets him stuck with the wrong crowd (such as the King and Duke).
The fact that Huck grew up isolated from society seems to have allowed Huck to develop a sense of morality unlike that of the rest of society. Hucks motherless childhood allowed Huck to become a true human being, not a carbon copy like everyone else. While Huck doesn’t have the same morals as the rest of society at that time, some stereotypes do rub off on him. When Huck first meets Jim, he thinks of him as just a slave, but as he gets to know him, he struggles with one side of him saying that Jim was property and the other telling him he is a friend.
Jim was basically a manifestation of the inner battle of societies morals vs Hucks. Although he thinks Jim belongs to Miss Watson and that freeing him would cost him his afterlife, he still did it out of the friendship he and Jim shared. Huck actually says that Jim was white on the inside. While that does show that he still has a preconceived notion about slaves, it was still a revelation for Huck to discover that a slave could be more than just property.
That is a lesson Huckleberry Finn teaches, that you cannot determine who or what someone is just by the the stereotypes that society labels different sexes, sexualities, religions, and races with. Everyone is an individual, “As ‘an agent of aggression— aggression against the self or against another,’ conscience deprives the individual of free choice and subject him or her to painful restraint” (Derwin 438). The preconceived notions about others is what causes prejudice in the first place. Twain shows that while someone appears to one simple being on the surface, they can actually be an entire spectrum of human emotion.
Jim is first portrayed as a simple, uneducated slave, but when his friendship with Huck begins to flourish, Jim is shown as a caring friend that has suffered much throughout his life. Religion is the foundation of all cultures. It creates laws and morals, but also creates conflict and segregation. America was, and still is, founded on strong Christian beliefs. This is clearly illustrated by Twain as Huck has to make the decision between what he believes is right, and the Bible says (although, based on his actions, he seems to have better christian views than some of those teaching him about it).
Huck many times tries to pray and follow the bible, and while he seems to believe in it, he accepts that he just wasn’t meant to pray and that the words just won’t come. When challenged between whether he should help free Jim or tell Miss watson, he chooses the “wicked” path which he believes will sent him to hell, just to help Jim, shows how selfless Huck really is, “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company” (Mark Twain) Huck is literally willing to go to hell and reject everything he had been taught to believe in just to free a friend.
This allows Huck to become a role model to students that are struggling between the religion that they have been raised into, and their own personal beliefs, giving them motivation to generate their own identity and their own values, initially becoming their own person. Adventures of Huckleberry finn clearly illustrates battles that go on between oneself and society everyday. It is frowned upon to disagree with the majority of society, or to reject the religious views of your community and/or family, and these are all topics that are addressed in Mark Twain’s novel.
It seems that even Mark Twain disliked society and felt the need to write the nspirational story of Huckleberry Finn to encourage those who have different views or are just trying to fit in. “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” (Mark Twain). Society is flawed. Mark Twain new this, and anyone with a reasonable head on their shoulders would agree. Twain uses Huck to show what pure human behavior is like. It is not just going with what everyone else believes, it is about you own morality. Being different while walking the halls can be a harsh four year sentence in high school. Students need to be encouraged to voice their opinions, and disagree.
If we all had the same values then we wouldn’t be humans, we would be clones. Allowing Huckleberry Finn to be taught in school is allowing motivation and confidence (something that many students don’t have) to voice their opinions and stand up for their own “Jim”. Also teaching the effects racism and discrimination had on our country, to help prevent history from looping back on itself. Teaching Huckleberry Finn would hopefully create a ripple effect throughout the generations creating a country where voicing opinions isn’t frowned upon, and a place that is more accepting to those with different beliefs.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 October 2016
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