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Mark Twain's Society in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain's Society in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Mark Twain are included in the American Library Association’s list of the ten most frequently challenged books and authors. Why, you might inquire, is this classic often second guessed as a literary masterpiece? Readers in 1885 accused the book of being, “rough, course, and inelegant, and better suited to the slums.” Others felt that Tom and Huck served as poor role models for the youth of the time. Most recently, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been lambasted as a book rampant with racism and political incorrectness. However, upon closer examination, the book and its main character actually offer a realistic role model for young people. Huck is honest and attempts to confront the racism and societal conformity that surrounds him. His moral development progresses throughout the novel with each effort he makes to understand injustices as opposed to swallowing society’s ethics and conforming to the comfortable civil life deemed so admirable. Through his various experiences and interactions with Pap, Miss Watson, Widow Douglas, and Jim, Huck develops a deeper sense of empathy which ultimately shapes his identity and his self image, leading him to understand society’s pitfalls and pursue the life that was truly destined for him.

Huck gains the confidence to fight conformity and spurn physical and emotional violence by combining his true understanding of Pap’s good and bad natures. Due to the severe physical and mental abuse Huck suffered from his father throughout his childhood, he grew up to initially resent his worth and potential as a smart human being. Huck laments,

“I see it warn’t no use for me to try to learn to do right; a body that don’t get started right when he’s little ain’t got no show-- when the pinch comes there ain’t nothing to back him up and keep him to his work, and so he gets beat.” (pg. 95)

Huck’s ability to psycho-analyze himself in these terms speaks multitudes. He recognizes his petty faults and their connection to the unhealthy relationship with Pap, yet fails to see himself realistically, as a remarkably emotionally mature adolescent. Through interactions with Pap, Huck further develops empathy and understanding for the society’s “answer” to drunk white trash. At one point Judge Thatcher attempts to...

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