Social Criticism In Huckleberry Finn Essays

Essay about Society in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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Society in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Sometimes making a stand for what is right, especially when it is totally against the customary beliefs of your society, is not an easy accomplishment. In the novel Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the main character Huck encounters many situations where there is a question of morality. Considering the traditional protocol of his society, Huck has to choose either what his conscience feels is right versus what the customary public views are. In many cases Huck goes with what his conscience feels is right, which always is the proper selection. Ironically, what Huck believes in, unapproved of in the 19th century, is the basis of accepted beliefs in our modern world. Huck lives with the…show more content…

After a long raft-ride, Huck and Jim are finally about to reach Cairo, which on their arrival would make Jim free. With the smell of freedom, Jim rambles on about how he would buy his wife and then steal his children. This sets off a spark in Huck, igniting his conscience and making him very uneasy. Huck couldn't believe that Jim would steal property from a man that hadn't done him any harm. Huck then begins feeling guilty about helping Jim escape from Miss Watson, since she had never done anything to him and didn't deserve for Jim to be stolen from her. At his departure for the town, on a mission to turn Jim in, Jim leaves Huck with these words. " Pooty soon I'll be a shout'n' for joy, en I'll say say, it's all on accounts o' Huck; I's a free man, en I couldn't ever ben free ef it hadn't it 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". (pg.86-87) Hearing these words, Huck realizes how much Jim's friendship means to him and decides not to turn in Jim. Finally, the last test of Huck's conscience comes when he finds out that the "king" and the "duke" have sold Jim. Huck gets to thinking about how wrong he was to help Jim escape, and decides he should write a letter to Miss Watson. He then changes his mind, seeing that Jim would be worse off as a runaway slave because he would be treated horribly, and Huck

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Social Conflicts in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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Huckleberry Finn – Social Conflicts


Mark Twain was known as a humorist and in fact, humor was a tool he used to strengthen his points about what he saw as the major problems of the day.  Living at the time of the Civil War, he clearly saw and chose to address such problems as slavery, child abuse, religion and feuds.  In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain expresses his loathing for some of these serious social problems and yet in general, he never loses his humorous touch.  Nonetheless, when he deals with the ills of society that particularly anger him, he chooses not to use humor; rather this is reserved for other areas of his work.


One of the social problems that Mark Twain addresses in Huckleberry Finn is child abuse.  Huck is abused by Pap many times during the book and is even locked into a cabin by Pap.  Pap also tries to steal Huck's six thousand dollars, and beats Huck frequently, which results in Huck running away.  Pap puts down the idea of Huck getting an education.   Twain does use humor in his descriptions of some of the interactions between Pap and Huck.  For example, the scene when Pap agrees to reform and stop drinking, but ends up getting drunk and falling over is actually funny, but tells us a lot about Pap's character.  Twain generally found the kind of behavior he described through the character of Pap to be disgusting, and by painting a humorous picture of the situation he emphasized his dislike of it.  The humor perhaps made Pap seem even less sympathetic.


Another social problem that Mark Twain addresses in the book is slavery and treatment of black people in general.  Jim, who is a black slave, is treated like a piece of property.  For example, he is forced to practice Christianity, which actually seems to be the opposite of Christian values.  Jim is also forcefully separated from his family and has no legal recourse to get them back.  Jim is very superstitious, and Huck, who knows this, puts a dead snake, (representing bad luck) at the bottom of Jim's bed and Jim gets bitten.  Even Huck, at this point in the book, threats Jim as less than human.

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  illustrates Jim's actual humanity by contrasting him and Pap as parents.  He portrays black values as more humane than white ones.  In the novel, it is suggested that one must flee in order to gain freedom.  Both Huck and Jim are fleeing from tyranny, which is a dangerous process and too serious for Twain to portray humorously.  Huck, himself is conflicted throughout the novel between his feelings for Jim and his sense that he is breaking the law for helping Jim escape.  When Huck plays the last joke on Jim, with the trash, he comes to realize that Jim is an equal. Finally, Jim informs Huck that if he and his children do not become free then he will get an abolishonist to help him escape.  Huck is first very upset by this and feels he must turn Jim in, but changes his mind as he sees Jim as a person worthy of respect.  To the modern reader Huck's dilemma problems may seem funny, but in fact, he is torn between following the laws, however cruel they seemed, and doing what he comes to think was morally correct.


Thus, although Twain is generally known as a humorist and does indeed occasionally make use of humor emphasize his points, when he addresses issues that make him furious like child abuse and slavery he is very serious.  Once in a while he puts in a memorable funny scene, but in general, he seems to find these issues too important to risk having people laugh, and therefore not realize the cruelty Huck and Jim, as representatives of parts of society, must face.  Cruelty, in any form, in Twain's views is not something to be laughed at.


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