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How Satire is Portrayed in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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Satire in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn addresses many of the issues in the Southern United States around the 1850’s. The novel follows the adventures of Huck Finn and his journey through the South attempting to free a slave named Jim. They encounter many mishaps and witness many of the backwards ideologies of the South on their journey. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain uses satire of racism, religion, and Southern society to show how flawed and backwards the South is.

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn racism is one of the most prominent criticisms by Twain. One way he uses satire to address this topic is by using the word nigger excessively to mock how often it was used in the South. This is especially true after Jim practically saves Tom’s life “Even though Jim has done the right thing… it does not do much to change his social status. The other characters still refer to him as “nigger,” unable–or unwilling–to read his selfless act in terms of his humanity (Smith).” This quote explains how backwards the South is, because no matter what Jim does he will always be considered a nigger by other people and they’ll assume he’s inferior to them. Another example of Twain’s satire of racism is when Huck and Tom try to rescue Jim from the Phelps’s farm. Huck wanted to rescue Jim as quickly as possible but Tom didn’t agree. When Huck proposed a plan to save Jim, Tom said “Work? Why cert’nly, it would work…but its blame too simple (Twain 247).” This shows that Tom wanted to make a game out of saving Jim. This means Tom thought of Jim’s life as a game just because he was a slave.

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Twain makes satire of the Southern people’s devotion to faith because they are so immoral. The humor of it all is that people always make sure to pray and be thankful to God while they’re forcing slaves to work for them day in and day out. Even Ms. Watson, the strongly religious widow is up to evil when Jim said “I hear ole missus tell de wider she gwyne sell me down to Orleans, but she did’ want to, but she could git eight hund’d dollars for me, en it ‘us sich a big stack o’ money she couldn’t’ resis’ (Twain 55).” Ms. Watson said she wouldn’t sell Jim down to New Orleans, but because she could get a lot of money for him she agreed. Another example of satire of religion is Huck’s conception of religion. The Widow tries to teach him about God and how to pray and Huck sees no point in doing it. “Concern for others grows out of Huck’s own capacity for empathy rather than any formal religious training (Nelson).” This quote states that religion has nothing to do with Huck being a good person most of the time. This makes sense because Huck did the right thing most of the time and all the while not caring about praying. This may be Mark Twain’s view on religion as well. That there is no need for religion and that people should just be as good as they can be which is what Huck does throughout the book.

During Huck and Jim’s journey through the South Twain makes plain how stupid and backwards Southern society is. Pap, Huck’s dad, is a satire of the average southerner during that time period. Pap is one of the most racist, inconsiderate, and ridiculous characters in the book. “Pap beats Huck and keeps him locked up, much as Jim is beaten and imprisoned… Pap condemns Huck for being well dressed and educated in much the same way that he later condemns an educated and well-dressed free nigger (Evans).” This quote shows the hypocritical and ignorant ideologies of Pap who is most likely a representation of the average Southerner in Twain’s opinion. Also, the Grangerford and Sherpherdson feud is an example of using satire to prove how foolish people can be. The Feud between the two families was absolutely ridiculous. When Tom asked how it started Buck said “I don’t know… pa knows, I reckon, and some of the other old folks; but they don’t know now (Twain 120).” Twain definitely wanted to show how irrational people could be. Not only were they killing each other as often as possible, but they didn’t even know why they were doing it.

Mark Twain used Satire to point out the flaws in Southern society as a whole. Mostly, he made fun of how ridiculous the South was in terms of racism, religion, and society. It is evident that Mark Twain does not agree with the majority of the South’s beliefs and he has good reason for doing so. Some of the South’s stupidity was caused by plain ignorance, however, much of it was caused by being conceited and full of hate. Pap, for example, was very ignorant, but he also hated a “free nigger” because Pap considered himself better than that man because of the color of his skin just like many other people in the South. Overall, Mark Twain pointed out the many flaws of the South by using satire to show how backwards and wrong the South really is.


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