Huck Finn Essay

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Are choices ours to make?

Are the decisions you make truly your own or are your very thoughts tainted by an outside influence? In today’s world, with increased susceptibility to others’ ideas, external pressures are continually shaping our opinions. Whether it is from our parents, teachers, or friends, the obligation to conform to others’ beliefs is a constant burden. In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck Finn, a morally conflicted character, constantly experiences intense internal struggle as his innate instinct to conform directly clashes with his developing sense of individuality. Throughout the novel, the balance of these two inner forces are gradually questioned, challenged, and then ultimately restored upon Huck’s reintegration into society. Although Huck demonstrates moments of freethinking, when he is faced with the pivotal opportunity to defy the ingrained urge to comply with societal expectations, he relapses, indicating his lack of progression and inability to break with society By illustrating Huck’s inability to escape societal influences, Twain suggests a broader theme: it is easier for human beings to follow the will of a group, rather than think and stand up for their individual beliefs. Although Huck demonstrates moments of initial questioning of societal rules he never acts upon them. Rather, he is always compliantly conforming due to the deep-rooted influence of society on his beliefs, morals and decisions. From the very beginning of the novel, Huck Finn reveals two aspects of himself, one part that wishes to be free and doing as he pleases, and the other that follows instinct to do the socially acceptable thing. With the coexistence of these two aspects, Huck experiences confusion, that at the beginning, results in primary doubt followed by subsequent conformity. We see that Huck is in fact at odds with the society that he is currently living in, but is too hesitant to actually challenge the different attributes of southern culture he has grown up with. When the story opens Huck is living with the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson, who both attempt to sway Huck to embrace the ‘proper’ part of society. Huck doesn’t like that they are attempting to “sivilize him” but unwillingly accepts it (12 Twain). They constantly attempt to place constraints on Huck, such as dressing him in proper clothes, making him attend school, and forcing him to embrace the Christian religion. However, everything that ‘should’ be valued in typical southern white society, Huck questions. It is clear that Huck does not think highly of the civilization and views it mostly as a pointless exercise and a form of entrapment, yet he doesn’t leave or defy it, he simply endures. He doesn’t appreciate them, yet acquiesces to the rules all the same. For example, when Miss Watson pushes Huck to wear normal clothes he says, “She put me in them new clothes again and I couldn’t do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up” (12). The widow evidently influences Huck’s thoughts and opinions. He wears the clothes, living with the constant uncomfortable feeling rather than defy the societal expectations he subconsciously values. Throughout the opening few chapters, a pattern emerges between Huck and the two women. Huck continually internally doubts the societal practices they are attempting to force upon him, but he prays, reads, and follows the rules obediently. As Huck embraces his inborn instinct to conform, it becomes more and more feasible for him to comply with the life that the widow and Miss Watson are forcing on him. At one point Huck actually comes to appreciate school saying, “At first I hated the school but by and by I got so I could stand it. The longer I went to school the easier it got to be…I was getting sort of used to the widow’s ways too” (25). Huck’s partial individuality comes from his living on the margins of society. However, when Huck is fully integrated with the social order by the two...
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