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How does Mark Twain convey his ideas about right and wrong in the telling of Huckleberry Finn Essay Sample

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How does Mark Twain convey his ideas about right and wrong in the telling of Huckleberry Finn Essay Sample

The novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is very much a collection of Twain’s moralistic principles and ideas. This book is not only a correlation of all that Twain saw wrong with society but a total mockery of Southern values. Southern values, which included the unquestionable principle of slavery – the right to own people and treat them as possessions just because of the colour of their skin. The narrator of the novel – Huckleberry Finn – is the platform Twain uses to express his ideas, and examine the bigotry manifested within the book.

The conflict in Huck’s mind between right and wrong is both a question of morality and what society has taught him to follow and believe. There are many instances in the novel in which Huck expresses internal debates with himself and these are very clearly examples of Twain voicing his opinion on certain subjects. One recurring theme within these internal debates is the issue of slavery. Huck is at odds with himself over how wrong it is to be aiding Jim in the way that he does.

In order to realise just how Twain conveys his ideas about right and wrong, we must examine the scenes in which Huck tries to overcome his moral dilemmas. The first scene in which we see Huck make a monumental decision is in Chapter 8, when he first finds out about Jim’s escape. He expresses shock and disbelief in reaction to this news. It is important not to lose sight of why he reacts in such a way. Although Huck is not a racist child, he has been raised by people in an extremely racist community.

These people have, even if only subconsciously, ingrained some feeling of bigotry into his mind. He’s never heard anyone question the institution of slavery, and he has every reason to believe that Jim has done something terrible. Despite all of this, after Jim reminds Huck that he promised not to tell. Huck, without hesitating, says he’ll keep his word. He muses that “people would call <him> a low-down Abolitionist for keeping mum. ” He truly believes that these people would be right for doing so.

He justifies his choice by asserting “I ain’t a-going back there, anyways. ” Not turning Jim in is a monumental decision for Huck to make, one which demonstrates just how he comes to the right choices with the wrong reasoning – but this does not matter. Furthermore this is not just a boy running away from home. It’s someone who has decided to turn his back on everything that this ‘home’ stands for. Twain’s views on slavery are set in stone in this scene, with Huck’s decision to help Jim.

We may see Huck as a personification of Twain’s views and them being put into practice, Huck acting the way Twain would have himself – though the justification here being somewhat different. Another scene that comes to mind is in Chapter 16 – Huck’s thoughts when he hears about Jim’s plans to steal his own children, who are ‘someone else’s property. ‘ He is disgusted by the very thought that Jim could even consider such a thing. Despite Huck’s inherent racism, Twain has written the scene in a way that ridicules the notion that someone’s children can actually be the property of a stranger because the father is black.

Following this we see Huck lying about Jim’s whereabouts, which would otherwise see Jim returned to slavery. Huck chooses to ‘go to Hell’ rather than turn him in. We may see this as Twain making a mockery of Southern values, that it is a sin to be kind to black people, and a clear-cut statement on what Twain believes to be right himself, as opposed to the ridiculous sentiments of the South. Finally, one of the most definitive scenes within the novel in relation to what is considered right and wrong comes to pass in Chapter 31.

Here we see Huck sit down and think about what he must do after Jim is sold by the con-men for $40. We see him again consider what he has been doing and whether he has made the right choices (quite similar to Chapter 16). He believes he has done wrong – yet we as the reader can see just how good and morally correct his actions have been. Twain leads the reader to sympathise with Huck and perhaps through making a mockery of how he can consider himself to be wrong, influence the reader into seeing things in a different light.

Huck considers writing to Miss Watson, but first decides against it due to how he believes the widow would treat Jim after him having run away. He then attempts to pray, and failing this writes the letter. Following this, Huck is consumed in deep thought and considers his relationship with Jim and how it has developed. He comes to the conclusion that they both care for each other and that he would rather ‘go to hell’ than send the note to Miss Watson. Huck believes that God will punish evil people by sending them to hell for eternity.

He believes that slavery, like other American institutions, is something that is approved of by God. He decides to help Jim because he feels for Jim as a human being, even if all the “good” people don’t -even if God Himself doesn’t. Here we see Twain yet again making moral judgement and showing us a touch of despise for the church perhaps. This is all written in such a way that we feel as if Huck is being played for a fool by the society in which he lives – just the desired effect that Twain had in mind, as it plays into us truly seeing the stupidity within this society.

As well as Huck’s internal debates, Twain uses many other methods in order to influence the reader. He uses his experience as an author to draw different pictures on certain issues and ideas. One such example of this is in Chapter 12, on the issue of ‘borrowing’ things or stealing. Huck tells us how he use to lift ‘a chicken that warn’t roosting comfortable’ and how his Pap ‘always said it warn’t no harm to borrow things, if you was meant to pay them back, sometime’. He also tells us how ‘the widow said it warn’t anything but a soft name for stealing’.

Here we see a funny comparison between the two ideas. Twain seemingly intended to remind us that Huck has a private set of moral standards. Despite these standards being unconventional, and sometimes laughable, he does try to live up to them, and that’s the important thing to remember. Perhaps we could see this distinction as a lesser, yet quite relevant comparison to the issue of slavery. On one hand we see Huck’s father saying nothing is wrong with it, yet on the other we find the widow condemning the action.

This is really quite similar to how the North saw the South – slavery to them was just as wrong as stealing was to the widow. Twain quite clearly uses an ingenious combination of persuasive techniques, as well as underlying themes within the novel to influence the readers and to convey his thoughts on what is right and wrong in the world. Huck’s character is the seemingly innocent base on which Twain puts forward his morals and ideals in a most interesting fashion. He uses mockery and humour to help get his point of view across to the reader and this adds to complexity and value of the novel.

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