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Huckleberry Finn Essay "Parental Relations"

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One of society's favorite figures of speech is that it takes an entire town to raise a child. Such is true in Mark Twain's, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Through Huck's journey down the Mississippi River, Twain illustrates the influence society has on the undeveloped morals. As Huckleberry travels he becomes "the impassive observer" and aware of the corruption in the values of society (330). Encountering these societies gives Huck a selective morality. No particular social class is left out of his observations. From the poor, lower class to the elite, upper class, Huck observes inconsistencies in morality. In the end, Huck realizes that society is imperfect and corrupt, which ultimately causes him to "light out for the Territory" (229). Huck Finn develops a selective morality from the corrupt social classes he encounters on the Mississippi River.

Before Huck sets out on his raft adventure, he is exposed to the values and morals of his poor, drunken father. Pap Finn instills a "Southern race prejudice" and leads Huck to believe "that he detests Abolitionists" (374). Huck comes into conflict with this philosophy as he journeys on the raft with Jim. He can not decide if he is wrong in helping Jim escape slavery or if the philosophy is wrong. The education of Huck also stirs some values from Pap. When Pap tells him that education is useless, Huck is confused because the Widow Douglas told him that education was important. As a result, Huck's values towards education are uncertain. Pap Finn, as a figure of the lower class, does his part to confuse the growing morals of his son.

Together with Pap, the King and the Duke do their share to put putrid moral ideas into the immature mind of Huck. The King and the Duke earn their living pulling scams on their fellow Americans. For instance, they advertised the "Royal Nonesuch" as a "thrilling tragedy" and charged the farmers in the area fifty cents to come and see it (121). But, the entire production consisted of the King walking around on all fours naked. They had promised a good show to the crowd, the King and the Duke did not think it was wrong to give the crowd nothing except for an empty pocket. The message they sent to Huck is that it is acceptable to cheat and lie. Even worse is the crowd's reaction to being cheated. Instead of exposing the con men to the rest of the town, they decide to "sell the rest of the town," rather than face the ridicule of other townspeople (122). Huck is, therefore, lead to the conclusion that "his fellowmen are likely to be dangerous and wicked" (322). Huck's morality is exposed to a lack of respect or decency towards others. The King and the Duke establish a moral code to take people for what you can get from them and then run off without any consequences.

In addition to the "Royal Nonesuch" scam, the so-called royalty cheat yet another group of unsuspecting townspeople along the river, and further establish their corrupt values. The two con artists come across the opportunity to pose as the brothers of a wealthy, deceased man. To Huck, the family of the deceased, Mr. Peter Wilks, seems "stupid and grotesquely illusioned" by the King and the Duke's escapades (394). As the scam continues, Huck recognizes "how deeply he is involved" in the plot to deceive honest people, like Mary Jane, out of their inheritance. Consequently, Huck corrects this by "doing 'wrong'" and telling Mary Jane, which is not "'right'" according to the morality the King and the Duke represent (324). Meanwhile, the con artists "reveal their moral idiocy" and are forced to flee with no reward. In Huck's mind this failure of the King and the Duke brings forth more controversy regarding his own morality. Clearly, the con men live by a corrupt set of values.

The elite, upper class as well as the lower class, influenced Huckleberry with immorality and a deformed sense of value. Colonel Sherburn is a good example of the upper class society. Huck notices the Colonel is "a proud man" and easily "the best dressed" in town (115). After Boggs yells, "O Lord, don't shoot!" Sherburn aims his pistol "steady and level" and kills Boggs (116). It is amazing to Huck how calmly the Colonel takes the life of a neighbor and then just turns "on his heels and walk away" (116). He can not imagine the morality behind the lack of "a great sense of sadness" for Boggs (321). The crowd follows Sherburn back to his house and Huck sees "civilization murderously turned into anti-civilization" as they decide "Sherburn ought to be lynched" (117). However, when confronted by Sherburn, the crowd backs down and it becomes apparent that there is no sense of values urging the crowd. The townspeople are simply a "bully circus" who do not live "a conscious life of their own"

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