Huck Finn Essay

Submitted By ibcr98
Words: 1551
Pages: 7

Webster's dictionary defines satire as “a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc.: humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc.” Modern examples of satire are South Park and The Colbert Report. Some say that all American satire began with Mark Twain, the author of the fiction novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that was published in 1885. Twain uses the young protagonist, Huckleberry Finn, to satirize society and the tendencies of the mass to believe exactly what it is told, without reflecting or forming individual opinions. Through custody battles, family feuds, and most importantly, slavery and racism, Twain satirizes the society of his cultural frame and expresses a major theme in the novel: if people were to view society’s values more critically, it would do a great deal to reduce certain nonsensical behavior and cruelties in the world.

A first taste of Twain’s satirical dish is given to readers as soon as the takeoff of the story. The first chapter has mostly a setting function: Huck tells the reader about his life with the Widow. When at some point he asks her to let him smoke, she tells him it’s “a mean practice and wasn’t clean” (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, Page 3) and that he must try not to do it any more. So far so good, as the Widow is a responsible and caring pseudo-guardian. But, as Huck says: “And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.” (Page 3). There we have it: the hypocrisy of certain moral values in society, in this case that of smoking.
This is a light appetizer; Twain has some heavier stuff up his sleeve. Further in the novel, Huck’s abusive and alcoholic father – called Pap – shows up, gains legal custody over him and takes him away to a cabin in the woods. A man who has a drinking problem, abuses his son and does not allow him to go to school, is granted custody instead of the civilized Widow, a woman who is obviously exponentially more capable of raising a child than Pap. When the Widow goes to ask to be Huck’s guardian, the judge says that “courts mustn’t interfere and separate families if they could help it” (page 33) and that he’d “druther not take a child away from its father.” (Page 33). Genetic bonds are clearly valued above the wellbeing of the child. If the judge were to When Huck eventually escapes to Jackson’s island and finds Jim, the escaped slave ironically acts more as a father than Pap did.

Another example of Twain satirizing society and its lack of contemplation is shown after Huck meets Jim on Jackson's island and begins to see him more and more as an actual human being as time passes. When Huck first meets Jim, he asks what he is doing there. Jim says, "Well, I b'lieve you, Huck. I—I RUN OFF," (page 67) to which a scandalized Huck responds, "Jim!" (Page 67). Apparently it's perfectly fine for Huck to escape an abusive situation, but not for Jim. This can only be put down to how black people are seen as an inferior race, and worse than that: not even human beings. Jim is not allowed to be independent – be his own man – because he is not even considered a man by society. However, after a moment of reflection, it seems that the actions of Huck and those of Jim are not all that different.
Later in the story, Huck lies to protect Jim, warding off men looking for runaway slaves by creating a story that his family, ridden with small pox, is in the raft. A noble deed to us readers, but afterwards, he feels guilty and conflicted for hiding Jim. He says, “They went off and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well I had done wrong. ... Then I thought a minute, and says to myself, hold; s'pose you'd a done right and give Jim up, would you felt better than what you do now? No, says I, I'd feel bad-I'd feel just the same way I do now. Well, then, says I, what's the use you learning to do right when it's troublesome…