Huc Chenxing Ouyang 3/20/2013 American Lit-Social Justice & Huck Finn “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. ” This notice at the beginning is controversial; some people say that it is a warning that was written for readers at the time when slavery was a sensitive issue to talk about, while others interpret it as a satirical comment about the way literature is scrutinized to find means and morals in a book.
But I believe what Mark Twain is trying to say is: “Don’t try to analyze the book, just read it for fun, no pressure! “ In the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the lifestyle of the Southerners in the mid-1800s are depicted through the eyes of a 13 years old boy Huck Finn living along the Mississippi River. It is a book about the search for freedom. Main characters in the movie seek freedom from social and moral constraints. Throughout novel, Huck learns to follow his own morals and values over what society deemed to be acceptable in the 1800 s.
He eventually achieved what he desires the most-freedom. In Twain’s opinion, it is the "closed mindsets about slavery of the society prohibited the development of personal morality and social justice. " One of the most important issues presented in this book is slavery. The superiority of whites was one of the causes of slavery. At the time when Mark twain was grown up, White men were born with privilege and superiority whereas blacks were doomed to be slaves. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Papa says to Huck: “You're educated; too, they say; can read and write.
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You think you're better’n your father, now, don’t you, because he can’t? I’ll take it out of you”. When Papa finds out that Huck is being sent to school by Ms. Watson and educated, he is intimidated by the fact that his son, is being civilized and going to be a better person than he is. A sense of insecurity is developed and Papa immediately sees Huck as a threat to his inherited privileges. This insecurity symbolized the whites’ fear of losing dominance over black people.
In Papa’s mind, Huck is his property; it is a bit strange for us to think that someone is actually “owned” by someone else, but at a time when slavery is tolerated publicly and has been practiced for hundreds of year, it is quite normal for people to dismiss the idea of individuality and personal freedom. The act of taking money away from Huck to buy drinks just because Huck is his “property” implicates the southern tradition of whites forcing slaves to work on cotton fields in order to make money.
Also, Papa saves his pride by kidnapping Huck from Ms. Watson without considering Huck’s willingness of doing so symbolized the privilege of whites dominating blacks in the old times. Hypocrisy plays another major role in the book. Mark Twain presents the hypocrisy of Southern society through the feuds between the Shepredsons and Grangerford. Huck observes that "He hadn't seen no house out in the country before that had so much style" when he first comes to the family.
The fancy house where the Grangerfolds live shows the notations of aristocracy, in this house "there are beautiful curtains on the windows, white with pictures painted of castles. " The curtains painted with castles give the family a sense of superiority over other villagers. These minor details make them think that they are above everyone else. Along with the false aristocracy the Grangerfords also possess a false knowledge of academics. When Buck is asked to spell Huck’s name, the boy spells “GeorgeJaxon” instead of “Jackson”, he misspells it.
Buck mentions earlier that he went to school but he is not as educated as he though he is. It is pretentious for the family to consider themselves as highly educated upper classmen when their son can’t spell correctly. Besides being pretentious and falsely aristocratic, the Grangerfords also are very religious. On Sunday both families attend church. When Huck goes in with the family he notices that in both the feuding families, “the men take their guns along” to church and talk about how the sermon was “all about brotherly love” after church.
They slaughter each other brutally for the rest of the day yet they think they are good and God loving. Morality is another important theme in the book, Twain wrote Huck’s character to illustrate the changing values of morality and ethics in society. Huck is a round character, he starts out an innocent child who expects nothing from life but freedom, then gradually grows up and learns to follow his own morals and values over what societies deemed to be acceptable. For example, in Charpter 31, Huck says: “All right then, I’ll go to hell! He decides to save Jim out of slavery against all odds. Although Huck was tempted to write a letter to Ms. Watson, informing her of Jim’s location, he follows his own moral value and decides to save Jim. This act shows that Huck has developed the maturity to accept consequences such as going to hell for his willingness to save Jim in order to follow his own value and satisfy his own moral standard. Early in the novel, Huck feels guilty of aiding a runaway slave escape from the good Christian women, but his racial discrimination against Jim lessens as the novel progresses.
Their relationship reflects the conflict between the racist environment that Huck grows up in and their needs for each other. Eventually the conflict resolves itself when Huck realized that “Just because you’re taught that something’s right and everyone believes it’s right, it don’t make it right”. This quote shows that racism has been infused into Huck’s life and Jim’s words show that even though he is uneducated like other slaves, he has the ability to overlook Huck’s racism. Twain brings out these ideas and thoughts with the force of a child’s moral compass elegantly.
President Barack Obama said in his inaugural speech: “we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. ” He points out the importance of finding our own moral and ethic principles so that we are capable of facing new challenges the society presents to us. In the Adventures of Huckleberry Berry Finn, Mark Twain points out the the same thing.
Huck is in moral conflict with the values and moralities of the society in which he lives. He is deeply confused by what the society needs him to do and what he wants to do as an individual. Huck eventually makes a moral choice based on his own valuation of Jim's friendship with him, a moral choice leads that leads an direct opposition to the thins he used to be taught. What President Obama and Mark Twain are both proposing is that it is our unsatisfaction of own conditions drives us to question the received values of society, in which way, we get on the road of seeking our own values.
We experience emotions that we never experienced before by fitting on other people's shoes, thus we learn how to sympathize. A new ways of rationalizing and moralizing is developed. Mark Twain used “n-word” in his book to satirize that South for it long history of slavery and to make people realize how harsh African Americans were treated back in the days. By providing an accurate glimpse in to our horrible past, it makes us retrospect and think about the meaning of fairness and equality. Mark Twain proposes in his Lecture Notes that “a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience".
He wants us to know how important it is for us to keep seeking and improving their understanding of fairness and justice. Like the way he describes the novel “ a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat” which is consistent with Obama's speech on freedom. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Speaking in general, Mark Twain identifies the problem of society, and makes us think deeply about things such as individual freedom, personal value and moral principles. President Obama reinforces them, he advocates the importance of certain notation of fairness and equalities so that minorities won't be oppressed because of majority’s decisions. Throughout the novel, society’s voice is heard through the voice of 13 years old boy Huck. The racist and hateful contempt that existed at the time is at many times present.
It is vital for us to recognize that Twain disputes these ideas throughout the novel. Twain brings out into the open of the unfairness of the society and makes the readers to challenge the belief of social norms. By using satire, irony and sarcasm, Twain points out the stupidity of slavery and illustrates society’s viewpoints of morality in contracts with Huck’s own way of identify morality through his adventures with Jim. These social justice issues about slavery, poverty, hypocrisy and morality are real and as a matter of fact, we are experiencing it every day in different degrees.
Use the war in Iraq as an example of a religious hypocrisy, while President Bush is trying to convince the Arab world that his war is about liberation, most Arabs see it for what is really is; it is a grab of economic and natural resources, an attempt to avenge Bush’s father’s honor by executing Saddam and a declaration of US’s world dominating power. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn presents the issues on social justices in a humors way, it is exciting to read as well as engaging people into deep thinking.
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