Mark Twain's Satire in Huckleberry Finn

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Mark Twain's Satire in Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, published in 1885, is the sequel to his novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer published in 1875. Huckleberry Finn tells the bond of friendship between Huckleberry Finn, a southern teenager, and Jim, an uneducated slave, encountering various characters and events as the two escape down the Mississippi River. The setting of the novel takes place during the antebellum era in America, in which slavery and racial prejudice were at the forefront of societal issues. Twain's emphasis on satirizing the flaws in American society makes this a frequently banned novel in the United Staes. The audience of the novel either do not see the satire and believe the novel is racist piece of literature or people recognize the satire and despise the image it places on whites and Americans. Twain utilizes the element of satire by presenting three different examples throughout the novel; racism, through the prospective of Pap, the hypocraful practice of religion as it applies to the Sheperdson and the Grangerford families, and human nature as it is exemplified in a backwards southern town and pitted against an angry mob.

Pap's character is introduced in the the early chapters of the novel; his abusive nature and recent return causes Huck to flee with Jim, Mrs. Watson's slave. In chapter five, Pap rants franticly concerning the government's removal of Huckleberry Finn from his custody and the involvement of blacks in the voting process:

"Call this a government! why, just look at it and see what it's like. Here's the law a-standing ready to take a man's son away from him--a man's own son, which he has had all trouble and all the anxiety and all the expense of raising. Yes, just as that man has got that son raised at last, and ready to go to work and begin to do suthin' for him and give a rest, the law up and goes for him. And they call that government! That ain't all, nuther… Why, looky here. There was a free nigger there, from Ohio; a mulatter, most as white as a white man. And that ain't the wust. They said he could vote, when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote, myself, if I warn't too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they'd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote again." (p. 41-43)

This passage isolates two perspectives of American culture through the eyes and experience of Pap's character. His complaints against the laws of the government and racist opinion of blacks exposes a flaw of this established hierarchy. Whites are superior to blacks in society however, characters such as Pap, exemplify why whites are not superior and may be in fact inferior to blacks. Another thought to consider is, if Pap refuses to vote in a government where a black person is free to vote, a government which supports his lifestyle and his son, why do these racist white men continue to significantly influence decisions and control the laws passed within the government in America.

One specific type of satire that Twain uses is his attack on religious hypocrisy shown through the feud involving the Grangerford family. Specifically, Twain portrays the hypocrisy associated with Christianity through analyzing the Grangerford Family’s way of life. The Grangerford's are a welcoming, kind group of people who attend church on a regular basis. In Chapter eighteen, the family is returning home from a church service when Huck notes:

“It was pretty ornery preaching- all about brotherly love… but everybody said it was such a good sermon, and they all talked it over going home, and had such a powerful lot to say about faith, and good works, and free grace.” (p. 171).

From this passage, the Grangerford's were a very moral family who prided themselves in the devotion to Christianity. This...