Huck Finn

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Daved Najarian
American literature II
Huck, The Duke and Pinocchio

One of the primary themes Mark Twain uses throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is that of deception. Twain uses many forms and styles of deception not only to illustrate varying degrees of it, but also to draw a distinction between morally permissible and morally corrupt lies. Twain introduces different forms of deception brought about by a myriad of catalysts. Throughout the book, Twain uses Huck, the Duke and the King to compare and contrast different forms of lying, and to illustrate how context plays a large role in the moral weight of a deception. By portraying each of these characters actions and reactions to their environment, Twain is able to explore the moral importance of familiar circumstances. Huck takes on a more innocent and playful approach to deception and only uses morally weighted lies as a means to protect. While the Duke plays with good intentions, too often the end goals of his deceptions are for monetary gain. Finally the King is presented as possessing little redeeming quality and is by far the most morally corrupt of the characters. Huck seems to primarily formulate deceptions in two circumstances throughout the novel. The first of these is for an innocent, or even jestful reason, with little or no mal-intent. The second of these is the use of a deception in a more serious manner, but generally used only to preserve the wellbeing of Jim or himself. Unlike the more serious and character damaging lies of the King and the Duke, Huck’s deceptions are, for the most part, spur of the moment rather than premeditated. Towards the beginning of the adventure, Huck seems to deceive for relatively harmless reasons. When Huck goes ashore dressed as a girl to attain town gossip, he lies about who he is, but the moral implications of this lie are slight. He has no malicious motive in mind, and is “taking advantage” of the newcomers for information alone. In this scene, Huck is very nervous and un-savvy of his character, which leads to him being caught in his deception. Although Huck uses lavish deceptions he is still relatively novice at it, and for this reason his lies depend heavily on the intended victims perception and relationship to him. These sorts of lies seem to represent a sort of “game” to Huck and he is accordingly unaware of their effects on others. When Huck plays a trick on Jim these effects become apparent. "Well, this is too many for me, Jim. I hain't seen no fog, nor no islands, nor no troubles, nor nothing.” When Huck tricks Jim into thinking he dreamt up a whole night of troubles, he holds no ill intent. Like his “girl deception” this lie takes advantage of Jim for his own lighthearted enjoyment, and not for material benefit. Through this depiction, Twain illustrates that it is not just the content of a lie but the intended recipient that determines its moral severity. Once Huck realizes the effects of this style of fib and the repercussions of tricking those close to him, he discontinues it for the rest of the novel. The second form of deception in Huck’s arsenal is a sort of “deception for preservation”. The first time Huck lies in this manner is to avoid a dangerous situation with Pap. When Pap awakes to find Huck sleeping with a gun, Huck is quick to fabricate a story about a potential intruder he was “laying for”. The purpose of this form of a lie is clearly self-preservation, and unlike Huck’s other form of deception, it is brought about by necessity and is spur the moment. Huck uses this level of deception throughout the adventure and therefore gains a mastery of it. Twain seems to suggest that Huck’s circumstances justify some of his lies and deception, playing with the notion of “necessary lies” Huck is in many ways “forced” into situations where a lie becomes necessary to preserve a life. As Huck and Jim grow as friends Huck not only is unable to turn Jim in, but finds himself...
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