Marcus O'Mard 3/11/97
A Satirical View of the Old South
Elaborate uses of race, unprecedented statements about the role of religion and an overall mockery of the society of the old south serve as a method of conveying Mark Twain's opinion of society. In his dandy riverboat adventure The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain attacks the traditions of slavery, racism, and the accepted traditions of the old south. He helped expose the hypocrisies of the southern society through this novel.
Twain stands firmly by his principles. He is a firm believer that slavery is sinister. It was a wretched institution that was necessary to be eliminated. He said slavery was bad mainly because it was hypocritical. We see this hypocrisy throughout the book when Huck is able to interact with Jim and also learn from him while the southern slave society treats Jim as nothing more than an object. We see the southern perception of black people in chapter thirty-two when Huck tells to Aunt Sally his story about the blown cylinder head. When she asks him if anyone was hurt he said "no'm. Killed a nigger." When she shows no emotion in her reaction it shows us how many southern whites looked at blacks. We also see at many times during the novel that Huck and Jim have a true friendship. The go out of their way at many times for the welfare of eachother and they develop a relationship to which they both contribute. Huck teaches Jim about diversity, priests and rulers in chapter fourteen when he reads to him about Solomon and Frenchmen. Jim also teaches Huck an important lesson on how people should be treated individually.
Another example Twain uses to show the hypocrisies of society is racism. Twain is not attacking the whole issue of race as much as the role race plays in society. Twain uses race to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the rich and "well refined." He starts demonstrating these falsities of a society of snobby landowners by showing the vulgarity of their language (that is their overuse of the word "nigger") . Twain also ridicules racists through Jim and through whites embarrassing themselves. Jim as a black man is supposed to be an unfeeling slave, yet he exhibits many emotions typically restricted to whites at the time. One emotion we see is in Jim is forgiveness. Jim forgives Huck for playing the practical Joke with the snake in chapter ten. We also see that Jim is at an emotional loss because he misses his wife and children. We also see whites act superior to blacks while they embarrass themselves. We see this in chapter six when Pap was ranting about the free black man from Ohio. Pap takes offense to society letting this man vote when he says "and that (him being free and a teacher) aint the wust. They said he could vote when he was at home." In this quotation, Pap believes himself to be superior to a highly educated man but in reality makes himself look like a fool for doing so.
Mark Twain's next major statement about the hypocrisies of society comes through religion. Twain felt that the religious beliefs of the southern society were hypocritical. He shows this through three major parts examples during the novel. The first comes when Jim is a slave with Miss Watson. She says that it is because of her religion she treats blacks as objects but the bible says that she should treat all people equally. Twain also includes the scene from the church. The Shepardson and Grangerford families gather to hear a "good sermon about brotherly love (chapter eighteen)," and both families have guns and then kill eachother. Finally and most importantly, Twain has his main character Huck Finn openly reject religion. When Huck says "All right, then, I'll go to hell. (Chapter thirty-one)" he is chooses to save his best friend Jim, rather that having eternal salvation. That action shows Twain's view of the importance of religion in the old southern societies.
Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain ridicules society. In the Duke and the Dauphin's rendition of Romeo and Juliet, they receive no audience until the Duke places "women and children are not admitted" on their advertisements. Once they place that sign on their ad the interest of the people begins to grow. This shows how fickle and hypocritical society is. Also Twain writes about the reform system. The Judge believing that he had reformed Pap, gives him a coat and releases him to the public. Almost immediately, Pap sells the coat for Alcohol. In the novel Twain comments on society and how fake it is. He refers to specific component of the southern society and makes allegorical statements protesting the role of racism, slavery, and religion in the phony society in which Huck lived.