Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

In Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn, Twain develops the plot into Huck and Jim’s
adventures allowing him to weave in his criticism of society.

The two main characters, Huck and Jim, both run from
social injustice and both are distrustful of the civilization
around them. Huck is considered an uneducated backwards
boy, constantly under pressure to conform to the
“humanized” surroundings of society. Jim a slave, is not even
considered as a real person, but as property. As they run
from civilization and are on the river, they ponder the social
injustices forced upon them when they are on land. These
social injustices are even more evident when Huck and Jim
have to make landfall, and this provides Twain with the
chance to satirize the socially correct injustices that Huck
and Jim encounter on land. The satire that Twain uses to
expose the hypocrisy, racism, greed and injustice of society
develops along with the adventures that Huck and Jim have.

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The ugly reflection of society we see should make us
question the world we live in, and only the journey down the
river provides us with that chance. Throughout the book we
see the hypocrisy of society. The first character we come
across with that trait is Miss Watson. Miss Watson
constantly corrects Huck for his unacceptable behavior, but
Huck doesn’t understand why, “That is just the way with
some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t
know nothing about it” (2). Later when Miss Watson tries to
teach Huck about Heaven, he decides against trying to go
there, “…she was going to live so as to go the good place.

Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was
going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.” (3) The
comments made by Huck clearly show Miss Watson as a
hypocrite, scolding Huck for wanting to smoke and then
using snuff herself and firmly believing that she would be in
heaven. When Huck encounters the Grangerfords and
Shepardsons, Huck describes Colonel Grangerford as, “…a
gentleman, you see. He was a gentleman all over; and so
was his family. He was well born, as the saying is, and that’s
worth as much in a man as it is in a horse…” (104). You can
almost hear the sarcasm from Twain in Huck’s description of
Colonel Grangerford. Later Huck is becoming aware of the
hypocrisy of the family and its feud with the Shepardsons
when Huck attends church. He is amazed that while the
minister preaches about brotherly love both the
Grangerfords and Shepardsons are carrying weapons.

Finally when the feud erupts into a gunfight, Huck sits in a
tree, disgusted by the waste and cruelty of the feud, “It made
me so sick I most fell out of the tree…I wished I hadn’t ever
come ashore that night to see such things.” Nowhere else is
Twain’s voice heard more clearly than as a mob gathers at
the house of Colonel Sherburn to lynch him. Here we hear
the full force of Twain’s thoughts on the hypocrisy an
cowardice of society, “The idea of you lynching anybody!
It’s amusing. The idea of you thinking you had pluck enough
to lynch a man!…The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that’s what
an army is- a mob; they don’t fight with courage that’s born
in them, but with courage that’s borrowed from their mass,
and from their officers. But a mob without any man at the
head of it is beneath pitifulness” (146-147). Each of these
examples finds Huck again running to freedom of the river.

The river never cares how saintly you are, how rich you are,
or what society thinks you are. The river allows Huck the
one thing that Huck wants to be, and that is Huck. The river
is freedom than the land is oppression, and that oppression is
no more evident than it is to Jim. It is somewhat surprising
that Huck’s traveling companion is Jim. As anti-society that
Huck is, you would think that he would have no qualms
about helping Jim. But Huck has to have feelings that slavery
is correct so we can see the ignorance of racial bigotry.

Huck and Jim’s journey begins as Huck fights within himself
about turning Jim over to the authorities. Finally he decides
not to turn Jim in. This is a monumental decision for Huck to
make, even though he makes it on the spot. This is not just a
boy running away from home. It is someone who has
decided to turn his back on everything “home” stands for,
even one of its most cherished beliefs. In this way Twain also
allows to let us leave our thoughts of bigotry behind also and
start to see Jim for who he really is, a man. Even though
Huck has made his decision about Jim, early in the voyage
we see Huck’s attitude towards Jim as racist. Eventually
Huck plays a mean trick on Jim and we see Huck begin to
change his attitude, “It was fifteen minutes before I could
work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I
done it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterward, neither”
(86). Later on in the story Huck becomes very caring and
protective for Jim, where this reaches a climax at the point
where Huck saves Jim from two slave catchers by tricking
them to think Jim is was Huck’s small pox ridden father. The
dialogue between Huck and Jim also illustrates that Jim is
more than someone’s property. He is a human being with
feelings, and hopes for a better future. He is not some
ignorant, uncaring sub-human, but plainly the opposite.

Twain does not necessarily come out and say that slavery is
evil, that is far above Huck’s understanding, but he gives us
the ammunition needed to make that decision for ourselves.

Huck and Jim’s adventures give us a chance to examine the
society they live in. It also gives us a chance to examine
ourselves as well as the society today. The story is over a
hundred years old, but many of the social vices then, sadly,
pertain to our society now. There are more examples of
human failings in this book, the trickery and cheating of the
King and Duke, the lack of caring by the townspeople for
Boggs, the naivete of the Wilks sisters and the lack of
common sense in Tom Sawyer. There is cruelty, greed,
murder, trickery, hypocrisy, racism, and a general lack of
morality, all the ingredients of society. All through the
adventure you have Huck Finn and Jim trying to find the one
thing they can only find on the river, freedom, but a person
can only stay on the river for so long, and so you have to go
on land to face the injustices of society. Quite a contrast, the
freedom of being without authority, being able to think for
yourself, running right next to the constraints made upon you
by society. Somewhere deep within the story Twain is
making a powerful statement, a wish for all humanity, that we
can be brave enough to break with what others assume is
correct and just, and make decisions for ourselves and the
ability to stand on our own and do something about it. We
are that mob that stood outside Colonel Sherburn’s house,
we are the Grangerfords and Shepardsons, and we are the
King and the Duke, and even the foolish townspeople in
every town they conned. Somewhere along the line we must
become I, someone has to have the courage to stand up for
what is right, to be what Colonel Sherburn would call a real
man. Huck gives us that chance, that ability to see things for
what they are. His adventures along with Twain’s sharp
criticism are so uniquely combined to give us that realization.

The greatest thing is that it is done so well that we almost
think that we are the ones that discovered it.