Huckleberry Finn and the use of Satire Essay
1109 WordsDec 7th, 20135 Pages
Huck Finn and the use of Satire Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been controversial ever since its release in 1884. It has been called everything from the root of modern American literature to a piece of racist trash. Many scholars have argued about Huck Finn being prejudiced. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses satire to mock many different aspects of the modern world. Despite the fact that many critics have accused Mark Twain’s novel of promoting racism, through close analysis of the text, it becomes remarkably clear that Twain is satirical in his writing as he ridicules slavery and the racist attitudes prevalent in his day. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written shortly after the Civil…show more content…
Scholars, such as Philip Butcher and Julius Lester, disagree with the statement that Mark Twain was racist. Butcher concludes that “negroes were people to Mark Twain, people who had been wronged by his forebears and still unjustly treated by his contemporaries… Twain wanted to make amends for his ancestors”. Twain uses Huck Finn to illustrate slavery in the south, to show how they were treated and what he saw, and to use satirical language in doing so. But doing this, was not always so easy. Julius Lester claims “to Twain, slavery was not an emotional reality to be explored extensively or with love” (202). In order for Twain to exemplify the racism and hate, he told a story of ‘true’ events, those that one would have actually encountered post-Reconstruction time, such as the use of the word ‘nigger’. But on the other hand, many scholars would agree with the idea that Twain is racist. One scholar with a strong opinion on this idea is John H. Wallace, who asserts that “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the most grotesque example of racist trash ever written” (16). Although I strongly disagree, he believes that Twain’s soul purpose in writing Huck Finn is “for no other reason than [to] ridicule blacks’” (23). For this
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Satire in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Many authors use satire to discuss issues in society that they have opinions on. These authors express their opinions by mocking the issues in a subtle way in their writing. Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain satirizes many societal elements. Three of these issues include the institution of slavery, organized religion, and education. By satirizing slavery and the prejudice placed against blacks in Huck’s society, Twain takes a stance against these institutions. There are many situations throughout the novel that mock slavery in different ways.
Miss Watson’s telling Huck to “pray every day,” (10) yet she owned a slave “named Jim” (4). Miss Watson is portrayed as a good, Christian woman with high morals, yet she owns a slave. Twain uses this hypocrisy to show that many Southern people were going against their own ideas of Christianity, by owning slaves. The prejudice against black people is further mocked by the introduction of Huck’s racist and alcoholic father. Pap becomes so outraged when he finds out that a free slave can “vote when he was at home,” even though the free slave is smarter than him and a “p’fessor in a college,” that he asks what the country is “a-coming to” (27).
Pap does not care that the black man is more intelligent than him, he only sees that he is black, and he does not agree with the fact that the man is allowed to vote. Pap’s outrage further emphasizes Twain’s satirizing of the prejudice placed against black people during that time period. Twain’s mocking of the southern pro-slavery whites reflects his own anti-slavery opinions. Twain’s own ideas are represented through his satirizing the church and organized religion. Miss Watson, Huck’s guardian, was a devoted Christian, and she tried to teach him the ways of Christianity.
Miss Watson told Huck to “pray every day” (10) and he tied to pray for fishing “hooks three or four times,” (11) but he never gets them, so he does not see the point in prayer “if a body can’t get anything they pray for” (11). Huck feels that his prayers are being ignored. This causes him to be frustrated and to start resenting prayer and religion altogether. Later, when Huck contemplates turning Jim in, he has an epiphany. Huck decided to get “a piece of paper and a pencil,” (213) and write a letter to Miss Watson, but he began to think about his actions, and he decided that he will “go to hell” (214) anyway, so he “tore it up” (214).
Organized religion and society has taught Huck that turning Jim in is the right thing to do, but he cannot bring himself to do it. Huck realizes that everyone’s life is important. Huck’s life-changing realization represents Twain’s own opinion on the issue of slavery. By mocking the issue of education, Twain’s own ideas are incorporated into the novel. When Tom and Huck form a gang, Tom is chosen as the leader. When asked what “ransomed” (8) means, Tom claims that he does not know but they have “got to do” (9) it, because he has “seen it in books” (9).
The gang blindly follows Tom’s orders because he is the most educated out of the group. They believe that Tom’s education automatically makes him more intelligent than them. Later in the novel, Jim gets captured by the Phelps family. While trying to break Jim out of his temporary jail, Tom claims that they must use “picks and shovels” and not “modern conveniences” because it will be more authentic to a real jail-break (243). Huck goes along with Tom’s overly-elaborate and inconvenient plan to free Jim because he believes that because Tom is more educated than himself and, therefore, that his way must be correct.
This is representative of how the wealthier, more educated class dominated society. Twain’s satirizing the educational system reflects how people view education in society. These major societal issues were something that Mark Twain had a strong opinion on. The societal elements of slavery, organized religion, and education were all elements of society that Twain felt the need to express his opinions to the public about. Out of many authors who have used this form of satire, Twain is one of the most effective. Work Cited Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Unites States of America:
Huck Finn Satire Essay
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