This is a tremendous novel with deep connotation and metaphor eluding to the balance between nature and civilization. The turning point happens for Huck when he makes up his mind to help Jim and really be his friend.

All right, then, I'll go to hell.


To Huck, who lived in the society wherein Heaven and Hell were real & tangible places, he was making what was in his mind the ultimate sacrifice for a friend.
"In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship (the real-life model for Huck) exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person-boy or man-in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy, and was envied by the rest of us. We liked him; we enjoyed his society. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents, the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy's. I heard, four years ago, that he was a justice of the peace in a remote village in Montana, and was a good citizen and greatly respected." (From Mark Twain's Autobiography, chapter II, 174-75)
Even as a boy, Samuel Clemens knew who the true American hero was, and he certainly was not a product of comfort and erudition. Especially while on the Mississippi, Huck Finn personifies the 'natural man', unspoiled by the corrupting authority of society. Although Huck is constantly exposed to people eager to make him think the way they do, his institutional distrust keeps society's virtues from penetrating him too deeply. He is determined to judge life for himself and come to his own conclusions. Free from being dictated morality by the culture of slavery, Huck is able to judge the virtue of acts using his logic and reflection, his only moral requirement being that his act must "do good." His purity, both in his age and in his intellectual freedom, make him the only character in Clemens' fictional St. Petersburg capable of not only helping Jim to run away (what was at the time an illegal and morally reprehensible act), but also pledging his loyalty to a piece of property, barely human in other people's eyes.

Growing up in Hannibal, Missouri, Clemens had an upbringing closer to that of Tom Sawyer than that of Huck Finn. Having a very structured and upright home, children like Clemens are drawn to characters like Tom Blankenship, whose freedom and satisfaction inspire jealousy in their 'civilized' admirers. The American virtue of 'freedom' is best represented in outcasts like Huck and Tom Blankenship. In a culture warped by racism and hypocrisy, these heroic spirits are the defenders of truth and righteousness.

In 1885, the year that Huck Finn was published, a public library in Concord, Massachusetts gained the dubious distinction of being the first institution to ban the novel. They thought it was inelegant and was "more suited for the slums than to intelligent, respectable people." Twenty years later it was excluded from the children's room of the public library in Brooklyn, New York, where authorities feared that it provided bad examples for the youth of the day.

Since the late 1950s, Twain's repeated use of the word "nigger" in the novel has inspired most attempts to ban it from school classrooms. It became among the most frequently challenged books of 1995-1996, and 4th on the list of The Most Frequently Banned Books in the 1990s.

What made people so uncomfortable about this novel? "Mark Twain told America, 'This is how you are, like it or not.'" I suppose that's what makes book so painful and yet so important.

The question that is really important in this issue is: "Is Huckleberry Finn a racist book?" My answer to that question is "No."

There are some parts of the book where Huckleberry Finn contains some racism - perhaps for a satirical effect, like in the passage:

"Good gracious! anybody hurt?" she asks.
"No'm," comes the answer. "Killed a nigger."
If you take that passage literally, you are missing the point. You must try and understand the underlying purpose of this novel. It's about a slave who breaks the law and risks his life to win his freedom and be reunited with his family, and a white boy who becomes his friend and helps him escape. He even decides that he would rather be damned to the flames of hell rather than betray his black friend.

In none of Mark Twain's writing will you ever find any crude racist stereotype. On the contrary, you would find in Mark Twain an affection and admiration for African Americans.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been rated one of the best books of American literature due to its unusual detail. Written by Mark Twain, it describes the escape of a boy from his abusive father and his adventures down the Mississippi river. Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was, and still is a brilliant novel because of the detail presented to by using the first person perspective.

Huckleberry Finn, a boy living in the south in thepre-civil war period, starts the book by describing his relations with the people around him, such as “the widow” his guardian. Even though she’s only a minor character Huck describes her in such detail that we get a very clear image of her. Because we’re seeing her from Huck’s perspective, we understand how Huck feels for her and we begin to feel the same way too. The first person perspective allows the reader to create an image of the widow, to feel for her and to link her to someone in our own lives.

Having the book being made in first person gives it the unique advantage for us to see what the main character is thinking. Take for example Huck’s opinion on religion, which was taught to us when Huck thinks to himself how he didn’t quite understand the bible, “why I should learn from bible characters if they’re dead?” he thinks. The use of first person allows us to see Huck’s opinions on situations more clearly, and from that we understand why he reacts the way he does.

An interesting, but obscure aspect of Huck Finn being written from the first perspective is that you never truly see the “big picture.” What the reader sees and hears is what Huck sees and hears, so you never know what might happen next, or even at that time, in a different place. There’s no obvious foreshadowing, and seemingly random events do occur at any time to move the story along. Take the Duke and Dauphin for example; they appear completely out of nowhere, running from dogs and horses. “Just as I was passing a place where a kind of cow path crossed the crick, here comes a couple of men tearing up the path as tight as they could foot it” Huck describes. If this book were written from the third person, Twain would have had to have created an entire back-story to the Duke and Dauphin, and then make it a coincidence that they met each other. With first person, illogical events are allowed to happen.

The use of first person throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn allows for greater character and plot development. By the end of the book we truly feel as though we know Huck, and that he has been by our side telling the story himself.

Part of the node your homework project- I would like to add: This book royally sucked.

Moral Huckleberry Finn
Research Paper written for AP English III: Language and Composition

Ever since its first publication in 1884, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or better known as Mark Twain, has been the source of negative criticism and has been attacked on many occasions. Some critics have succeeded—many others have tried—to denounce the novel due to its usage of "racially disparaging epithets" and the way it depicts blacks. These critics fail to see Twain's satire, or the morality of these characters (Edwards 30).

Throughout the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops the theme that good exists within every human being, independent of the individual's social, intellectual, or racial status. Although it has been the source of controversy due to its depiction of blacks, and had been banned from many public libraries on its first appearance for being "trash," Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a very moral novel (James 1). When beginning to discuss a novel which is narrated by the son of a drunk and a very immoral man, Pap Finn, and one in which the word "nigger" appears over 200 times, many people face difficulty. On the other hand, many embrace this novel because it promotes images of multicultural education (Quirke 151).

More than any other reason, the major discontent among critics is the way in which Twain depicts blacks, especially the slave, Jim, in his novel. This is mainly due to the belief that Twain depicts blacks as an inferior race, such as when he writes "you can't learn a nigger to argue" (60). Whereas many critics take statements such as these as racist remarks, they do not see the role of Jim—that of a moral catalyst and a very important figure in the depiction of the character of Huck. The novel depends on the actions of Jim (the runaway slave), giving the double search for freedom, which by Professor Branch is labeled as the central theme of the book (Brownell 1).

Hence, Huck learns humanity from Jim, whereas without him, Huck would be restricted to stealing, lying, etc. Jim makes Huck's rebellion more than a reaction to the accepted manners of the time. The central theme of the novel is the feeling of heart and expression of conscience which is shown by a black man and equaled by a white boy (Pettit 109). Mark Twain clearly shows this throughout Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—he shows that Jim is very moralistic, and inferior in no way. "Jim's primary function is to further the characterization of Huckleberry Finn: by his presence, his personality, his action, his words, to call forth from Huckleberry Finn a depth of tenderness and moral strength that could not otherwise have been fully and convincingly revealed to the reader" (Brownell 2).

Mark Twain created the character of Jim to act as a guide for Huck in becoming enlightened. Twain then surrounded Jim with other slaves and surface men. The character of Jim is based on three men to whom Twain was close to. These men were Uncle Daniel, a slave owned by Twain's uncle; John Lewis, a free-born African American who rescued Twain's brother-in-law's family from injury in a run-away carriage; and George Griffin, Twain's butler (Chadwick-Joshua 18). "Jim's humanity makes him the novel's most appealing character. Jim fills a gap in Huck's life: he is the father that Pap is not; he teaches Huck about the world and how it works, and about friendship" (James 3). Many critics agree Jim, a black slave, takes a role of a father figure to Huck, a white boy growing up in a racist society. This situation shows the novel to be a very moralistic one. Nat Hentoff writes that the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an excellent and brilliant novel because Twain allows the 14-year old to find in the slave Jim, a father figure. He adds that the novel is one of the least racist he has ever read, and Jim's character is one that has a reclaiming hope for the future of society (Chadwick-Joshua 7).

According to June Edwards, there is no more virtuous character in literature than Nigger Jim. Far from demeaning blacks, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn attacks the cruelty of some people owning other people, and for the color of ones skin being the basis of determining the content of one's character (33). Jim is the one who lays the basis for a solid relationship. He mends, advises, teaches, and more. Hence, he is Huck's natural superior. He is also superior to Huck in affection and loyalty. For example, after finding that Huck's Pap is dead, he takes on the role of Huck's foster father (Pettit 110). Twain shows how a black slave can actually be superior to a white, which at the time went against the standards set by society. "Nigger Jim is the conscience of Huckleberry Finn. More than Huck he is the moral standard by which other characters in the novel are measured and found wanting. This black man is a new kind of character in American fiction, a highly complex and original creation" (Pettit 109).

At a time when blacks were treated as "trash" and thought to be one-dimensional, Twain creates a round character for Jim as opposed to the customary flat character. This shows that Nigger Jim, the black individual, is a real person after all. Mark Twain, as well as the character of Huck Finn know that Jim is not only a slave, but a human being as well. He is someone who expresses his humanity through his desire for freedom, his will to have his own labor, his loyalty in his friendship, and his love for his child and his wife (Ellison 18). Mark Twain achieves realism with the creation of Jim through "averaging." If Jim believes in witches and other sorts of superstition, he has a superior understanding of man and nature. If he is obedient, he also gives Huck a scolding which makes him "humble" himself to a nigger. If Jim has compassion, as in the case of Tom Sawyer, he can also be heartless, as in the case of his deaf daughter. If he is a hero when helping the doctor, he is cowardly aboard the "Walter Scott." Due to all this, Jim is a fully humanized character (Quirke 74).

While many believe that Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel with many racist remarks, the truth of the matter is that it is not racist at all, but expresses the belief of collaboration between blacks and whites.

Twain's irony complicates the question of race and racism in the world of Huckleberry Finn. What the novel makes clear, though, as their journey continually separates and reunites Huck and Jim—white and black—is that their fate is intertwined. Their destinies must be worked out in relation to each other. For Twain, that is the great, and greatly troubled, American adventure (James 4).

Many censors regard Huck Finn as a poor role model for teenage readers because his speech and manners are crude by civilized standards. But Huck's compassion and willingness to change the prejudiced behavior of the time are excellent qualities (Edwards 32). Throughout the novel, the character of Huckleberry Finn matures, which is an inner growth. He learns kindness which leads him to act good towards others. This is shown in his decision to save the Wilkes girls from the Duke and the Dauphin (Cummings 4). His relation to Jim and his involvement in his freedom take him out of his childish world into one of higher humanity. His antislavery sentiment is a "moral yardstick by which to measure other values" (Cox 96).

According to Jonathan Arac, "Liberal white American opinion identifies with the wonderful boy Huck. Even though his society was racist, he was not, and so 'we' are not" (Bérubé 695). Huckleberry Finn, having grown up in a racist society, did not know that slaves had feelings also, so after playing a mean trick to the slave Jim, Huck realized the wrong he had done.

It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger—but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwords, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'd a knowed it would make him feel that way (Twain 65).

Here, Twain shows the morality in the character of Huck. Even after growing up in a society where he has been taught the inferiority of blacks, he still "humbled" himself to a nigger.

"The dynamic theme throughout Huckleberry Finn is the unresolved dialectic between the moral responsibility of the individual and the morality of the society in which he moves and against which he must function" (Hoffman 32). Huck has the courage to act morally even though it defies the rules of his society. But Huck sees his act in freeing Jim as the victory of his natural evil over the good teaching of society (Miller 29). Huck believes he is breaking the rules when freeing the Nigger Jim. He thinks he is committing an evil deed against his moralistic society, but in reality, he is doing none of these things—he is doing the exact opposite. For example, when Huck is writing the letter to report the runaway slave Jim, his conscience gets to him, and he rips up the letter. Believing he has just committed a major sin, Huck responds, "All right, then, I'll go to hell" (Twain 162). Huck's rejection of the teachings of society is not an evil deed on his part, but is a path to the knowledge of himself and his duties to others. "Away from the community's thou-shalt-nots and alone on the river with Jim he learns to love his neighbor as himself" (Cummings 4).

One major source of discontent among critics is the novels repeated use of the word "nigger" and Twain's depiction of slavery. "The novel's treatment of slavery came as an unwelcome reminder that the Civil War and Reconstruction had failed utterly to ease racial prejudice and to reduce its attendant hatred and violence" (Robinson 169).

In the years since the 1960's there has been an argument where black readers protest to the word "nigger" and Jim, while white readers argue that those people are overlooking the political condition of the post Civil War United States, the narrative irony of Mark Twain, the critique on slavery in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the kindness of Jim, and the fact that in slave states, "nigger" was just a common term for a slave and was not meant to be offensive (Bérubé 694). Many believe that Twain used the word "nigger" to emphasize the irony. Nigger Jim, who is more moral than the other characters in the novel, is known by the name which society used for its most hated. Contrary to what others believed, Twain does not defame blacks, but points out the foolishness of the Caucasian belief in inferiority due to race. Twain shows a difference between the Nigger Jim, and the white man, Pap. After Pap drinks too much, he screams about snakes, and runs around his son with a knife, it is clearly shown that Jim is the more superior and the more moral character (Edwards 33).

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been the source of controversy, criticism, and censorship since 1884, when it first appeared. Early on, the Concord, Massachusetts, Library Committee prohibited the book because it was "rough, coarse, and inelegant...It is the veriest trash." Then in Springfield, Illinois many people charged that Twain has no sense of manners. Responses such as these are based on the novel going against the accepted standards of morality and taste, and that Huck Finn is a poor moral example of the youth (Robinson 169). These critics fail to examine and notice Twain's satire, irony, and the actual morality of these characters. Twain depicts his belief that there is good within every human being, regardless of the person's social, intellectual, or racial status. "Twain does not denigrate blacks in this book. On the contrary, the theme is the stupidity and inhumanity of the Caucasian belief in genetic superiority" (Edwards 33).

Some people still manage to find Adventures of Huckleberry Finn offensive due to their narrow views and biased behavior. Not only did Twain write an excellent novel, full of wit and humor, but he also made it an "assault on absolute values, racial prejudice, and authoritarian arrogance" (Edwards 33). Due to its theme that goodness of heart may exist in any human being, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain, is one of the most moral novels in American literature.


Works Cited


Bérubé, Michael.  "Come Back to the Text Ag'in, Huck Honey."  American Quarterly.
     51 (1999): 693-701.
Brownell, Frances V.  "The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn." Boston Studies in
     English. 1 (1995): 74-83
     (http://galenet.galegroup.com /servlet/ProdList?q=miamidade/).
Chadwick-Joshua, Jocelyn.  The Jim Dilemma.  Jackson: University
     Press of Mississippi, 1998.
Cox, James M.  "A Hard Book to Take." One Hundred Years of Huckleberry
     Finn:  The Boy, His Book, and American Culture.  (1985): 12-34.  Rpt. in
     Modern Critical Interpretations: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Ed.  
     Harold Bloom.  New York: Chelsea House Publishers], 1986.  87-108.
Cummings, Sherwood.  "What's in Huckleberry Finn?"  English Journal.
     50 (1961): 1-8 (http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/ProdList?q=miamidade/).
Edwards, June.  "One Hundred Years Later: What's Moral About Huckleberry Finn."
     American Educator.  (1984): 30-32.
Ellison, Ralph.  "Twentieth-Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity."
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     New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1990.  16-19.
Hoffman, Michael J.  "Huck's Ironic Circle."  The Subversive Vision:  American
     Romanticism in Literature.  (1972): 68-83.  Rpt. in Modern Critical
     Interpretations: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Ed.  Harold Bloom.
     New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.  31-44.
James, Pearl.  "Overview on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."  Exploring Novels.
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Miller, J. Hillis.  "First-Person Narration in David Copperfield and 
     Huckleberry Finn."  Experience in the Novel.  (1968): 56-66.  Rpt. in Modern
     Critical Interpretations: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Ed.  Harold 
     Bloom.  New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.  21-30.
Pettit, Arthur G.  Mark Twain & the South.  Lexington: The University Press 
     of Kentucky, 1974.
Quirke, Tom.  Coming to Grips with Huckleberry Finn.  Columbia: University 
     of Missouri Press, 1993.
Robinson, Forrest G.  "The Grand Evasion."  In Bad Faith: The Dynamics of
     Deception in Mark Twain's America.  (1986): 111-122.  Rpt. in Huck Finn.  Ed.  Harold 
     Bloom.  New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1990.  164-173.
Twain, Mark.  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994.
Although I believe that Huck Finn is capable of moral growth, I believe he is severely limited by the “system,” that society he has been raised in. Huck has been born and bred in a society in which the concepts of “right and wrong” are seriously misconstrued. According to the upstanding citizens in Huck’s world, slavery is not wrong, and the opposite is evil. The moral pillars to which he is expected to look up, The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, preach of Providence and to follow the Bible and be a “good person,” when they own slaves and think nothing of it.

In this way, Huck believes he is “brung up” to wickedness because he was not born to the right family and was raised by an outlaw. He therefore thinks that the desire to help Jim is evil, and makes him a worse person for it, when in fact, it is the exact opposite which is true: his desire to help Jim makes him a good person, but he has no way of knowing this, because of the hypocrisy of the “good” people in his life.

Huck shows that he is capable of doing the right thing by four important actions he takes throughout the course of the novel, each increasing in moral depth. The first is when he makes the decision to help Jim run away. This is against the law, and, as far as Huck has been taught, against the Bible, and will surely condemn him to hell.

“...People would call me a low down Abolitionist and despise me for keeping mum - but that don’t make no difference. I ain’t agoing to tell, and I ain’t agoing back there anyways.” (Chapter VIII).

He never flat out decides to help him, but once he swears his word, he considers Jim and himself part of a team. When Mrs. Loftus, the woman he tries to fool as a girl, tells him that her husband and others are after Jim, he runs back to Jim and cries, “Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain’t a minute to lose. They’re after us!” (Chapter VIII)

This use of the word us, when there is no way they are after Huck because they believe him dead, is proof of the first sign of moral growth -- he is putting Jim in front of himself and about to put himself in danger to help him.

The second action he takes that proves to be the “right thing” comes a few chapters later. During the fog, after playing a joke on Jim, Huck feels so terrible about it that he apologizes, humbling himself to a black man.

“It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger -- but I done it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn’t do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn’t a done that one if I’d a knowed it would make him feel that way.” (Chapter XV)

In the culture Huck has been brought up in, this is seen as utterly wrong, because a black man was not even considered human, but was property. Huck’s growing understanding that Jim is a human being, with feelings that can be hurt, and not merely property is another sign that he is capable of growth.

The third incident occurs right after Huck humbles himself to Jim. Huck overhears Jim’s desire to steal his family back, and decides to turn him in to some bounty hunters he sees further up the river.

“Jim talked out loud all the time while I was talking to myself. He was saying how the first thing he would do when he got to a free State he would go to saving up money and never spend a single cent, and when he got enough he would buy his wife, which was owned on a farm close to where Miss Watson lived; and then they would both work to buy the two children, and if their master wouldn’t sell them, they’d get an Ab’litionist to go and steal them.
It most froze me to hear such talk. He wouldn’t ever dared to talk such talk in his life before. Just see what a difference it made in him the minute he judged he was about to be free. It was according to the old saying, ‘give a nigger an inch and he’ll take an ell.’ Thinks I, this is what comes of my not thinking. Here was this nigger 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. I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him.” (Chapter XVI)

He has made up his mind to turn Jim in, and is on his way to the bounty hunters, when he hears Jim talking to himself (but really to Huck):

“Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on’y white genlman dat ever kep’ his promise to ole’ Jim.” (Chapter XVI)

Huck tries to go on and continue his plan, but he can’t confess, and lies to the men that the man on the raft is white. He then continues to convince them that the man has smallpox and needs their help, which he knows will send them away. This deed proves his loyalty to Jim and yet another step on his way toward moral growth.

The last action Huck takes which proves he is capable of moral growth happens about two-thirds of the way through the novel. After everything he has gone through, Huck is terrified that Providence will punish him for helping Jim run away.

“...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 my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman’s nigger that hadn’t ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there’s One that’s always on the lookout, and ain’t agoing to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, and I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared.” (Chapter XXXI)

He decides the only way out of his plight is to pray, but he cannot because he feels he is wicked, and so he decides to cleanse himself to pray by writing a letter to Miss Watson which will turn Jim in. This is the only way he sees he will be saved. He writes the note, but still cannot pray, and begins to think of the time he has spent on the river with Jim.

“...And got to thinking over our trip down the river, and I see Jim before me, all the time, in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now...”

This review of events shows a considerable amount of growth, for it is an action he has not performed up to this point in the novel. He remembers how well Jim treated him, and he even remembers what he has done for Jim, and how wonderful Jim’s reaction to it was. He can’t make himself mad at Jim, but actually feels softly toward him. He then makes the biggest, deepest moral decision of the novel: he tears up the note.

“...And then I happened to look around, and see that paper....It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
All right, then, I’ll go to hell’ -- and tore it up.”

This marks his complete ability to change -- he has stood up to society and decided not to go along with it.

Unfortunately, this is not the complete story, and Huck is not necessarily to be seen as the great moral hero. Every event described proves that he is capable of doing the right thing, but after he has performed every one of these actions, he justifies them and does not necessarily carry a lasting lesson. His reasoning is always wrong because he has been brought up to mistrust his own instincts, and so he never fully understands himself that he is doing the right thing.

When he first helps Jim escape, he needs to get away himself, for if anyone found out he wasn’t dead, he would be in trouble for faking it, and would also have to face his father (as far as he thinks, at this point). When he humbles himself to Jim in the fog, it is for something he caused, and this action is therefore not quite as selfless as it seems. After lying to the bounty hunters, he is convinced he has done the wrong thing, and thus decides to decide upon whether or not to do right or wrong depending on whichever “comes handiest.” When he writes the note to Miss Watson, he still sees Jim as someone’s property, even after showing signs of understanding Jim’s humanity. After tearing up the note, he is convinced that he will go to hell, and decides to just do wicked for the rest of his life, because he was “brung up to it.”

“‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’ -- and tore it up. It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn’t. And for a starter, I would go to work to steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.” (Chapter XXXI)

He still believes that helping Jim is wrong, because there is no one to tell him otherwise. This is only increased by Tom Sawyer’s presence on the Phelps’ plantation. Tom Sawyer is Huck’s role model because Tom is everything Huck could not be: he was brought up in a clean house, sent to school, has knowledge of books, and knows (what society considers to be) right from wrong. Huck defers to Tom because he “knows” that Tom is a good person and is “smarter” than he. What Huck does not realize is that his own instincts and morals are actually purer than Tom’s educated ones.

I do not hold a grudge against Huck for not standing up to Tom in the last sequence of the novel, because Huck has been misled, and there is no one to show him the truth. While Tom is playing cruel tricks on Jim, Huck has no choice but to go along with him because he needs Tom’s help and silence to free Jim, because Huck does not realize what Tom knows; that Jim was freed by Miss Watson.

Huck is not wrong in going along with Tom because Jim shows no sign to Huck that he should not do so. Jim defers to Tom as much as Huck does, which only proves to Huck that Tom is right. Both Huck and Jim are trapped inside the “system.” They are only truly free when they are outside of it, on the river, in their own little utopia, and they unfortunately cannot stay outside of the system forever. Tom represents the society that is keeping them down, and the fact that neither has the courage to stand up to it may be Twain’s overall comment.

I have always seen Huck as a rebel, who goes against the grain simply because it suits him to do so, but I don’t believe Twain sees him this way. Twain sees him as the hope of society, holding fast to the ideas of the society because he doesn't trust in himself enough to challenge it. In this age of political correctness and true freedoms, it is hard to imagine that our morals could be as flipped as Huck’s are, but that was the case in the time Huck Finn was living -- his instincts are right, but he is so convinced they are wrong that he can not face himself or society to explain that he is right, because he doesn’t realize it himself. I believe he is capable of moral growth, but needs to be taught that it is the society which is at fault, and not himself.

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain concerns himself with the inability of his characters to produce subjective judgements. This problem manifests itself many times throughout the novel. One example of this is the feud of the Grangerfords. Wrapped up in the pointless hate for the sake of tradition, the Grangerfords have stopped making subjective judgements in favor of continuing the feud. One of the best examples is the Mob (or crowd). Twain frequently uses the crowd as a singular character. Wrapped up in the odd effects of group psychology, no one individual in the Mob is capable of making subjective judgements. This sets off the Sherburn incident, as well as allowing them to be duped numerous times by the King and Duke. Twain is saying that subjective judgement as opposed to doing the accepted thing, provides for a better guide for living.

The mob is a critical character throughout the story and almost always shows a definite lack of subjective judgement. The mob is most prominent during the Sherburn incident. Also, the mob is swindled numerous times by the King and the Duke, due to their lack of subjective judgement.

One point in which the mob shows significant lack of subjective judgement is when the King swindles the religious revival soon after joining with Huck and company. The King's spiel about how he had "been a pirate for 30 years out in the Indian Ocean" who had just recently become "a changed man now" manipulated the crowd into acting without subjective judgement. After the King subtly hinted that it would "take him a long time to get there without money" someone in the crowd yelled out "take up a collection for him, take up a collection". The crowd immediately began forking over large amounts of money. No one considered the unlikeliness of a pirate from the Indian Ocean winding up in the middle of Bible Belt America. Neither did it occur to anyone the unlikeliness of someone who had been a pirate for most of his life suddenly acquiring religion in less than an hour of revival. Both of these are incredible lacks of subjective reasoning.

The Sherburn incident is one of the main places where the mob displayed its lack. Soon after Boggs' death "somebody said Sherburn ought to be lynched". After this, everyone immediately joined in and proceeded to go to lynch him. No one suggested that he be arrested and put to trial, nor did anyone point out that Sherburn had said to Boggs, "I'm tired of this, but I'll endure it till one o'clock. Till one o'clock, mind -- no longer. If you open your mouth against me only once after that time, you can't travel so far but I will find you." Sherburn was giving Boggs a clear warning, but Boggs persisted anyway. No one in the crowd made any of their own subjective decisions. Everyone simply jumped on the band wagon as soon as it was suggested to lynch Sherburn.

Sherburn's speech throws significant light on the reasons for the mob's deficit. When Sherburn says: "... they (the mob) don't fight with courage that's born in them, but with courage that's borrowed from their mass ...," he is stating an important aspect of mob psychology. He knows that people in large groups don't think for themselves, but rather each person does what they are doing because everyone else is doing it. No person in the crowd is performing any significant independent thought at all, much less making any subjective judgements. Sherburn's speech was able to break this group cohesion. Without the force of the Mob driving them, the individuals "broke all apart, and went tearing off every which way".

The feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepardsons is another example of people with a subjective judgement impairment. Although it seems quite different, there is a similarity with the mob from the Sherburn incident. The individuals in the crowd were letting the crowd make their choices for them. The Grangerfords are allowing their ancestors to make the decision that they must all kill Shepardsons. No member of the Grangerfords considered the fact that no one even remembered why they were fighting. In fact, when Huck asked Buck Grangerford if land was the reason for the feud, Buck responded, "I reckon maybe -- I don't know." And when asked about who started the feud, Buck's response was, "Laws, How do I know?" Not only does Buck not know the original reason for the feud, he doesn't really care either. This shows that Buck is not using any subjective judgement. The only reason that he continues to fight Shepardson, is because it's tradition.

Nor, when Harney Shepardson eloped with Miss Sophia Grangerford, did anyone consider canceling or even temporarily suspending the feud for the sake of the newlyweds. Instead, the news caused renewed hostility. Once it was discovered by the two families both families came out en mass to shoot each other. Specifically, the Grangerfords were out to shoot Harney Shepardson, who was now or soon would be part of their family by marriage. When reporting the events to Huck, Jack (one of the slaves) said, "Sich another hurrin' up guns en hosses you never did see." The family didn't spend any time considering the merits of such a marriage. As soon as they heard of it, they reflexively reacted by preparing to go to kill their daughter's lover. It never occurred to anyone to be happy that two young people had found love. Clearly, neither the Grangerfords not the Shepardsons were making any rational subjective judgements.

In these cases, the characters did the accepted thing without considering whether it was what they really wanted to or should be doing. In contrast, consider each time Huck debated with himself whether to turn in Jim. Every time he began by reasoning about what would be the legal or moral thing to do. In doing this, he always reached the conclusion that since it was against the society's mores and laws to assist a runaway slave, he must turn in Jim. Each time he reached this conclusion and set about the task of turning in Jim, he started thinking about his previous relation ship with Jim, and the friendship they had formed. At this point, he realizes he can't turn in Jim. When he realizes this, Huck is making an independent subjective judgement different from that of the society around him. After each incident, Huck, although he is certain he is going to hell for it, seems happy about his decision, and so is the reader. In contrast, when the Grangerfords set out to kill Harney Shepardson, Huck is disgusted by the whole state of affairs, and decides that it is time to leave. The reader also feels disgusted. Twain is trying to show us that the ability to make your own independent subjective judgements is critical to being able to be in charge of your own life.

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