Friday, May 4, 2012

Huck Finn

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On this paper I decided to take a little different outlook then choosing one single chapter and analyzing it, I decided to write on a broader yet narrow topic, if that made sense. I am going to write about Huck’s conscience towards some characters in the story, but also his own conscience towards his feelings and emotions. I am sure most people decided to go with the chapter writing, but I decided to branch off and be a little more creative by developing the thoughts of Huck Finn.

William Blake wrote, “Conscience in those that have it is unequivocal.” In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the theme, man’s conflict with his conscience, is manifested through Huck Finn. Huck develops his own individual views of right and wrong. In his struggle with his morality, his insights ultimately lead him to defy social norms by freeing a runaway slave, Jim.

In the beginning of the novel, Huck Finn is portrayed as a stubborn juvenile without principle, however, when he realizes the consequences of messing with Jim’s emotions, Huck’s moral conscience comes into play. Huck misguides Jim by telling him that they were separated in the night by the fog and had lost the raft. Huck quickly points to the broken oars, indicating that the incident did take place. This stunt makes Jim feel uncomfortable and foolish that he would have fallen for such a childish stunt

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“…my heart wuz mos’ broke bekase you wuz los’, en I didn’ kyer no mo’ what become er me en de raf’. En when I wake up en find you back ag’in, all safe en soun’, de tears come, en I could ‘a’ got down on my knees en kiss yo’ foot, I’s so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin’ ‘bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren’s en makes ‘em ashamed.”

Believe it or not, Huck didn’t actually mean to harm Jim’s integrity. Huck feels terribly sorry afterwards that he “could almost kiss [Jim’s] foot” for forgiveness. In the this society it is morally wrong for a white person to apologize to a black, much less kiss the very feet he walks on. Jim provides moral guidance to Huck by triggering his sincerity. Huck starts to realize that Jim isn’t just a slave that someone owns, he is a person with the same exact feelings, thinks the same things, and bleeds the same color blood as everyone else. By Huck apologizing one can see that his view on Jim is changing each day. After Huck viewed Jim as equal, he promised not to play any tricks or jokes on Jim that would harm him emotionally, and or physically. Although Huck feels differently about Jim, and feels he is equal, it doesn’t mean that he feels the same way about every other black that he comes across. This is proven in the novel when Huck’s Aunt Sally asks him if the steam boat explosion took any lives, he replies, “No’m killed a nigger.” Thus, it still proves that Huck feels that blacks are no equal to the white race.

More instances in the novel test out Huck’s conscience to see if he is changing for the better. For example, when Huck runs into the three robbers, he and Jim grab there onl way out, a skiff. After Huck gets away he begins to realize that he is leaving men to die, “I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix. I says to myself, there ain’t no telling but I might come to be a murderer myself…” Huck, feeling he needed to let someone know about the robbers, informs a captain in hope that they will be rescued in time. Huck continues to show his noble side after coming across the plans of two dirty scoundrels, the King and the Duke, to betray the Wilks sisters into giving them there uncle’s money.. Huck, so disgusted that “it was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race,” recognizes the crime in stealing from the poor helpless girls. When he decides he can’t sit back and watch anymore and that he must take things into his own hands to stop the King and the Duke, Huck finds a way to return all that is stolen. When Huck finally realizes that he needs to listen to his conscience and tell Mary Jane all that has happened, which is ironically the same time he tells a lie to help someone, Huck feels only good about himself for doing the right thing. After his experience with Mary Jane, Huck realizes that lying isn’t always the only resolution, telling the truth can resolve in the same outcome. This is actually a big step for Huck, because he starts to see that telling the truth is better in the long run. Before Huck would lie and steal and not feel a slight bit terrible for his actions, but now he is realizing the bigger picture.

Huck’s conscience comes into play once again when he realizes what the townspeople are going to do to the two criminals, the King and the Duke. Although Huck can’t stand the constant lie’s and deceits that the two are involved in, Huck makes an effort to warn them. But when he sees, he is too late. Huck sympathizes with the men realizing that “human beings can be awful cruel to one another.” Regardless of how good or evil a person, Huck does not want to see anyone suffer, especially if he can stop it. Huck begins to show some light of having a good conscience.

While all of Huck’s experiences illustrate maturation, none is more profound than the circumstances he has with Jim. It is those situations, in which Huck makes decisions that goes against the morals of society, but proves that his own morals are starting to come into play. The dilemma in the story is established when Miss Watson and Huck argue whether or not to turn Jim in. While Huck is pushed by society to turn Jim in, his moral conscience pushes him to keep his promise to Jim. But, when Jim starts talking how when he is free is he going to free his family to start a new life, Huck cannot help but feel at shame

“What had poor Miss Watson done to you that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes an never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you that you could treat her so mean? Why, she tried to learn you your book, she tried to learn you your manners, she tried to be good to you every way she knowed how. That’s what she done.”

Yet, when Huck is thanked by Jim for being his only true friend, Huck decides that he would feel just as comfortable if he were to betray Jim. Thus, when the men hunting Jim arrive, Huck decides to lie to the men so he doesn’t put Jim’s life and freedom in danger. Huck lying to hide a slave goes against everything he has been taught, and can result in severe punishment. Huck begins to forget his individual values as he tries to pray to “Providence” for forgiveness of helping a runaway slave; however, realizes later that “you can’t pray a lie.” Huck then begins to think about Jim’s fate, as well as his own, if he were to turn Jim in; Jim would be pissed and censured by society for being an “ungrateful nigger,” and Huck would be of mixed emotions for helping free a slave. In spite of it all, Huck’s social principles cause him to write a letter to Miss Watson confessing it all in an attempt to be “cleaned of sin.” At first Huck isn’t upset by the letter, but as he regains Jim’s compassion and trust, Huck’s unusual sense of right and wrong tells him not to betray Jim. After Huck finally resolves, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell,” he destroys the letter. Huck’s remark is the most important line of the entire novel, in which he does not fall to the demands of society, instead, he sticks with what he believes, in his heart, is right. Realizing that Jim is like a father figure to Huck, Huck is willing to sacrifice himself to free Jim. By taking such risks to free Jim, Huck finally shows that his own life is equal to that of a slave. Yet, by helping Jim, Huck is guilty for what society claims to be illegal and immoral. This worries Huck because society in the South has raised him to believe that blacks are the weaker race, all slaves are property, and by not turning over a runaway slave, is committing the worst, and most dishonorable crime. Ironic as it is, Huck believes he is, indeed, sinning by helping a human being from the sufferings of slavery. What is even more ironic is, although this society values Christian beliefs, this same society allows the dehumanization of slavery.

Throughout the entire novel, Huck Finn struggles to distance himself from the beliefs of society, and to establish his own beliefs rather than turning to those set for him. In his own journey to discover right and wrong, he came across many instances that tested his conscience. The inner conflict that Huck is challenged with causes him to stand in between his individual beliefs and the beliefs of society. Jim, who can be credited for Huck’s new morals, helps to cause Huck to make the right decisions and act responsibly. Huck learns, most of all, that friendship and loyalty overshadow society, and that he must trust his heart instead of social morals. Thus, it is Huck’s morality that topped his selfless acts, which in the end, he discovers is inevitable, “…it don’t make no difference whether you do right or wrong, a person’s conscience ain’t got no sense, and just goes for him anyway.”

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