Feuds, Frauds, and Fools: Huck Finn and Twains Critique of the Human Race
Mark Twain’s famous realist novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is a masterpiece of social criticism and analysis. The author skillfully depicts a variety of human failings and foibles, personified in the characters of everyday people and groups. Twain appears to be satirizing and criticizing the old South, but underneath his humorous portrait of Southern social issues, the book is a serious critique of all humanity. With his typical biting satire, Twain points out social issues such as racism, and lynching, as well as human character flaws like religious hypocrisy, gullibility, and violent natures. Many characters Huck meets in the book illustrate common temperamental flaws, as well as defining familiar Southern stereotypes.
The king and the duke, picked up midway through the story, symbolize the greedy aspect of human nature. Their presence turns Huck and Jim’s relatively peaceful journey to a series of clever scams and frauds. Even the names Twain gives us for them are symbolic of their role; the low and despicable will always attempt to masquerade as something noble. Huck illustrates this well when he comments, “What was the use to tell Jim these warn't real kings and dukes? It wouldn't a done no good; and, besides, it was just as I said: you couldn't tell them from the real kind.” (Twain 139) Huck’s cynical insight shows that all human beings, regardless of who they are or who they claim to be, are fundamentally greedy, self-serving, and unscrupulous.
The Grangerford and the Shepherdson families personify a variety of human failings, but chief among them are violent, brutal natures and hypocrisy. Their feud has continued for so long that no one in either family remembers either the perpetrator or the original quarrel. The men of both families carry weapons everywhere, even to church. Huck remarks about the...