A young girl of six years struts down the street away from home, with her little pink backpack stuffed with essentials. She claims she needs “freedom”, and running away is obviously the answer. Similarly, the main character of The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, escapes his father to gain freedom. This book explores the concepts of slavery, hypocrisy, and what it means to be “civilized” through the eyes of a young boy named Huckleberry Finn. Although Twain wrote the novel in 1884, Huck’s adventures take place in the 1830’s and 1840’s, before the civil war.
He and an escaped slave named Jim journey down the Mississippi River and go on multiple exciting excursions along the way. Throughout the novel Twain emphasizes the point that a person’s heart always leads them to do the honorable thing, even when it contradicts their conscience. Twain’s critical approach to this theme of hypocritical human nature can be most easily recognized through the literary devices of symbolism and satire. First, he uses this satire, found abundantly in his writing, to demonstrate this theme.
One way he utilizes this technique is by describing the way people approve of slavery, yet maintain a deep relationship with their slaves. This is clearly evident in Huck’s view of the event involving the three orphan girls. Although Mary Jane cries for the slave families that have been torn apart, she contradicts this by supporting slavery (Twain 186). Here, Twain clearly illustrates this immorality of owning slaves yet having feelings for them at the same time. Twain further expresses this satirization when Huck lies to Aunt Sally about his journey to her house: “”Good gracious! anybody hurt? ‘No’m. Killed [an African American]. ‘
Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt… ” (Twain 221). Through the character of Aunt Sally, Twain further develops his point by saying, “… Jim told [Tom] Uncle Silas come in every day or two… and Aunt Sally come in to see if he was comfortable and had plenty to eat, and both of them was kind as they could be… ” (Twain 248). In other words, Twain analyzes Aunt Sally’s actions toward slaves to justify his perspective of a hypocritical culture, for she places little value on the life of a slave, but also seems to care for Jim.
Twain again uses satire to develop this theme when Huck makes a remark about h does not want to return to “civilized” life (Twain 25). He goes on to complain about the way the Widow’s rules make him uncomfortable and shows how he would rather live without his creature comforts and rough it unlike most people who prefer a comfortable, “civilized” lifestyle (Twain 1). Twain uses this to contrast between the “societally appropriate” way to act and the morally sound way to act. Therefore, in many ways it is clear to see that Twain uses satire to make his point precise and direct.
Furthermore, Twain makes this claim clear in an another way by using the motif of protection. He demonstrates this when Huck decides to protect Jim after given the choice of turning him in after being questioned by two men also travelling along the Mississippi River (Twain 90). Reiteratively, Huck protects Jim, going against his conscience which tells him to turn Jim in, and instead decides to help him. Similarly, the author uses the example of when Huck retrieves the money that the Duke and King had intended on stealing.
He writes, “I says to myself, this is another one that I’m letting him rob her of her money… I felt so ornery and low down and mean that I says to myself, my mind’s made up; I’ll hive that money for them or bust” (Twain 175). Twain uses Huck’s virtuous morals to further demonstrate the concept of security and implies that Huck will always attempt to do the honest thing when given the choice between his heart d his conscience. Finally, Twain uses the instance when Huck feels sorry for the ship robbers, and wants to save them although they act illegally.
Huck comes up with an elaborate plan to save them because he feels sorry for them (Twain 72). Although Huck’s intentions remain pure, he never ends up helping the robbers. It is apparent to see that although these were bad men, Huck’s heart and morals continued to guide him in the proper direction, by wanting helping them. Thus, Twain uses the idea of safety to reiterate his idea of someone’s scruples leading them to making the right decisions even when faced against their societally formed mind. A final way that Mark Twain refers to this theme is by use of symbolism.
The first way is through the religion Huck learns both by the influences in his “civilized” life, and by the influences in his “uncivilized” life. The Widow teaches him Christianity, which Huck takes literally and after praying for fishing hooks and not receiving them, immediately dismisses it’s authenticity. (Twain 10-11). On the contrary, Jim and Pap both teach Huck superstition and Huck takes this view of the world more seriously, and this shapes how Huck perceives other people and the world around him (Twain 52-53).
The superstition teaches him that if he makes poor decisions, he will receive punishment by “nature” and vise versa. Through this logic, Huck develops a knack for doing things in a respectable manner because he does not want to later endure the consequences, therefore, his heart defeats his conscience. Likewise, Twain uses the Widow as an additional symbol by showing where and who formed Huck’s conscience. Huck mentions that he loved how he used to live but was getting used to living with the widow and her civilized ways (Twain 15).
This quote demonstrates how the Widow is teaching and training Huck to behave in a civilized manner and conform to the societies guidelines. In another case, the author uses the Mississippi River as a symbol of this theme. He manifests this by showing Huck’s freedom, and his choices. In the past, Huck’s choices had always been made for him by either Pap or the Widow, but now he is free to make his own decisions and act however he pleases.
This shows when Twain writes, “So in two seconds away we went a-sliding down the river, and it did seem o good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river, and nobody to bother us” (Twain 205). In short, Twain describes this theme by showing the symbolism of freedom, civilized life, and religion, and how these concepts affect Huck. All in all, through this symbolism, satire and the motif of protection, Twain describes how the society in that time period was very deformed, yet almost always, Huck is able to “follow his heart” and make reasonable decisions.
Unlike Huck who vowed to return to his adventurous lifestyle (Twain 294), the young girl and her little pink backpack never made it very far. She marched down the big hill on which her house sat, and at the bottom, maybe she learned a life lesson; she finally decided to come back home because she knew that was the ethical thing to do. Possibly she did, but being six years old, the more likely cause was she realized her family was having pizza for dinner.