Mark Twain's View of Man
Uploaded by lmmu on May 23, 2007
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn stands as a sempiternal example of satire in which the author expresses his viewpoints through situations and characters of the novel. The book traces the exploits of a young boy, Huckleberry Finn, and his eventual friend, a runaway slave named Jim. They escape their old lives, using the Mississippi River to travel to new ones, and along the way, encounter a crazy cast of characters. They witness people’s stupidity and life’s irony through various occurrences with people like the Grangerfords, the duke and king (and the towns that they scam), and the Phelps’s community. One of the best examples that Twain uses to demonstrate his views about man and society is seen through the clever Colonel Sherburn and a speech he gives to an angry mob. Through examples from Huck Finn’s adventures, it is evident that Twain possesses the belief that man cannot make decisions for himself but relies too much on other’s opinions.
A primary example of Twain’s belief is demonstrated through Colonel Sherburn. The colonel shoots a man on the street, and the town, naturally, is distressed. An angry mob that is looking for a lynching grows, and they travel to the colonel’s home to do the dirty deed; however, the colonel meets them on the porch, staring and fearless. He expresses his disapproval in their actions, and claims that not one man there would ever lynch someone unless it was night or were adorned with masks. “The average man’s a coward” (172). He believes, as does Twain, that no real man can do any sort of action without another man supporting him and holding his hand. On the other hand, he also distinguishes that a man will do something (whether he desires to or not) just to belong and to mask his existing and prevalent cowardice. Sherburn accuses the mob of not wanting to be there at all, “You didn’t want to come . . . you’re afraid to back down—afraid you’ll be found out to be what you are—cowards—and so you raise a yell . . . and come raging up here” (173). Twain uses a Southern, angry mob to eloquently describe man’s inherent dislike for being his own man.
Another example of man’s inability to make his own decisions is depicted within the Grangerford family....