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Critical Analysis on Huckleberry Finn

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Critical Analysis on Huckleberry Finn

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  • April 2005
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[A]nd as we struck into town and up through the middle of it--it was as much as half-after eight, then--here comes a raging rush of people, with torches, and an awful whooping and yelling, and banging tin pans and blowing horns; and we jumped to one side to let them go by; and as they went by, I see they had the king and the dike astraddle of a rail--that is I knowed it was the king and the duke, thought was all over tar and Feathers, and didn't look like nothing in the world that was human--just looking like a couple of monstrous big soldier-plumes. Well, it made me sick to see it; and I was sorry for them poor pitiful rascals, it seemed like I couldn't never feel any hardness against them any more in the world. It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.

In the above passage from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, Tom and Huck walk through the middle of a town and see two con artists (the king and duke) who they had encountered earlier in their adventures. The king and duke have been captured and are being carried "astraddle of a rail" (369), which websters.com defines as being "on or above and extending onto both sides," covered with tar and feathers through the town. The above passage displays why Huck disagrees with the public mistreatment and humiliation of others.

According to the online encyclopedic website, www.wikipedia.org, tarring and feathering was a typical punishment used to enforce justice, with roots dating back to as early as 1191 with Richard I of England. The goal of tarring and feathering was to hurt and humiliate a person enough so that they would leave town and not cause any more mischief. Hot tar was poured onto a criminal while he was immobilized, then feathers were either thrown onto the criminal from buckets or the criminal was thrown into a pile of feathers and rolled around. The criminal was then taken to the edge of town and released in the hopes of him never...