The Satire Element In Huckleberry Finn Essay, Research Paper
The Satire of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain proves himself a literary genius with the novel, Huckleberry Finn. At first glance, the novel appears quite innocently filled with wild adventures centered on the two main characters, Huckleberry Finn, an unruly young boy, and Jim, a black runaway slave. A closer examination of this novel reveals that many of the comments have deeper meaning filled with satire, concerning mostly the views of society at that present time. Twain s notice to “persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted,” clearly defines the sardonic tone of the novel he wishes to create. Throughout the novel, Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain satirizes white society s stereotypes, attraction towards crass humor and their hypocrisy.
There are many statements on the stereotypes that most white people had of black people during that time period. Twain attempts to discreetly ridicule society with his many satirical comments. Huckleberry Finn s upbringing teaches him that black people are essentially different from white people. He expresses this through one of his many comical statements, “when we was ready to shove off we was a quarter of a mile below the island, and it was pretty broad day; so I made Jim lay down in the canoe and cover up with a quilt, because if he set up people could tell he was a nigger a good ways off.” (Pg. 66) Huckleberry Finn assumes that people can distinguish a black person from a distance, implying a vast difference in races; however, as the book progresses, his prejudices dissolve as he befriends the runaway slave, Jim. In the second example, Huckleberry is speaking of Jim in the quotation, “he judged it was all up with him anyway it could be fixed; for if he didn t get saved he would get drowned; and if he did get saved, whoever saved him would send him back home so as to get the reward, and then Miss Watson would sell him South, sure. Well, he was right; he was most always right; he had an uncommon head level head
for a nigger.” (Pg. 81) Huckleberry assumes that blacks are not as intelligent at whites. Twain depicts a common stereotype of that time. Using Jim, Twain discreetly portrays the fact that blacks are intelligent as whites. The final example of Twain s satire occurs when he writes of the speculation of Huckleberry s supposed death. “Some think old Finn done it himself,” Twain then goes on to state, “most everybody thought it at first. He ll never know how nigh he come to getting lynched. But before night they changed around and judged it was done by a runaway nigger named Jim.” (Pg. 74) This comment is filled with satire because the townspeople recognize Huckleberry s father, Pap, as the town drunk and Jim as the runaway slave. Pap s motive for murdering Huckleberry would be for his inheritance; Jim would not have a motive as Huckleberry and he were amicable with one another. Twain depicts that white people of that time would rather condemn an innocent black person for a crime, than blame one of their own kind. These are just a few of the many satirical comments that Twain writes concerning the stereotypes and prejudices of the white society.
Throughout the novel, Huckleberry Finn, Twain is also rather satirical towards society s attraction to crass and vulgar humor. After the duke s failure with the Shakespearean Revival, he claims, “these Arkansaw lunkheads couldn t come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was low comedy-maybe something rather worse than low comedy,” and then goes on to make bills saying, “LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED!” (Pg. 192) The locals shun Shakespeare and prefer vulgar humor as the other play is a huge success the opening night, judging from the packed audience. The duke recognizes this fact and profits from these crude people. Twain is satirizing the idiocy and crude mannerisms of society in general.
Not only does Twain satirize the idiocy of society, he also uses Huckleberry Finn to ridicule the hypocrisy of people. In chapter thirty-one, the frauds, being the king and duke, are attempting different cons in order to raise some easy money. “First they done a lecture on
temperance; but they didn t make enough money for them both to get drunk on.” (Pg. 267) One would believe that Twain is ridiculing the fact that people will speak and preach good morals and abstinence and then do the opposite, committing hypocrisy. The other example occurs when the king says, “But answer me only jest this one more-now don t get mad; didn t you have it in your mind to hook the money and hide it?” The duke answers, “Well, I don t care if I did, I didn t do it, anyway. But you not only had it in mind to do it, but you done it.” (Pg. 264) Although the duke seems to feel guilty about the temptation that befell him on doing the crime, the king was the one who actually committed the crime. Mark Twain is now satirizing society s nature of pushing the fault on others instead of accepting the blame. One is hypocritical to push the blame and accuse others, especially when the fault lies with them. Mark Twain ridicules the hypocrisy among people in this book along with satirizing society.
Mark Twain uses much satire in the novel, Huckleberry Finn, especially centered upon the society that was present at that time and their stereotypes, attraction to crass humor and their hypocrisy. He ridicules society for what Twain thinks is their ignorance. One would wonder why Americans hail Mark Twain as their author as he scoffs at the American society in this particular novel.
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