The Role of Superstition in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Topics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Superstition, Luck Pages: 3 (911 words) Published: February 14, 2009
The Role of Superstition in
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Superstition is a recurring theme in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Superstition is defined in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition as “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance.” Mark Twain effectively uses superstition to both foreshadow events and to contrast the personalities of the characters in the book. The “more sivilized” characters of the book do not believe in superstition, but the less educated characters, such as Huck and Jim, often make decisions based on their belief in superstition. While several of the lesser characters in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn believe in superstitions, it is Huck and Jim, the two main characters of the novel, who reveal that they live according to their superstitions. For example, in Chapter 4, Huck, who is then staying at Widow Douglas’ house, sees a spider crawling up his shoulder. He flicks the spider and it lands in a burning candle, shrivels up and dies. “I flipped it off and it lit in the candle; and before I could budge, it was all shriveled up. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that was an awful bad sign” (p. 3). According to Huck, killing a spider can bring bad luck. In an effort to reverse the bad omen, Huck turns around three times, each time crossing his breast, and then ties up a little lock of his hair to keep the witches away. Huck isn’t even sure this ritual will work for killing a spider, as it was intended for another bad omen, but he feels compelled to try to do something, so strong are his superstitious beliefs.

Huck encounters another superstition Chapter IV of the novel. Huck, who is living with the Widow Douglas, spills the salt and immediately tries to reverse the bad luck by tossing the salt over his left shoulder. Miss Watson, who has recently come to live with her sister, the Widow Douglas, stops him, however, and this causes Huck to worry...
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