Satire in Huckleberry Finn

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Huckleberry Finn as a satire

In 1884, Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This novel is set in the antebellum South, and features a friendship between a white boy and a black man. It focuses on issues of race, particularly making the point that the institution of slavery is immoral. On the surface, this work appears to be a picaresque novel, innocently filled with wild adventures, but upon closer analysis, it is obvious that Twain decided to expose the problems that he saw in society using satire, one of the most powerful tools in literature. Satire can be defined as, “A work of literature that mocks anything its author thinks is ridiculous.” In this prime example of satire, Mark Twain uses his characters and the mini episodic fables in the novel to show how Americans thought in the past, as a way to prevent society from making the same mistakes again in the future.

Pap is the alcoholic, racist, abusive father to Huckleberry Finn who embodies everything that could be horrible about a person. Pap is described as having “no color in his face, where his face showed; it was white; not like another man’s white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body’s flesh crawl — a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white. As for his clothes — just rags, that was all.” (p 29) The fact that this character is white and possesses these horrible qualities is satiric in itself, but the fact that he is also unbelievably racist adds to the satire of this character. When Pap finds out that a black man is going to vote, he says Oh yes this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. Why looky here, there was a free nigger there from Ohio..." (p 35) Pap represents the close-minded, southern whites and how they felt about free blacks. Twain put Pap his book not to condone the way Pap thinks, but to show Americans that this was the way that typical southerners thought, so that they could be horrified and not exhibit this behavior in the future.

Jim is a...
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