Satirical Huck: The Use of Satire In Huck Finn
Mark Twain is “considered one of the greatest humorists in American Literature” (Gribben, par. 1). He was known for his use of satire, and can be seen in his works such as The Gilded Age, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Of course what exactly is satire? According to Rebecca Oberg, a contributor of Sophia.org, Satire is defined as “...a work of literature... that blends criticism with humor in order to bring attention to a certain fault, problem, or shortcoming” (Oberg, sec. 3). It is through satire that Mark expresses his personal views in his books. His story Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is an excellent example. If this is so, then in what ways does Mark Twain use satire in the book? Well in the case of Huck Finn, Mark Twain uses satire to express his views on religion, race, and romanticism. Religion
One major way that Twain uses satire in the book is to criticize organized religion. Dr. Gregg Camfield of the University of California wrote that Mark Twain “doubted the religious, as opposed to the moral, truth of Christianity. His juxtaposition of superstition with Christianity suggests the depth of this skepticism” (Camfield, par. 16). According to his autobiography published after his death, Twain reveals that he was brought up as a presbyterian Christian. In spite of his upbringing, Twain in fact, used this as fuel to question his own religion along with those of others. It was this view that influenced Mark Twain’s satire on religion. Huck Finn serves as a perfect example of this as much of the satire used to make fun of religion in the story were inspired by actual experiences in his life. In chapter one for instance, the main character, Huck, is taught by the Widow Douglas to pray to God for the things he wants. Huck soon discovers, however that this does not always work and that it was best just to get it himself. In actuality, at the age of four, as revealed by his autobiography, Twain learned the same lesson as Huck from school, and also came to the same conclusion soon after. When talking of Twain’s religious satire, it is also important to point out the time and the surroundings on which it was based on. Mark Twain was born and raised in the south. In the mid 1800’s south in which he lived in, religion played a large part in the racist indoctrination that influenced the coming American Civil War. Southern interpretation of the Christian bible supported acts of racism such as slavery. African American slaves were even deemed as naturally corrupt. Twain reinforced this fact when he once stated, “In my schoolboy days I had no aversion to slavery. I was not aware that there was anything wrong about it. No one arraigned it in my hearing; the local papers said nothing against it; the local pulpit taught us that God approved it, that it was a holy thing, and the doubter need only look in the Bible if he wished to settle his mind — and then the texts were read aloud do us to make the matter sure”. With this statement, Twain reveals how even he was at first led to believe in the racist doctrine so often preached in his younger days. As Twain got older However, he began to resent these religious teachings so championed in his earlier years. Michael Taylor of Brigham Young University’s Department of American Studies Shares insight that supports this notion. In his paper, Discerning Culture From Christianity’s Mark Twain, he writes, “It is these common traders of theology, who say much but do little, that Twain denounces throughout his novel by juxtaposing Huck’s moral development outside of church and his Christian community to the moral dearth of the church-going Mississippi Christians”(Taylor 2). As it can be seen religion in the south was full of contradictions. With the religious who “say much but do little” Twain would soon begin to question his religious teachings which would lead to his growing suspicions with the overall message of god. Huck Finn merely...
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Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003. Print.
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