The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Critical Lens Essay
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Critical Lens
Antoine de Saint-Exupery stated, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly”. He implies that humans understand and comprehend the world by different means and rely on different sources to provide the truth. People use their senses, reasoning, emotion, and what others have taught them. However, Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed that in order to understand something for what it is truly, emotion is the most truthful and applicable source of knowledge. This source implies that what is true is equal to what is morally correct and just.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s statement is true and this is represented by the thoughts and actions of the characters throughout Mark Twain’s novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the beginning of the novel Huck Finn is not able to “see” with his heart because he is taught how to see every other way possible. Therefore he is conflicted and unable to see things for what they actually are. Miss Watson is Huck’s teacher and she symbolizes conventional education.
She teaches Huck to view things based on societal norms, this is exemplified by her teachings of Christianity and etiquette. Christianity in its simplest form is a religion based on love, forgiveness, and purity. Overtime the religion was misrepresented and misinterpreted by many people. Heaven, or according to Huck, “the good place”, became some kind of a finish line to the competitive mindset of humans, and also sinning became a very shallow part of the religion. Not meeting the proper standards of society was considered a sin.
Mark Twain uses satire to mock how people have changed an innocent sanctity into a competitive and shallow establishment. Miss Watson is reprimanding Huck and explains to him the “good” and “bad” places, and how if he always misbehaves then he will not be able to go to the good place. He thinks to himself, “Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn’t think much of it” (Twain 4).
This shows how Huck was misled and he was not taught how to see with his heart, he was taught very simply, like Miss Watson when she was taught all of this information. Therefore he is not able to see Christianity for what it truly is, and not taught to see with his heart. When Huck became free from other influences and the conventional society that indoctrinated him before, he started to learn how to make decisions based upon emotion, and evidence shows that these actions he took were morally correct and right.
Huck’s character completely changes when he gained the ability to act on his emotional connection to something as opposed to the societal mask that hides the truth. This character change is exemplified when Huck was faced with an internal conflict. When on the raft to freedom with Miss Watson’s runaway slave, Jim, he started to worry about whether or not he was doing the moral thing by helping Jim escape. He couldn’t decide if doing wrong by Miss Watson, who had never done anything to him, was worse than doing wrong by Jim, who, although had become his friend, was still a “nigger”.
The conflict inside Huck’s head worsened when Jim expressed his gratitude, “’Pooty soon I’ll be a-shout’n for joy, en I’ll say, it’s all on account o’ Huck; I’s a free man, en I couldn’t ever ben free ef it hadn’t ben for Huck; Huck done it. Jim won’t ever forgit you, Huck; you’s de bes’ fren’ Jim’s ever had; en you’s de only fren’ ole Jim’s got now. ’ I was paddling off, all in sweat to tell on him; but when he says this, it seemed to kind of take the tuck all out of me” (Twain 83). Eventually when Huck was forced to decide whether or not to turn in Jim, he decided to not and to continue helping him to freedom.
Huck therefore decided against the societal establishment of slavery, obviously an immoral practice, and chose to listen to his emotions, which allowed him to understand what was actually morally just. When Huck and Jim were not on the raft, and landed ashore, morals became unclear. Mark Twain made the land symbolize social injustices and immoral societal conventions, and when Huck and Jim went on shore, they were exposed to people that were meant to represent all inequalities and immorality that were present at that time.
Huck met a family that had a family rivalry based on an issue that neither of the family remembered. Twain meant to signify these families as nonsensical and ridiculous, and within the family were “star-crossed lovers” of some sort. These characters are meant to contrast the stupidity of each of their families and symbolize that understanding the world through love and other emotions is the most truthful way of seeing.
Also, ignoring social pretense in order to do what is morally right was represented towards the end of the novel, when Huck decided to once again help Jim escape from slavery. He expressed a conflict that he had between what he sees is right through society’s eyes, and what he sees is right through his own emotions. He couldn’t choose what to do, but finally decided on taking the risk of freeing Jim himself. When conflicted he thought, “I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now.
But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind.
I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. 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” (Twain 193). Huck saw with his heart and was then able to make the most ethical assessment.
He also understood the truth behind Christianity and morality itself; not simply the shallow and conventional representation that he was taught. Therefore, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s statement, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly” is true and is exemplified through Huckleberry Finn and his growth and maturity as he unveils what is truly moral. He ignored the influences of society that cause people to overlook emotion and discovered what was right.