Huck Finn: Listening to Your Heart or Listening to Society

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 122
  • Published : April 20, 2005
Open Document
Text Preview
Ernest Hemmingway once described a novel by Mark Twain as, "…it is the ‘one book' from which ‘all modern American literature' came from" (Railton). This story of fiction, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is a remarkable story about a young boy growing up in a society that influences and pressures people into doing the so-called "right thing." It is not very difficult to witness the parallels between the society Huck has grown up in and the society that influences the choices of people living today. However, what is it that gives society the power to draw guidelines to define the norms, trends, and what is morally right and wrong in life? Is it always the best choice to listen to your consciences, which is under the influence of society, or is it sometimes just as important to listen to your heart and what you think is right?

Society has always denounced the acts of death and children running away from their homes. Huck can be seen as a morbid child as he is always talking about death and murder. Society would rather not have anything to do with people who have such a melancholic outlook on life. Living with years of torment by his drunkard father, Pap, Huck feared the day he would return to daunt his life. When Pap does return, he seizes Huck and drags him to a secluded cabin where Huck is boarded inside and unable to leave: This is where the dilemma occurs. In this position, Huck has a decision to make, either take note to the morals of society and listen to his conscience, which will result in more added years of pain and anguish from Pap, or Huck can listen to his heart and do what he thinks is best.

Huck's situation is so extreme (the mental and physical abuse from Pap) that he cannot take it anymore. He does what he thinks is best; Huck listens to heart rather than his conscience. In order to get away from Pap, Huck organizes an elaborate plan to arrange his own death and run away – both denounced by society - from the prison cell (cabin) and Pap. Huck, for the first time in his life, had felt what it is like to be free: "The sky looks ever so deep when you lay down on your back in the moonshine; I never knowed it before" (Twain 46).

Every incident where Huck is faced with a dilemma, the situation seems to intensify. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published during the post-Civil War period when slavery had been abolished. Although slavery had been banned in the United States, it was alive in Missouri during the existence of Huck Finn. The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, sisters who adopt Huck, have a slave by the name of Jim who, on the outside, appears to be both unintelligent and foolish, as by the impression received when Jim first speaks, "Who dah?" (Twain 6).

In the beginning of the novel, Huck's views on slavery had been skewed by society and by the civilized Miss Watson's righteous and moral views. Huck finds it all fun and games when he and his comrade, Tom Sawyer, play a trick on Jim; Tom Sawyer and Huck remove Jim's hat from his head and place it on the branch above him. When Jim wakes up, he believes he has been bewitched, adding to his dim-witted and brainless appearance. Only later on in the novel does Huck realize what Jim really means to him.

On Huck and Jim's journey to Cairo, Jim begins to speak about when he is free he will go and find his children and take them from the slave owner. This rubbed Huck the wrong way; his standards of Jim had been lowered because, from Huck's point of view, why would Jim steal his children away from a man who has done nothing to him? Huck's conscience began to come into play and he had made up his mind: He was going to turn Jim in when they reach shore. He was sure of it until Jim began to sweet talk Huck, telling him that Huck was the only white man that had ever kept a promise to him. This comment went directly to Huck's heart; he could not possibly betray Jim even if he would be seen by society as a "low down...
tracking img