Edwin Huck makes in the story ponder

March 31, 2019 Teaching

Edwin Valencia
Civility in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Within the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain creates a series of events that are exhilarating yet dangerous at the same time. Huck Finn is often faced with making decisions that no children usually make, causing the reader to wonder whether the novel has something to say regarding the child’s thoughts and attitudes. Much of the decisions evidently show a form of satire, in which Mark Twain is altering or exaggerating aspects of the time period, or of before, and trying to express something to his readers. Moreover, various decisions that Huck makes in the story ponder on morality as he reflects on things he’s been taught by both his father, a drunkard and Miss Watson, a conventional person of society. On the other hand, Huck holds his own judgment based on his interactions with other people, often in contrast to societal beliefs at the time. Through Huck’s mental conflict as a child that’s been taught conventional morality as well as holding his own beliefs through his interactions with others, Twain satirizes the morality of the American people after the abolishment of slavery as well as the irony of civility when in conflict.
Twain satirizes traditional ideas of civility when he discusses Huck’s teaching by the widow and Miss Watson as adults imposing a standard of convention that reveals hypocritical rules, that most adults or children don’t follow. Specifically, this is when the widow and Miss Watson, attempt to teach Huck civility in the absence of his father, however acting on the many things they teach him. They tell him things like “try to not” to smoke and “don’t scrunch up like that” which is then contested by “Don’t gap and stretch like that…” (Twain 2). These examples of civility are attempts to get Huck to fit their conventional and proper society, in which there is always in an exact way to act. But the widow does the same thing that she tells Huck to do, with Huck commenting “she took snuff too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself”(Twain 2). The things they try to teach Huck are to make him more civil, but often fail to account that not everything they teach will be followed, as adults have a way of doing what they want. When the widow tells Huck not to smoke, and then smoke smokes herself it reveals Twain’s intention in showing societal conventions as a mere imposition on children. Here Twain is satirizing civility by demonstrating it as a construct that adults often put up to portray a much higher and proper status of themselves.
When the Grangerford-Shepherdson conflict portrayed, Mark Twain contrasts the Grangerford’s aristocratic lifestyle with their feud against the other family, which has led them to adopt a violent and tribal nature. Huck first describes them as “a mighty nice family” with a “mighty nice house, too”(Twain 75). He describes the typical furniture of an aristocratic family with a grandfather clock, oil paintings, books, and portrays the family in a positive view, as helping him and even giving him clothes which they have plenty of (Twain 76). Huck stays with the family for a while, learning about the feud and remarking on the hostility of it. When they go to church on that Sunday he remarks that the sermon was “all about brotherly love, and such-like tiresomeness”(Twain 83). But what he clearly states is that “The men took their guns along…and kept them between their knees…The Shephersons done the same”(Twain 83) The juxtaposition of these two events is meant to clearly form a satire on the civility of families by demonstrating the hostility that they show to each other. Civility is often perceived as accompanying the aristocracy and Mark Twain satirizes that by showing that the feuds that powerful families hold against each other may represent a contradiction to their beliefs. To be civil means knowing when to express your hostilities, and by revealing it in church it goes against the Christian values of loving one another, turning their civility into a façade. Tying in with the ideas of convention and being proper, Twain expresses that no matter how proper a person or people seem, they can be involved in violent and hypocritical conflict. The families are hostile to one another, yet represent a supposed civility of the upper class—which Twain represents as the hypocritical power struggle that most powerful families have when trying to be the best of their class.


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