The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a classic American novel. In the novel, Twain develops the plot into Huck and Jim's adventures allowing them to weave in his criticism of society. The two main characters, Huck and Jim, both run from social injustice and both are distrustful of the civilization around them. Huck is considered an uneducated boy. He is constantly under pressure to adjust to the "humanized" surroundings of society. Jim is a slave. Jim is not even considered as a real person, but as property. As they run from civilization and are on the river, they ponder the social injustices forced upon them when they are on land. Twain uses the adventures of Huck and Jim to expose the hypocrisy, racism, and injustices of society. Society can have a huge impact on an individual's moral growth.
First it is necessary to discuss the hypocrisy of society.
Throughout the book, hypocrisy of society is brought out by Huck's dealings with other people. Miss Watson is displayed as a hypocrite by Huck because she constantly corrects Huck for his unacceptable behavior, but Huck doesn't understand why. "Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn't. And she took snuff too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself " (Twain 2). Huck did not understand why she does not want him to smoke, "That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it" (2). The comments made by Huck clearly show Miss Watson as a hypocrite because she scolds Huck for wanting to smoke and then she takes a snuff. In addition, when Huck encounters the Grangerfords and Shepardsons, Huck describes Colonel Grangerford as, "A gentleman, you see. He was a gentleman all over; and so was his family. He was well born, as the saying is, and that's worth as much in a man as it is in a horse" (104). Later, Huck becomes aware of the hypocrisy of the family and its feud with the Shepardsons when he attends church. He is amazed that while the minister preaches about brotherly love, both the Grangerfords and Shepardsons are carrying weapons. Finally when the feud erupts into a gunfight, Huck sits in a tree, disgusted by the waste and cruelty of the feud, "It made me so sick I most fell out of the tree. I wished I hadn't ever come ashore that night to see such things" (115). Next, it is important to look at racism in society.
The most intense conflicts in the novel are those concerning Jim and racial tensions. In Huck's society, black people are considered to be a lesser race and are born slaves. However, Huck has almost no racial prejudices toward Jim and considers him to be much better than most white people. Huck and Jim's journey begins as Huck decides whether to turn Jim over to the authorities. He battles with his "conscience over whether or not to turn Jim in as a runaway slave" (92). Without question, Huck accepts what he has been taught by society about slavery. He knows that helping a runaway slave is morally and legally wrong in society. Eventually Huck decides not to turn Jim in. Huck is willing to go to extremes to save Jim from slavery. He takes part in Tom's extravagant plan to free Jim because Huck really believes that Jim deserves to be free. Huck feels that Jim is a human being who has feelings and hopes for a better future. Huck is even willing to "go to Hell" rather than give up his black friend Jim (95). This demonstrates what Huck feels in his heart about Jim. He is willing to sacrifice everything in order to save a black slave, which is completely opposite to society of the time. Finally, it is essential to look at injustice of society in this novel.
Huck and Jim's adventures give a chance to examine the society they live in. It also gives a chance to examine society today. The story is over a hundred years old, but many of the social vices then, still, pertain to society now. There are more examples of human failings in this novel; the trickery and cheating of the King and Duke, the lack of caring by the townspeople for Boggs, the innocence of the Wilks sisters and the lack of common sense in Tom Sawyer. There is cruelty, greed, murder, trickery, hypocrisy, racism, and a general lack of morality, which are all the ingredients of society. Freedom is the one thing that both Huck and Jim are searching for in which they only find in the river. However, a person can only stay on the river for so long, and so one has to eventually go on land to face the injustices of society.
Hence, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic novel. Society can have a huge impact on an individual's moral growth. Huck's conscience is put to the test during different experiences with other characters, and Huck finds his conscience to be immoral and based on ignorance. Twain shows that sometimes one must break away from society and what the world views as correct and just. An example is when Huck decides to save the slave Jim instead of turning him in which is morally wrong in society. Twain shows that one has the strength inside to stand out on one's own and make decisions for oneself. Twain, through Huck, gives one the chance to see all the things in the world as they really are. Not so that one judges the world but so one can stand up for what is right.