Frontier Justice in Huck Finn

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Tanner Soom
Quaid
IB English 11
2 November 2012

Morality, “Frontier Justice” and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
In the 1830s-40s, when The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes place, the use of public opinion in the form of mobs to lynch suspected criminals was commonplace, especially in the Antebellum Era south. There was a distinct lack of justice, especially in the courts, and often criminals would be put to death completely based off of the emotional responses of the public. Mark Twain communicates through satire just how irrational this form of justice is, more specifically discrimination. Through Twain’s usage of satirized secondary character personalities with regards to “societal norms” in the cases of the Grangerfords feuding with the Sheperdsons, the attempted lynching of Colonel Sherburn following the murder of Boggs, the act of Pap regaining custody of Huck, and the overreaction of the public after the discovered fraud of the Duke and the King at Peter Wilks’ funeral. Twain uses these examples to communicate the idea that pre-Civil War justice was incredibly flawed. The notion of this extreme method of justice, coupled with Huck’s emotional reactions to much of the goings-on, help express to the reader that in an era like the one Twain is writing about, America itself was extremely rough and conflicted, and the advances made in the convictions of Americans, as well as their ability to express these convictions through and after the Civil War were justified.

The first example of these societal norms giving outside characters a satirically extreme sense of justice would be the feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons. The two families have been feuding for what could be either a long or a short while, and when Huck asks on why the two families are feuding, Buck comments that he doesn’t really know, except that’s what he believes families are supposed to do: “A feud is this way… … it’s kind of slow, and takes a long time” (Pg....
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