As time goes on, input is inscribed upon this”blackboard”. From there conclusions are drawn, inferences are made, andright and wrong are being defined. Society has everything to do with thecourse of this. The main character of Mark Twain’s Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn, Huck, undergoes a total moral transformation upon havingto make life defining decisions throughout his journey for a new life; froma simple boy living amongst society to a mature human who can think forhimself about the rights and wrongs of humanity.
Twain is trying to showthe audience that society has the majority of influence upon theindividual, and will cause the person to conform to the norms of thatsociety. Huck Finn is a great example of a disciple of society who learnsto think individually and back to the fundamentals of mankind. Huck emerges into the novel with an inferiority complex caused by living adouble standard life: with a drunken and abusive father and with two oldladies who would like to raise him properly. It is here that Huck is inabsence of any direction. It is at this point where Huck is first seenwithout any concept of morality.
Preceding the start of the novel, MissWatson and the widow have been granted custody of Huck, an uncivilized boywho possesses no morals. “They talked it over, and they was going to ruleme out, because they said every boy must have a family or something tokill, or else it wouldn’t be fair and square for the others. Well, nobodycould think of anything to do- everybody was stumped, and set still. I wasmost ready to cry; but all at once I thought of a way, and so I offeredthem Miss Watson-they could kill her” (17-18). At this moment, Huck is atthe peak of his immorality.
A person with morals would not willinglysacrifice the life of someone else just in order to be part of a gang. Huck’s confusion with society, along with his idolism of Tom Sawyer, causedhim to make such a statement. He wants to escape from his abusive fatherand overly-strict guardians, thus he turns to the immorality and childishway to “get away from it all”. Twain here can easily prove his view uponsociety in 1 easy step. He shows the proper/former side of society withMiss Watson and Widow Douglas. Here he presents the case with the views ofsociety: racist, biased, and ethnocentric.
In many instances Twainsarcastically will ridicule society for its immoral beliefs by exaggeratingthem in the book. The word “nigger” may seem like the proper connotationin accordance to the dialect of the time, but the way they treated”niggers” and their attitudes toward them should not have been proper inany case. The insecure and perplexed Huck was willing to give up a humanlife in order to pursue his childish dreams and to escape the pressureinduced by society. Twain points out how society could have hurt a boywith that example and also talks about one of many of society’s problems. Huck begins his journey of moral progression after he escapes and decidesto befriend Jim, the runaway slave. He from here learns about the evilsand skewed views of society; little by little, he learns to confront anddecide for himself upon these situations.
Huck encounters his first majordilemma when he comes across the wrecked steamboat and three criminals. When Jim and Huck take the skiff for themselves, leaving the three robbersstranded, Huck realizes that he has left them to die. “Now was the firsttime that I begun to worry about the men- I reckon I hadn’t time to before. I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such afix. I says to myself, there ain’t no telling but I might come to be amurderer myself yet, and then how would I like it?”(76).
This is the firsttime that Huck questions the effects of what he has done on other people. After he realizes that he could now be considered a murderer, he doessomething for the better by getting a captain to go investigate the wreckin order to save the men’s lives. Even though the men he would be savingare murderers and robbers, he can not justify being responsible for theirdeath, and makes it a point to correct what he has done wrong. This is thefirst major step in Huck’s moral progression.
At that point, he establishesa set of standards that considers leaving the men to die as immoral. Twain’s point here is that no matter what society looks down upon or shunson, the ultimate and fundamental basis is that we are all human, and an actthat is merciless should never be committed. He demonstrates this with therobbers, and later again profoundly in the Shepherdson/Grangerford dispute. In Buck Grangerford’s rambling answers we hear Mark Twain’s view of asouthern feuding family, and after Buck finishes his answer, we watchHuck’s reaction to the true nature of the Grangerfords.
Buck detailsTwain’s opinion that a feud is not started or continued by thought. Thereasons for the feud have been forgotten, and the Grangerfords do not hate,but in fact respect, their sworn enemies. They live their lives bytradition, and the fact that the feud is a tradition justifies itsneedless, pointless violence. From the dignified Colonel with “a few buck-shot in him”(121) to Buck, who is eager for the glory to be gained fromshooting a Shepherdson in the back, the Grangerfords unquestioninglybelieve in de-valuing human life because it is a civilized tradition.
Huckbegins to decide for himself now, that he is on the river and can thinkmore freely without the confinements of society. Twain graduallyintroduces us into the concepts of a bad society and Huck’s moraldevelopment. Throughout the book there is the recurring motif of Friend v. Society: amain moral decision that Huck is forced to make a few times in his journey,of whether to follow the guidelines set before him or his heart which tellshim what logic should.
This is the first time he makes a decision all onhis own based on his own morality. Jim’s capture and consequences representHuck’s ultimate realization and rejection of society. To encapsulate Huck’stotal moral progression through his decision to help Jim, Huck states, “Allright then, I’ll go to hell!” (207). The logical consequences of Huck’saction, rather than the lessons society has taught him, drive Huck.
Hedecides that going to “hell,” if it means following his gut and notsociety’s hypocritical and cruel principles, is a better option than goingto everyone else’s heaven. This moment of decision represents Huck’s truebreak with the world around him. At this point, Huck decides to help Jimescape slavery once and for all. By now his mind is truly made up, thestatement “You can’t pray a lie” (207) being the justification.
Twain hereutilizes the climax of the moment to conclude his most important pointsabout society- in which it is cruel to itself, biased, and selfish. Byusing Huck as the breakthrough of the mold, Twain is able to get his pointacross to his readers, that society and what it represents is all wrong,because of the ethnocentric display on life by it. Huck has made up hismind once and for all, after thoroughly surveying both sides of an ideal-bound society and a free-going life. Twain contrasts the two and glorifiesthe instinct-based life while degrading the society-bound lifestyle. Huck’s moral progression can be traced throughout the book beginning fromhis total lack of morals to being able to make the right decisions on hisown.
It is only with the help of Jim as a moral guide that Huck is able toundergo this moral transformation to use his own judgment and trulyprogress. The situation that Huck is encountered with about choosingfriend over society is the main dilemma that pushes Huck to establish hisown standards of morality, rather than accepting those that society has setforth. Jim acts as the centerpiece where Huck decides whether he shouldconform to society about the runaway slave or to use his head and followwhat he believes are the basic rights of being humane. The metamorphosisHuck went through not only told a story, but, in Twain’s view, told thelife story of his society and those problems.
Problems that Huckconfronted. Today, his acts and Mr. Twain’s ingenious are considered tohave bettered the society. There you go, Mr. Twain, you got what youwanted. Society has been bettered thanks to you.