The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Conflict Between Social and Moral
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In the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, a young boy narrates the story while ridiculing and questioning the corrupt society that he does not wish to be a part of. Twain’s goal for this novel was to protest against some evil practices present in their society. To do this while making it more appealing to the reader, Twain uses satire, a literary device that uses humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to criticize people’s vices. The use of a child as the narrator allows this to happen, as a child has not as developed and familiar with their society as an adult is and therefore will question everything.
Mark Twain uses the main character of Huckleberry Finn and the conflict between his morally true heart and social conscience to criticize society. In this conflict between his socially influenced conscience and true heart, his heart prevails and comes out on top. Huck is a character who has grown up in a society with strict rules and morals and therefore suffers with a deformed conscious. His dysfunctional upbringing due to the absence of his parents has caused Huck to experience these unclear morals. Huck has been living with “The Widow Douglas [who] took [him in] for her son” (13). Because he does not live with his parents, but instead a widow who is not related to him, Huck is not living a conventional childhood.
Unfortunately his mother is dead, his father is distant and drinks all day, and because of this he has no choice but to live with a widowed woman. Huck feels as though society has rejected him, especially when he says, “All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change,” and therefore because he feels rejected, he rejects the morals of the society. Huck’s distorted sense of morals is also a result of not accepting the principles, which have been ingrained and pounded into him. Twain uses satire to state his views on religion when Huck says, “Then she [Miss Watson] told me all about the bad place [hell], and I said I wished I was there…all I wanted was a change” (15).
Huck clearly has misunderstood Ms. Watson who is speaking of Christianity yet he did not mean to sound rude. He was only trying to find a way to express that he wanted to leave and free himself from the living condition his is in. Huck is able to look over the morals of his hypocritical society and makes the choice to take his own path. In addition to Miss Watson’s religious beliefs, are the morals and beliefs of Huck’s father Pap. As an untruthful, corrupt and immoral man, Pap’s actions portray to Huck that lying and stealing is allowed. This can be seen when Huck says, “Pap always said it warn’t no harm to borrow things if you was meaning to pay them back some time” (77).
This mixing of contrasting beliefs between Huck and the society and the hope to soon live free has deformed his conscience. It is also clear that throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, despite his distorted conscience, Huck has inside him a heart instilled with his true morals. Huck’s ability to believe in what is truly right is a result of his cleverness, his wittiness and his natural sympathy. This is seen as Huck’s childish actions are opposing racism. When Huck kills the snake in the cave, he puts it near Jims sleeping spot hoping to scare him however, it’s spouse ends up there hiding and bites Jim. You are taught not to associate or feel sympathy for the slaves but when Jim is bitten, Huck has “made up [his] mind [he] wouldn’t ever take ahold of a snake-skin again with [his] hands, now that [he] see[s] what had come of it” (64).
Here, Huck feels bad for the pain he has caused Jim and we can see that despite what society has taught him, his heart has prevailed over his conscience. His pure heart shows him that he can see Jim as the human being he is and therefore he is allowed to feel bad. Huck’s pure heart shows to be morally correct and that is what he chooses to follow instead of his corrupted conscience. Despite his head, Huck’s heart ultimately is victorious in almost every situation. Huck has learned to question every situation he finds himself present it because of all his past contradicting situations. When Huck runs into the two men with guns on a small boat, he is forced to decide weather or not to turn Jim in. His conscience had been corrupted by the slave-holding society that he lived in and treating slaves as lesser than you had always been engrained into his mind.
However, his heart won over his conscience, as Huck intuitively knows what is right yet doing the right thing goes against what he was taught throughout his life so far. Huck struggles with the question of listening to societies hypocritical views on humanity or following what he knows in his heart to be right however, breaking laws in the process. Huck has defeated racism and his heart ultimately prevails because he rejected the rules of society. Huck is able to see Jim as his equal and for a fourteen-year-old boy to act on this feeling in the ways that he does, against everything society has tried to fill his mind with, shows his righteous heart and gives the reader and important and powerful message.
As seen, it is possible for a child to see over racism and other hardships, showing that an adult should be able to do this as well. Huck characteristics and qualities make him perfect fit for this part. This part needed someone who was uneducated, questioning and honest. Therefore it was not reasonable to have used Tom Sawyer because those qualities are not fully present with him. Huck’s pure heart collides with his distorted conscience and comes out victorious. Throughout his novel, Twain uses this conflict within Huck to underscore his beliefs on racism, slavery, and civilized society.