The Early Moral development of Huck Magnanimous Huck
The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn can be read as the story of Huck’s moral development. The essay traces this development by focusing on the following” the influence of Huck’s early education in Hannibal, Missouri; the
teachings and behavior of his birth father, Pap; and Lessons he learns through his relationship with Jim.
Huck grew up as an outcast with his abusive father pap. He distrusts the morality of the society because it could not protect him from his abused childhood and also treats him like an outcast. Huck chooses to “go to hell” rather than follow society’s rules and “go to heaven”. He has been treated as an outcast for so long that he develops the concept of coming to a decision through intense introspection. Huck bases his decisions on his past experience and his conscience; he is untainted by the influences of society. In the novel, Mark Twain depicts a hypocritical society; the people in the novel go to church, and preach for salvation; however, they do not see the cruelty of Society. Aunt Sally provides the perfect example for such hypocrisy; she is generous character in the novel yet she also own slaves. Huck lives outside the hypocrisy and he is able to see the wrongs of slavery and society. Pap is very racist and he always tells Huck about how unworthy African American slaves are. Under these influences, Huck also sees the slaves as inferior beings. Though through his journey, Huck develops an intimate relationship with Jim. Even though Huck still could not completely throw off society’s influence on him, he makes the decision of helping Jim at the risk of going to hell. Huck is torn between the outcast world and the civilized world. Adapted by the Widow Douglas, Huck learns that stealing is wrong. However, Pap always tells Huck that stealing is just borrowing. Entangled in this dilemma, Huck decides stealing certain thing is all right but there are certain things that he could not steal. This situation also tells the readers about the society. Society always loathes parents who abuse their children and devoted Christians make their life’s purpose to help people; however, Society also see it fit to abuse slaves and treat them like property.
Huck’s father, Pap, is a strong initial influence to Huck; even after he left Huck, his actions still affects Huck’s decisions and values. “If I never learnt nothing else out of pap, I learnt that the best way to get along with his kind of people is to let them have their own way.” (Pg. 137) Huck was abused by pap when he was a child. These experiences left a scare that will never disappear in Huck’s heart, he learns from pap to fear authorities or adults. Like an abused child, Huck always blames himself and sees himself unworthy. Later in the story, Huck entangles himself in a situation where he has to go against the authorities and help Jim, the runaway slave, escape. Huck is able to overcome his fear of authorities, and his sense of shame to help Jim because he lacks guidance of a “proper family”, though ironically, he knows better than the adults around him. The King and the Duke are con artists that cause Huck many troubles. However, Huck still wants to warn them when he found out that the town’s people is going to tar them. Huck forgives people easily because he believes that he is wicked himself.
Jim is also a great influence to Huck as they traveled down the Missouri River. In the beginning, Huck saw Jim merely as something that keeps him busy. However, through the fog adventure and the Sheperdsons feud. Huck learns that Jim truly cared about him and develops a sense of respect for Jim. From the time Huck meets Jim on Jackson’s island until the end of the novel, Jim acts as a fatherly figure to Huck. He protects Huck from pap’s corpse, he worries about Huck during the misty scene, and he is the first person that taught Huck a valuable value. He taught Huck that every man is equal and love can be inter- racial. Jim truly cared about Huck and did everything in his power to make Huck happy and comfortable. He also worries about Huck whenever Huck is not around. Jim is the true father figure for Huck. Through their trip, Huck develops an intimate relationship with Jim. This relationship with a runaway slave causes Huck’s conscience to battle with the rule of society. Even though Huck knows that society loathes runaway slaves, his conscience tells him that it is right to help Jim. Huck learns from Ms. Watson that such an act is ignominious and he will go to hell for it. Yet, he still helps Jim because he thinks that he is wicked himself and probably deserves to go to hell. Even though this decision is made under the wrong circumstance, it is the morally right decision.
In the novel, Mark Twain depicts a society of hypocrisy. Huck is more righteous than any adult in the novel. He learns to read the world around him, to distinguish good, bad, right, and wrong using his own set of logic. It is because that Huck lived as an outcast that he is able to develop an unbiased personality. The apprehension of society and his relationship with Jim lead Huck to question many teachings of society. Huck chooses to go to hell rather than follow the society rules in which he finds false. Mark Twain successfully developed the character Huck, allowing the reader to travel with Huck and observe his moral development.