Summary: Hypocrisy in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

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 The hypocrisy of late 1800’s American society is shown in numerous ways, chapter after chapter in Mark Twain’s novel, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. Just like Huck, Twain himself saw the flaws and ignorance in human beings. Finn lived in a “civilized” society based on rules and traditions, many of which are both sadistic and absurd. Huck was brought up without any rules, and that’s why he has strong opposition to anything that might “sivilize” him. His friend Tom , who lives in a 100% civilized world is always looking for adventures and ways to escape from the irrational conduct of civilization. Mark also demonstrates how unwanted a civilized society really is. Huck and Jim both desire freedom, which greatly contrasts the existing civilization along the Mississippi river. They both turn to nature to flee from the unprincipled ways of civilization. Huck wants to escape from both the proper, cultured manner of Widow Douglas and Ms. Watson and the brutality of his father. Jim, some day hopes to getaway from slavery and start a new life as a free man, hopefully with his own family one day.

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As Huck adventures down the Mississippi river he is overwhelmed by the hypocrisy that he finds is embedded in pre-civil war America. He comes to a point where he finds the adults in his life to be untrustworthy and the only person he can trust is his own personal freedom. The generalization of hypocrisy in society is further pushed by the fact that civilization, at its core, through its institutions and rules, strives to eliminate disorder and cruelty in life. Slavery is very hypocritical with Christianity. Slave owners would make slaves believe that God loves

all people, which is contrary to the belief that slaves are inferior. It’s just the saying, “Rules are meant to be broken”. Though when someone breaks the rules, the punishments may differ. Some may just get a warning and others might be killed so it varies

Twain’s true narrative skill is not in enumerating the injustices that Jim has suffered nor dwelling upon them. In fact, Twain doesn’t really do that, he assumes that the reader already knows about the abuses of slavery because in the year when the novel was written, slavery had been abolished. Rather, Twain’s narrative mastery can be found in his satirical treatment of white people and the way in which his smoldering wit reveals their hypocrisy. To execute this approach, Twain elevates Jim as a good and noble man, one who “knowed all kinds of signs…,’ who, in fact, “knowed most everything,’ in order to serve as a counterpoint to the whites who believe themselves to be the pinnacle of civilized society. Jim’s moral compass points true north, and he knows right from wrong, good from evil. He always tries to teach Huck a moral lesson in the process. In fact, Jim knows so much that Huck frequently relies upon Jim’s knowledge and intuition. More than focusing on the indignities that Jim has suffered, Twain portrays Jim as among the most civilized of the adult characters and then turns his attention toward exposing the hypocrisy of white people, even those who did not overtly support slavery.

Hypocrisy was one of the biggest themes in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. Society would punish people for doing one tiny thing wrong and yet let someone who did something really bad off the hook. This was no perfect society in any way but it did show how we can improve ourselves. Try and be true to our words and better results will come from it. 

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