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Summary: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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In Chapters 11-17 of the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Huck has to make impactful and difficult decisions based on his morality. Huck’s morality is tested when he encounters a skiff with two armed men while traveling on the river. After being asked if there is an African-American man on his boat, Huck cannot get himself to betray Jim and tell the truth. As a result, Huck tells the men that there is a white man on his boat and convinces them from checking it by lying and saying that a contagious illness, smallpox has afflicted his family. How does Huck’s morality develop as the novel progresses?

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Huck has to address his morality when making defining decisions in the novel and as he spends time with Jim, he develops his own sense of morality. At the beginning of the novel, Huck has an initial absence of morality due to his lack of experience. He learns Christian values from Miss Watson, however, doesn’t feel the need to follow them. Huck also experiences pro-slavery parenting from Miss Watson, displaying the societal norm at the time. Additionally, Huck looked up to Tom Sawyer, who decided to start a gang that Huck joined. In order to be initiated into the gang, the members must murder their own families if they break the rules. Since Huck did not have a family, he “was most read to cry; but all at once he thought of a way, and so [he] offered them Miss Watson-they could kill her” . Huck’s willingness to sacrifice someone else to be a part of a gang shows his lack of morality, and how he doesn’t know what is truly right or wrong. He is simply following what Tom is saying, the same way that he accepted the racial prejudice in the society. Huck experiences his first major decision when he comes across the wrecked steamboat and three criminals. Huck and Jim take the skiff for themselves and leave the robbers stranded. However, Huck realizes he has left them to die and began “to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix. He said to himself, there ain’t no telling but I might come to be a murderer myself yet, and then how would I like it?” . This is the first step in Huck’s moral development as he considers the effects of what he has done on other people. Huck eventually makes a plan to save the men despite them being criminals. Huck’s decision shows that he is developing his own morals, rather than following others. Moreover, when Huck meets a skiff with two armed men while traveling on the river, he is forced with the decision of turning Jim in as a runaway slave or lying. Huck feels guilty not turning Jim in when he hears him talking about hiring an abolitionist to steal his family. This is due to the moral pressures that society has enforced on him. Society at the time believed that slaves are not people and should not be treated like equal human beings. Living with Miss Watson, Huck witnessed her slave Jim, who Huck eventually ends up traveling the Mississippi river with. Nevertheless, when Huck is confronted by the men and questioned, “he just gave up trying, and up and said: ‘He’s white’”. Huck lying that there is only a white man in the raft is the first time he makes a decision based on his own morality. Huck has developed a profound relationship with Jim, and feels that he is more than just a slave and what society labels him as. As a result, he protects Jim’s identity in hope to help him to freedom. This shows Huck’s moral progression because he is developing his own sense of what he believes is right and wrong through his experiences.

In chapters 11-17 of the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Huck is surrounded in a society with traditional Christian beliefs. Although he was initial taught Christianity through Miss Watson, he eventually runs away with Jim. While with Jim, Huck’s beliefs regarding superstition grows immensely. For instance, After trying to pull a prank on Jim, who ended up being bitten by a snake, Huck concluded that he would never touch snakeskin again and that it brought the worst of bad luck. How does Huck’s view of religion and beliefs develop as he spends more time with Jim?

Huck’s view of religion and beliefs change from being negligent to traditional Christian beliefs into following superstition as he spends more time with Jim. In the beginning of the novel, when Huck is living with Miss Watson and Widow Douglas, Miss Watson “got out her book and learned [Huck] about Moses and the Bulrushes, and [Huck] was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then [Huck] didn’t care no more about him, because he don’t take no stock in dead people”. Despite Miss Watson’s teachings, Huck immediately has an antipathy to Christianity since it holds too much value in the dead. Huck’s dislike to these values shows that he does not care to people who don’t pertain to him, such as Moses because he has been dead for a long time. This is also highlighted when Huck is the woods by himself and “couldn’t see no advantage about [religion]-except for the other people; so at last [he] reckockened he would not worry about it any more, but just let it go” . Huck’s conclusion emphasizes that he can’t find any use in religion and that any advantages he sees in it is for someone else, and not himself. Additionally, despite the “spiritual gifts” that Widow Douglas emphasized, Huck still feels that prayers are never really answered in his world because he feels that it does not benefit him. On the contrary, as Huck starts to spend more time with Jim, he is introduced to other forms of beliefs through superstition. While together, Jim and Huck starts to read many “bad signs” in the surroundings. This is shown after Jim tries to play a prank on Jim, who ends up actually bitten by a snake. Huck “made up his  mind that [he] wouldn’t ever take a-holt of a snake-skin again with his hands, now that  he was what had come of it”. Huck accepting that touching snake-skin with his bare hands is the worst of bad signs demonstrates his transition from negligence of traditional beliefs into superstition due to his experiences in nature he faces with Jim. Although it may be irrational for Huck believe in superstition, he is now surrounded by nature, where things are much more dangerous, and traditional beliefs are not as normal. Overall, Huck is able to develop his own system of beliefs by spending time with nature and apart from society and its traditional beliefs.      

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