Is Huckleberry Finn Civilized?

Essay by mnkymn267 April 2007

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Is Huckleberry Finn a civilized human being? Can someone who is raised with no proper education and is raised with little etiquette be a civilized person? What exactly are the key attributes of a civilized person? These are just some of the essential questions that would need to be answered to find out if Huck, the major character from Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn, is a civilized being. Therefore, these questions will be answered to prove that Huckleberry Finn is a civilized being.

To prove someone is a civilized person, one must first define what a civilized person is. This is a hard question to answer because, as the times change and society’s moral standards change, the definition of a civilized person changes along with them. There are three key attributes that a civilized person should have. Today in society, people see religion and the belief in God as one of the main characteristics of civilized people.

People seem to find God as a refuge and as an aid in their life to find happiness and joy. Another key factor of a civilized person is that they have high moral standards. It has been observed that people’s morals seem to develop from real-life situations. Morality is a system of principles and judgments based on cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which humans determine whether given actions are right or wrong. The final quality that should be observed in a civilized person is their intellectual standpoint. People who are civilized usually demonstrate evidence of intellectual advancement and have the ability to rationalize and perceive ideas. These three characteristics are the foundation for and describe a civilized person.

To finally prove that Huckleberry Finn is a civilized person, one must link the examples of Huck’s actions to the key factors of being a civilized person. As it was previously described, religion and God is a refuge for people in general. Huck somewhat had the same feelings. He shows this when he describes Heaven as a place where "...all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever" (Mark Twain 30). Also, we see that Mark Twain many times used phrases with a biblical sense An example of this is when Huck is describing his father after coming home from laying drunk in a gutter the entire night before. He says that "A body would have thought he was Adam, he was all mud." (Mark Twain 44) Through these constant uses of expressions with religious vibes in them, it is obvious that Huck had either adapted them for himself because it is the vernacular to speak like that or it could show that he finds truth in religion but not the myths and society who follows them. Next, Huck expresses his morals in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when Huck is kidnapped by his father. Huck quickly notices that Pap was not the kind of person to be raised by. Huck states that Pap “chased me round and round the place with a clap-knife, calling me the Angel of Death, and saying he would kill me, and then I couldn’t come for him no more.” (Mark Twain 29) Huck decided just by noticing Pap’s qualities that it would be best for Pap’s influence not to be present. This is one of the greater examples of Huck’s morals being developed because Huck translates for himself what is right and what is wrong and that Pap is not the father figure he needs as a young adult. Finally, Huck illustrates his intellect and intelligence when he and Jim meet a group of slave-hunters, the Duke and the Dauphin (Mark Twain Chapter 19). He discovers that telling a lie is sometimes the right course of action. But, rather than just follow the rules, Huck begins to create his own rules as he continues to perceive what is right and what is wrong. Because Huck is able to obtain the three qualities of a civilized person earlier described, he is a civilized being.

Through the example found in Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn, it is now obvious that Huck was a civilized individual. Huck’s life experiences prove that anyone is capable of becoming a thinking, feeling, and civilized human being regardless of the struggles they have encountered in life and the background they are from.