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Huckleberry Finn

By kuszelbe Apr 04, 2013 1439 Words
Society establishes their own rules of morality, but would they be accepted in these days? Mark Twain once wrote that Huckleberry Finn is a boy of “sound heart and deformed conscience”. Twain is saying that Huck is a good person, but his society has twisted him so that his conscience gives him bad advice. In the novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Huck is a young boy torn between what society expects of him and what his heart tells him is right. The overall influence that has deformed Huck's conscience is society and its values. His conscience is focused on what he feels is worthy of his loyalty and attention and instead follows his own moral code. Huck is constantly faced with decisions to make and it is when faced with these decisions that he explores his conscience in order to figure out how to do what is right. The societal, moral codes, and social norms that Huck finds himself in directly influences his conscience.                Huck is conflicted as to whether or not he should be a part of society when he doesn’t trust adults or society. The widow Douglas whom Huck was taken in by, tries to civilize Huck by teaching him about religion and proper manners. He didn’t want to be civilized so he would sneak out but he would eventually come back. Even though widow Douglas feels, since he is a child in her society, he should be raised, but Huck doesn’t fully understand her reasoning. Huck states, “The widow Douglas, she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer, I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied” (Twain 13).  The widow makes every effort to civilize Huck, but he somewhat rejects the idea and avoids it. He is only a child and does not yet understand the importance of proper manners. He only wants to have fun and would rather wear worn clothing and live freely and have adventure because that is what makes him most comfortable. The widow educates Huck about religion and the importance of having faith. Even at his young age, Huck states, “After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers; and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care no more about him; because I don’t take no stock in dead people” (14-15). Huck doesn’t understand why dead people are so important in religion if they are no longer alive as he believes that they can’t do anything for him. At first he is open minded and excited to learn more but as soon as Widow Douglas mentions Moses is dead Huck loses interest. Huck’s mindset is that if people aren’t alive to teach religion, he doesn’t see the point in learning it. Huck is unhappy and he doesn’t want to be civilized.                Most of the conflict that revolves around Huck’s difficult time developing a moral code is that he has been running around with a runaway slave.  For his entire life Huck has been taught that slaves were not people but property. Huck has always felt like he was doing the wrong thing in helping Jim.  When he runs across Jim for the first time on the island he promises to not tell anyone, even though, he says if people found out he was helping, they would call him an abolitionist and despise him. He was taught to believe that helping Jim is wrong, but he will do it anyways because he gave him his word.  Huck’s conscience troubles him about helping Jim escape from his “rightful owner,” Miss Watson, especially after all she has done for Huck; “what had poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her n-word go off right under your eyes and never say one single word?” (110). Huck still believes that turning Jim in would be the “right” thing to do, and he struggles with the idea that Miss Watson is a slave owner yet still seems to be a “good” person. When Jim gets excited about becoming a free man and working to buy his children back, Huck states, "Here was this n-word, which I had as good as helped run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying he would steal his children-children that belonged to a man I didn't even know; a man that hadn't ever done me no harm." (111). The irony of this quote is apparent; these children belong to Jim, not the man who "owns" them through slavery, but Huck feels the white man has more right to them than Jim. Any time he says or does something to keep Jim safe, he sees it as a wrong rather than a right, because he genuinely thinks he is doing something wrong. His mindset has changed again and he is back to believing that owning a person is okay. He goes off to turn Jim in, but doesn't, then feels guilty for it because he knows very well that he had done wrong. Huck’s heart softens when he hears Jim call out that Huck is his only friend, the only one to keep a promise to him. So Huck’s second crisis of conscience is when he decides whether or not to write a letter to Miss Watson. He has always had a feeling of guilt for helping Jim and not turning him in. He figures that Jim getting sold is "Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched" (222). He is worried that God is punishing him and not only that, but that "it would get all around that Huck Finn helped a n-word," (222) and "the more my conscience went to grinding me, the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feeling" (222). We know that slavery is wrong and that Jim deserves to be free, but because Huck believes he is breaking the law, he actually thinks he is doing something wrong. He has trouble viewing Jim as a friend and equal, something other than property. So, he writes the letter and directly afterward he feels good and washed clean of his “sin." But then he thinks of Jim and all of the times that they had been through together, and how Jim considered him a true friend, and all of the kind things Jim had done for him. He just can't bring himself to keep Jim in slavery, whether it is at the Phelps place or at the Watson place. Then in one quick moment, he tears up the letter and declares he will go to hell.  This is ironic because he doesn’t realize tearing up the letter is the right thing to do. He still feels that slavery is the right thing, and helping a slave is the wrong thing. History has proved otherwise, so we know better, but Twain uses this moment to reveal how many people felt that slavery was the right thing back then, and that those against it were wrong. Huck who is struggling with his conscience, Twain uses him to convey how wrong it is to think that helping a man obtain freedom could possibly be wrong. In the end, we see him feeling evil for deciding to help a runaway slave, but not caring, because he considers Jim to be his friend.  Huck risks his own safety and salvation to go get Jim and risks his own safety for Jim. Huck's conscience is a direct result of education, society, social norms, and what is considered appropriate in his society. Huck goes against what society has told him is right and in this way he thinks he is doing something wrong. He can't really decide in these times what his conscience is telling him because he cannot tell the difference between his conscience and society. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain,  Huck’s battles with his conscience show that he knows what he is supposed to think, but he is still in conflict with what he truly believes is right. These days, societies morals towards people being property would not have been such a problem for Huck to face.          

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