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Mark Twains Views On Society

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Mark Twain's Views on Society

Over the course of time man has interacted with the world around him in order to find the happiest way to live. He started off in the wilderness, with nature, where he discovered God, who kept him on the right path. Man than came together in communities to attempt to help one another to achieve happiness. In his novels Mark Twain does an excellent job discussing the relationships man has had with his surroundings. Twain's most renowned and praised work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is coincidently also his most controversial novel. It is the compelling story of a young boy, Huck, who runs away from his drunken father with Jim, a runaway slave. Their journey takes them down the Mississippi River in hope of eventually being able to return north. Throughout Huck's adventures, the reader watches as society changes around him as he heads deeper and deeper into the South. It shows how horrible the blacks were treated before the Civil War and how little society has changed in the time after the Civil War. Another Twain novel, Letters from the Earth, shares the same theme of society. It contains an interesting collection of letters written by Lucifer, who is banished from heaven to live on Earth for a period of time. Lucifer writes to the other Archangels about the way humans live out their lives and their views on God and religion. Twain's own views on society are expressed in these letters; he writes about human nature and how the race functions in everyday life. Mark Twain's novels, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Letters from the Earth, critique the prosperous relationship man has with Nature, the unsteady bond Man has with God, and also critiques the rough relationship Man has with Society.

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Huck is found on a raft floating down the great Mississippi River to escape from civilization. By escaping civilization Huck finds himself in what seems to be his most comfortable place, nature. Nature is not only representative of comfort for Huck but it is a symbol of freedom for him as well. He found it harder living in a house than out in wilderness with only the earth beneath him:

The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back (Twain 11)

On the first page of the novel Huck makes known to the reader how much he does not want to have anything to do with society and rules. The idea of a structured life simply did not appeal to Huck. He wanted to be alone in the woods where he could live with the land. Huck speaks specifically about being free and satisfied with only his rags to cover him. The raft was easy living for Huck and Jim, "We [Huck and Jim] said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft." (Twain 117). Huck became connected with nature and enjoyed it. The final lines of the novel are the most valuable evidence supporting Huck's connection with nature, "But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before."(Twain 279). He clearly hates the idea of a structured life with four walls. He wanted desperately to get away from that. At the end of the novel Huck makes the decision to head west to the untamed territories, the ultimate escape from civilization. He needs that freedom to be able to do what he wants, whenever he wants; the west has great prospects for him to achieve that goal.

In Letters from the Earth Mark Twain talks of the connection of Man and Nature the same way. He gives references to the Garden of Eden, a place where man is perfectly in tune with the nature around him. "...Love, peace, comfort, measureless contentment--that was life in the Garden. It was a joy to be alive. Pain there was none, nor infirmity, nor any physical signs to mark the flight of time; disease, care, sorrow--one might feel these outside the pale, but not in Eden."(Twain 78). Here Twain talks about man's relationship with nature as a state of happiness and comfort, a state of perfection. Outside of the Garden Mark Twain puts a negative twist on man's connection with nature. He specifically uses the story of Noah and the Arc. He gives mention to the fact that the humans had to live with the terrible stench that the animals gave off and to suffer through the roars and screechings that the animals called out. Twain then talks specifically about the fly:

They swarmed everywhere, and persecuted the Family all day long. They were the first animals up, in the morning, and the last ones down, at night. But they must not be killed, they must not be injured, they were sacred, their origin was divine, they were the special pets of the creator, his darlings. (Twain 31)

Mark Twain talks of Noah's Arc as almost testing man's relationship with nature. Man had to tolerate all the hardships and disgusting aspects of nature in an enclosed arc, and Man did tolerate and manage to save the animals from the floods. Man's relationship with nature is a treasured bond. Twain talks of it in the best and worst circumstances and reminds us that we need to cherish it in both and good will then come to both Man and Nature. The idea that Letters from the Earth criticizes natures has also been discussed by the critics. Some have gone as far as saying that "...human beings are ridiculous, selfish, and cruel only because of their environment."(Emerson 182). This view does have substantial evidence from the book to support it but the author gives more evidence supporting nature than he does for dismissing it.

Man has always cherished the relationship he has had with God. This relationship calls for devotion and sacrifice in hope of eternal peace. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn discusses this coveted bond with God. The entire novel is the story of Huck's struggle with his morals and what everyone else tells him is right. Huck's relationship with God is very similar to Mark Twains "... [H]e [Mark Twain and Huck] threw out the Bible, but it seemed to be attached to a rubber band, and was likely to bounce back into his lap at anytime." (Masters 15).The Bible did bounce back into Huck's lap when he turned to prayer when he needed

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