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Analysis on Racism in Huck Finn

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In July of 1876, a man by the name of Samuel Clemens began writing one of the most important and influential works in America’s literary history. Under the pseudonym of Mark Twain, the work was begun as a sequel to Twain’s popular boy’s adventure novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. As he progressed in the writing of the sequel, Twain, an author already noted for his humor, cynicism, and American social criticism, began to lean away from strictly the boy’s adventure style towards a more serious, critical look at society. By the time Twain had finished writing the novel in 1884, eight years after it was begun, he had produced The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his greatest work and possibly on of the greatest works of American literature. With The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain attempted to illustrate his contempt for certain aspects of specifically pre-Civil War Southern society through the eyes of the innocent Huck Finn. However, his focus was not entirely on pre-War Southern society, for criticism of aspects of modern society as a whole was evident, as well as on aspects of human nature. Although Twain had essential produced a superficial boy’s adventure novel, it’s very themes are not characteristic of such a genre. The themes that are developed throughout the novel include that of hypocrisy, racism, violence, and gullibility. These four themes represent the elements of pre-War Southern society that bear Twain’s main criticisms throughout the pages of the novel. Specifically, much of Twain’s critical focus landed upon the theme of racism. Racism, in all of its ignorance and crudeness, is present in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, from the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson’s attempt to “sivilize” Huck to Tom Sawyer’s startling acclamation that Jim was already free. Huck is confronted with example after example of Southern society’s innate racism, some of which Huck too has inherited. As Jim and Huck journey down the mighty Mississippi, Huck begins to lose those inborn racist sentiments in his through his uninfluenced life with Jim. By closely developing the theme of racism through Huck’s internal struggle with reality and with society’s reality, Twain attempts to illustrate his contempt for the outright injustice of one of society’s most disturbing and irrational aspects.

As the novel begins, Huck reveals that the Widow Douglas has adopted him. The Widow and Miss Watson have attempted to help Huck conform to society’s civilized standards. As he is introduced to aspect after aspect of civilized society, from religion to table manners to the clothes her should wear, his “uncivilized” side, meaning natural and uninhibited side, causes him to question the practicality of society’s standards. As Huck has settled into civilized society, he has befriended a boy named Tom Sawyer. Tom, having been born and raised in civilized society, has never inherited the natural or uninhibited tendencies that Huck has been raised with. Through Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain satitrizes the apparent foolishness of a civilized person’s ethic and outlook on life, and specifically their tendency towards racism. In a specific scene in Chapter Two, Tom illustrates that natural tendency through his insensitivity towards slaves and members of the black race. In that particular scene, Tom wants to play a trick on a sleeping slave named Jim by tying him to a tree. He wants to do this simply for the intrigue and has total disregard for the feelings of the sleeping slave. Tom does not worry that he may startle or upset Jim; he is more focused on simply having fun. However, he settles on playing a trick on Jim. Tom’s insensitivity towards slaves exemplifies his inherent racism, due to the fact that he has been taught to disregard them through his inheriting the belief that he is superior to all members of the black race.

Another example of Southern society’s penchant for racial prejudice occurs through the character of Huck’s Pap in Chapter Six. After he kidnaps Huck, Pap takes Huck to his cabin in the woods near St. Petersburg, where he imprisons Huck while he goes to town every day. Pap is drunken, uneducated, and unemployed, representing the lowest class of white Southern society. In a specific event, Pap returns home from a trip into town outraged with the “govment” over a free black man that visited town.

“And that ain’t the wust. They said he could vote when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was ‘lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself…but when they told me there was a state in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote ag’in…Here’s a govment that calls itself a govment, and lets on to be a govment, and thinks it’s a govment, and yet’s got to set stock-still for six whole months before it can take

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