The story of Huckleberry Finn is one of a young man that struggles with life and its decisions. The struggles with his conscience caused Huck to rethink many of his ideas and actions. Many times by his love of his friendship with Jim, Huck would admit what he did to Jim and apologize for the actions. Without Jim as a friend, Huck would not have realized that Jim is the same as everyone else even if he was a slave. Jim is one of the main causes of Huck’s inner self battle over society, friendships, and personal morality. In the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the main character, Huck struggles with his conscience in three ways: social (society) conventions, Jim, and Huck with himself over his own mortality.
Huck battles with social conventions in two ways. The first way is intellectually, and the second way is moral. By focusing on Huck’s education Huck becomes an outcast and distrusts the morals and precepts of the society that labels him a pariah and fails to protect him from abuse, despite Miss Watsons’ and the Widow Douglas’ attempts to educate and civilize Huck. He learns to distrust the morals of society through Miss Watson’s teaching of prayer and God. With his lack of education, Huck, unlike most children his age does not understand Miss Watson when she says that he is a fool for praying for three fish hooks (12). Because of this Huck realizes that humans are harmful and can do or cause cruel consequences to each other. “Human beings can be awful cruel to one another. ( 222)” This apprehension about society, and his growing relationship with Jim, lead Huck to question many of the teachings that he received on race. Verbal abuse was as common to Huck and the sun rising in the east. Even though he was allowed into town and lived with the widow’s home; Huck felt as though he was an outsider, someone who had moved into the town only to be shunned because of his lineage. Time and time again Huck chooses to “Go to Hell(268)” rather than go along with what he’s been taught. This is ironic because his views are actually ahead of his time.
His ideas on racism, slavery, and what should be taught are actually foreshadowing of the causes and effects of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movements. He bases these decisions on his experiences, his own sense of logic, and what his developing conscience tells him. He does this because he can not trust society, and society can not trust him. Because of this lack of trust in both parties Huck, like a normal teenager, chooses to refuse to believe anything that society teaches, especially on views of slavery and race. On the raft, away from civilization, he comes to his own conclusions, unaffected by the accepted, and often hypocritical, precepts of Southern culture. He learns to treat Jim as a person, not as a thing. It was unacceptable in this time because black people were considered lower class, or inferior to whites, and Huck now treated him as a friend and more importantly as a human. When Huck realizes that “Jim is white inside(264)” it shows that maturity and adult attitudes are started to develop in Huck without him even realizing it. Huck is slowly growing and maturing throughout the story, and by him saying that about Jim he is slowly showing his change into adulthood.
Huck has many differing opinions of the characters in the story than civilization. Jim was one of Miss Watson’s household slaves. Huck at first sees Jim the same as a society, and even plays pranks on him. Jim seems to be superstitious and is true. One of the pranks that Huck pulls on Jim involves tied hair. Another prank that was played on Jim was not done by Huck, but by Tom. Tom took his hat and hung it on a tree over Jim’s head while he slept. When Jim awoke he found his hat suspended from the tree he thought that the spirits had come and done this to him. Huck did not want to do this prank and felt bad for Jim. This once again peeks at the fact of an increased maturity growing in Huck. The worst prank was revealed on Jackson Island. Huck told Jim that he had dreamt of Huck’s death and that it was all because he (Jim) had been drinking. This revelation caused Huck to realize that what he had done to Jim by saying what he had seen was just a dream, was wrong and needed to tell Jim so that he, Huck did not feel guilty. (84) Huck saw Jim for the first time as a human that night. He learned that everyone has feelings and that no matter your skin colour everyone’s feelings can be hurt.
After that Huck did not play any more pranks on Jim. He came to really like having Jim as a friend, and to appreciate his company.
The final battle that Huck had with his conscience was one of his own self morality. Since Huck is a child in this story, the world seems new and adventurous everywhere he looks. This meant that everything he saw for the first time made him ponder whether it was right or not. With these new ideas and views, Huck was caused to create his own morals and rules. He learned from the Shepard’s and the Phelp’s that there is more to life than fighting over petty differences. He also learned how naïve the world can be sometimes. Family’s killing each other because of a fight generations ago is not worth the pain and heartache that comes with the fighting over something that many people will not even remember but continue to fight over. Huck learns that there is more to life than what most people think. He learns that life is more precious if it is lived to its fullest and that you are happy while you’re living it.
The battling of Huck and his conscience caused Huck to be continually at war with himself. He learned to create a world where he was excepted for his thoughts and views. This was his safety zone. A place where no one could harm him because of his lack of knowledge of the real world. It was a world where he rejected what others viewed to be correct. He grew up because of his thoughts and beliefs. He left his childish ways behind without even knowing it. He learned on his own that what civilization viewed of him and Jim was incorrect, and to only follow what he believed to be correct. This is the only way he found peace with himself.
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