Satirizations Of American Institutions In Huckleberry Fin

1662 words - 7 pages

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a seemingly innocent children's novel, is actually a powerful satire on American institutions that was meant for adults as much as for children. It tells the story of a young, derelict boy who travels down the Mississippi River with a runaway slave, Jim. Throughout the novel, he is forced to make many important decisions that conflict with the current American beliefs and morals. Mark Twain, a literary genius, had strong opinions on many American institutions and cultural aspects. Twain, in choosing to tell The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from Huck's point of view, was able to satirize many institutions of the time.Mark Twain was disgusted by American ...view middle of the document...

The Characterization of Tom Sawyer was a satire of the social class opposite of Jim. Tom, instead of creating his own beliefs and stories, relied solely on books and his education to form his morals and ideas. Although Tom's beliefs are just as outlandish as Jim's, Tom is given a greater credibility to the reader because of his formal education. Tom consistently uses the line "because that how it is in the books" as his explanation for his extravagant and unrealistic actions and adventures. Gladys Carmen Bellamy, in the essay, "A Satire on American Institutions," states that "Tom is on the highest level, in the sense of being most civilized; but he represents a mawkish, romantic, artificial civilization." (Bellamy 97). Bellamy then states that "Huck Finn stands between these two; he is the "natural man," suggesting Walt Whitman's dream of the great American who should be simple and free." This shows that Huck is a healthy medium between the two extremes of Tom and Jim. He was never slow to question Jim and Tom's unrealistic beliefs, but often follows along with them, for the lack of a better idea. Mark Twain shows that Huck's level of thinking, and common sense is above both Jim and Tom despite Jim's wisdom and Tom's education. As shown in the novel, education and classes of society are closely related. Even though Tom is the most well educated of the three, he is not necessarily the most intelligent. Often times, Huck's ideas are more rational and efficient at getting a job done.Another one of Mark Twain's deep beliefs was the hypocrisy of religion. He used aspects of Huck's adventures to satirize the aspects of religion, and how often times, the members of a religion go directly against its morals. The most obvious example of this is when Huck rides to church with the Grangerfords. Huck is at first greatly impressed at the Grangerfords' well-to-do status and at their refined manner. He later learns of the Grangerfords' darker side, when witnesses about the feud between them and the Shepherdsons. He is particularly taken aback when he notices that each of the men carries a gun to church along with them, in case they run into a Shepherdson on the way. To further satirize the issue, Mark Twain then writes that the sermon of the day was on brotherly love, and on acceptance of others.At one point in the book, Huck rescues two men, who claim to be a Duke and Dauphin, but are really nothing more than con-artists. The next day, the group goes ashore into town, but finds out that everyone has left to go to a religious revival meeting. Sensing opportunity, they go to the meeting. While they are there, the Dauphin makes up a story that he is a reformed pirate who is seeking money to go on a journey as a missionary to help reform other pirates. The crowd is easily swayed and eagerly gives him money. This event shows how many people took advantage of religion to gain benefits that are not actually related to religious morals, as well as how easily...

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