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The Religion of Huckleberry Finn

Oct 08, 1999 913 Words
Religion is a simple concept to learn. Webster's dictionary defines religion

as: "belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and

worshipped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe." Although it is

understood what religion is, not everyone has the same views. There are

numerous varieties and sub-vrieties of religions. In fact, religion can be so

diverse that one might say that he or she is of the same religion as another

person but the way he or she demonstrates their beliefs may be dramatically

different. In the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain,

writes about a young boy's growing and maturing experiences one summer as he

travels down the Mississippi River. One of the things that this boy, Huck

Finn, discovers is how religion affects his lifestyle. Huckleberry Finn's

views of religion have an impact on many essential points in the episodic

novel. Religion has an effect on three of Huck's major decisions throughout

the novel. His religion is tested when he first decides to help Jim run away.

His religion is tested when he lies to most of the people he meets traveling

down the Mississippi River, and Huckleberry's religion is tested when he

decides to help Jim escape from slavery for good.

Huckleberry Finn was raised without a strong religious influence. Huck's

father being a raging alcoholic, and Huck living mostly on his own, were two

of the factors that contributed to this. Pap came to visit him one night and

expressed his negative thoughts on school and religion. "First you know

you'll get religion, too. I never see such a son" (Twain 20). Despite these

warnings, the Widow Douglas continued to teach Huck. Later in the novel,

these teaching have consequential effects on Huck.

Huck's religious morals are first tested when he decides to help the Widow's

slave escape to freedom. During the time that The Adventures of Huckleberry

Finn took place, slavery was not uncommon. In the beginning of the story,

Huck displays similar beliefs as the people that are raising him; blacks are

considered property and not people. Huck chooses to help Jim run away despite

the fact that he knows that Jim is considered property and helping him would

be like stealing. The widow tries to convert Huck to Christianity. She

preaches all about heaven, hell, and the things that one should do to get to

either place. Huck is not too concerned about either, obviously, because he

helps Jim run away.

As Jim and Huck travel down the Mississippi, Huck, at first, does not think

much of the fact that he is helping Jim escape to freedom. As the novel

progresses, though, Huck begins to think about the consequences of his

actions. The things that the Widow had previously worked diligently to

install in Huck had some effect on him. This is apparent for the first time

when Jim expresses his anxiety to become free. This makes Huck feel nervous

of the deed that he is doing. "Well I can tell you it made me all over

trembly and feverish, too, to hear him, because I begun to get it through my

head that he was most free --- and who was to blame for it? Why me" (Twain

85). Huck's first reaction is that he is letting the Widow Douglas down by

not returning her property. Huck is only worried about honor and what was

right for the time but a similar event happens later in the novel where Huck

considers his actions a little more carefully.

Huckleberry finally begins to realize that Jim is not property, but an actual

person. He plays a trick on Jim and finds out that he has feelings too. This

brings Huck and Jim closer together and Huck accepts the fact that Jim is not

a slave but a friend. Huck is tried again for what to do about Jim when Jim

is sold to Silas Phelps down south. He knew he had to get Jim out somehow and

he still was feeling guilty for taking him in the first place. "And at last,

when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence

slapping me in the face and letting me know that my wickedness was being

watched all the time from up there in heaven" (Twain 204). Huck decides to

write to Jim to save him from a life of slavery with a complete stranger. He

never sends the letter but he feels much better after he writes it. "All

right, then, I'll go to hell" (206). Ultimately, Huck came to the conclusion

that he has already done so many sinful things that there was no use in

trying to get to heaven anymore.

Today, many Americans would look at Huck and believe he was right in trying

to free Jim. During the era of the Civil War, many would think differently.

Huckleberry Finn could hardly be called sacrilegious but he was no saint

either. Religion had a good deal of impact on him. It almost caused him to

give himself up to do what he thought was right. In the beginning of the

novel, we see that Huck is not interested in religion, or what the Widow has

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