Reversed Right and Wrong of the World in the Eyes of a Child: on Reading Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn

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People generally accept that it is easy to tell what is right or wrong, yet what is difficult is to follow what is right. This seems to be reasonable, but can we always tell what is right or wrong definitely, or does what we call right is undeniably right, wrong is completely wrong? The answer is apparently negative. Yet what is definite is that we are so incessantly crammed by the common senses and the stipulated orders of society that we can hardly breathe some free air into our deep heart to ponder over them. As a result, what is the real world like, what is right and wrong in it are not easy to answer by us in a plain and vivid way. The picture of these are blurred and misty before us until we see a realistic panorama of the world in the naive eyes of a child-Huckleberry Finn.

Although the right and wrong in it were always ironically inverted and commonly accepted by most people at that time, through the narrative and experience of Huck we can distinguish clearly whether they are valid or not. Therefore this paper will discuss these inverted right and wrong and detect the underlying prejudice from the following aspects: education, religion, moral rules, slavery and racial discrimination.

I. EducationHuck was thought to be bad educated and illiterate by people such as Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson. As a result, they tried to educate him in the way as of class education to let Huck memorize those stiff knowledge and rules. However, this kind of education is not proper to Huck because it is lack of motivation and initiation and contrarily Huck is a teenager full of imagination and a talent of natural skills who pursuits practicability. Though the widow, Miss Watson and many other people thought education was a perfect way to help Huck to be a gentle man, it actually cut the imaginative wings and lively nature of the teenager and jailed him in a narrow space of knowledge lack of vitality and creation.

Moreover, though most people thought Huck was illiterate, actually he is extraordinary talented. His talent is from his nature, his experience in life and the wild nature which is the best teacher of human being. For example, he could handle a raft or a canoe freely in the wide river, live a easy and rich life with Jim, be sensitive to the change of nature and tell the secrets of it, and know how to make a true to life murder scene to fool his Dad and so on. His is a boy with practice skills and talent which he learns or gets with clear purposes. These skills help him to explore and research the world to survive and get the first-hand knowledge which he can use his knowledge process skill to make more.

Just as K. Marx and F. Engel's view of education, that is, education is to accelerate "free development of individual's initiation", Huck was well educated by his intuition and practice though it was conflict with the traditionally accepted ideas of class environment education. From the discussion, we can discern clearly that the right and wrong way of education is inverted in the world: what is right is being snuffed and what is wrong is persisted.

II.ReligionPeople in the novel all regarded religion as a holy and pure matter and they all went to church every Sunday, read religious books, appreciated the sermons and learned what was love and kindness. In their eyes, Huck was an infidel who did not know how to appreciate and love since he didn't like to go church and learn the holy stories.

However, Huck's dislike of religion and church is not unreasonable. Religion as a spiritual pursuit always shows believing and respect towards supernatural powers and mythology figures, which clashes with Huck's realistic and practical thought. For example, he thought it was useless and meaningless for the widow to "tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there wasn't really anything the matter with them", which is the ironical description of the widow's pray before dinner. And when the widow told him the stories of Moses and the Bulrushers who he at last knew they "had been dead a considerable long time", he felt bored because he didn't care what was unreal or had disappeared.

Besides, the most important reason for Huck's disgust of religion is its hypocrisy, its inconsistency of speech and action. For example, when Miss Watson felt bored she would fetch the niggers and teach them to pray before going to sleep, but is this kinder to the niggers than separating their families and enslaving them from freedom, is this the true kindness of the spirit of God? Furthermore, when living in the manor of the Grangerfords, Huck overheard and saw the blood fight between the two families that had been last for hundred years though cynically the reason for the fight had been forgotten for a long time and no one had the clear idea what they actually fought for. However, both families went to church every Sunday and what is more ridiculous is that they came with guns before the Holy Spirit. And after the sermon which was "all about brotherly love", "everybody said it was a good sermon, and they all talked it over going home, and had such a powerful lot to say about faith and good works and free grace and preforeor destination." From these we can get that their pray, their respect of God and their response towards the sermon are all pretense because their eloquent speech are weak before their practice. However, as a infidel in other people's eyes, Huck is always ready to help others with a merciful heart of God such as his help to Jim and to the three innocent sisters who were nearly evilly cheated by the "King" and "Duke". And he even felt pity from deep heart for a mad man in a circus and for the counterfeit "King" and "Duke" when they were badly punished by the public.

Reflected from the eyes of Huck, we can see religion has only become a form for people's respect and admiration rather than a calling for spiritualization and real action. Huck who is thought as an imp lack respect towards religion and its belief is actually one of the best performers of the marrow of brother love.

III.Moral RulesMoral rules are very specific; they are action guidings telling people to behave well and properly in a specific situation, such as be honest, be justice, be selfishness or self-discipline and so on.

In the novel of Huckberry Finn people tended to believe that person from decent and noble families, or those receiving well education would bear good moral qualities, and consequently people like Huck or Jim from a poor family or badly educated would be low in morality. For example, they thought Huck's poor education led him to be a lie-talker and one doing things with pleasure. However, Huck did not lie on purpose and he only told lies for good intention or at least do no harm. For example , when Huck and Jim are on the river and have to ask where is Caro, Huck told lies about his name and background only for covering Jim to be safe. This kind of lies can be found in many chapters. However, when the counterfeit "King" and "Duke" tried to cheat the three girls for money, Huck could not help to expose the lie and tell the truth to the elder sister because of his conscience and high morality guiding him to do what was right. Besides, Huck's morality reached its top when he decided to help Jim to completely break away from slavery. He applieshis kind heart and wisdom to perform far better than people with high education. As for Jim, his moral principles are no lower than the noble white men such as people from the two big families who fight for unclear reasons. He is honest, kindhearted and faithful to his friends. When Tom got shot, he stayed to take care of him though it might destroyed his dream to be a free man, but he gave up his precious freedom for his friend who was only a child.

It is widely accepted that people's moral rules are decided by their education, religious belief, and family background and so on, but from Huck and people like him in the novel we get that they are not decided but just affected by these factors. That is because in most situations it is only the development of heart rather than knowledge and belief can real tell where the moral level of a person is.

IV.Slavery and Racial DiscriminationThe background of the novel is set in America when slavery pervasively existed and black people were treated inhumanly and almost deprived of all human rights. Just as what is described in the novel when Huck made a story to tell Aunt Selly about the ship accident in which a slave died, there is a short dialogue between them:"Good gracious! Anybody hurt?""No'm. Killed a nigger.""Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt…."From these lines we can clearly find out white people takes it for granted to take the black as some objects or animals rather than human beings as themselves. This is just because they are black. The white men think they are prior to the black in skin color, then they prior to them in everything.

From the example above it is also obvious our little hero was not against slavery at the beginning, but when Jim was sold to a farm Huck experienced a long and violent mental struggle to decided whether he should help Jim to run away from the chains of slavery. Therefore, we can get that Huck's first consciousness about slavery is just the result of the long impact of social circumstance and common prejudice against the black. After he realized how kind and unselfish Jim was and even better than a white man, especially when Jim talked about his family and his regret and love for his daughter Huck was greatly impressed and gradually changed his mind to slavery and determined to help Jim to break away from this disgusting and cruel system. It is Huck's rightfulness and compassion help him to make the right decision, as Mark Twain said, "the sound soul defended the contorted one."Nowadays when reading this novel, we take it for granted that slavery is cruel and inhuman and should be abolished. However, under the background of the novel, the social attitude about its property is reversed. Moreover, considering our hero who is only a little child, we will be shocked of what a great step the little boy has stepped and what a long and difficult time before the other people began to take this step.

From these analyses above, we cannot help to say children's eyes always reflect what the real world is, because they haven't mastered the skill to cover or decorate it. What they see is direct and pure though the facts may be reversed and puzzle them for a while. However, as William Wordsworth said, "the child is father of the man.", child's innocent, intuition and rightfulness will tell him what is right or wrong because he is less bound by traditional concept and accepted prejudice. They are more fearless to break away them to set up the justice and sound ones.

In the novel of Huckleberry Finn, we find such a typical child and in his adventures along the Mississippi river we see a ridiculous world where right and wrong were reversed by those so-called noble and decent people. However, this child uses his natural intuition and seemingly weak shoulders to fight against these silently in a naive and fearless way. And it is no doubt these silent and naive action will arouse more response from the adult world soon or later just as what we can experience by reading the great book now.

BibliographyInge,M.Thomas,ed. Huck Finn among the Critics: A Centennial Selection,1884-1984.[C].Washington, DC: United States Information Agency,1984.

Mark.Twin.2006. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

Sewell,David R.Mark Twain's Language.[C].Berkley and Los Angeles:University ofCalifornia Press,1987.