Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Huck Finn's "Character": Good Lies vs. Bad Lies

In Mark Twain’s classic novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a clear analytical argument can be made for the tension of Huck’s struggle between innocence and responsibility. Huck is simultaneously trying to maintain his status as an independent adventurer, throwing caution to the wind while denying his duty to his white kinsmen and begins to form a friendship Jim.
This inner turmoil is explained most eloquently by Jim's angel/devil scenario he uses to explan Pap's shortcommings as a father. Later in the novel Huck finds that this is also his fate as he is often plagued with the choice to either turn Jim in as a runaway slave or not. Doing so would honor his responsibility to Miss. Watson and not doing so would help bring Jim to freedom while securing both of their independence. Twain is constantly proving that Huck's inclination to protect Jim must be the right thing to do, perhaps because the novel was written after the abolition of slavery. While doing so Huck's moral fiber may be questioned because he lies continuously throughout the novel.
It is intriguing that each time he comes in contact with an outsider that Huck changes his identity and fabricates an entirely different history that brought him to a certain point in time in the novel. This is so he can no longer be Huck Finn but rather be someone who does not know Jim, someone that has no ties to Miss. Watson, Pap, or Judge Thatcher. Only when Huck encounters “the King” and “the Duke” he remains Huck Finn. Although the Duke and the King are two separate characters they form one whole mischievous swindler. It is at this moment in the novel where the foreshadowing of the devil/angel scenario comes to life. Huck's lies can be categorized as "good lies" where other liars, such as the Duke and the King are constantly spreading "bad lies."
During the second half of the novel, Huck matures the most. His main incentive is no longer to protect Jim but to ensure the security and happiness of those he believes are being swindled. When the King and the Duke impersonate Wilk's two English brothers Huck claims this lie is enough to disgust him and make him ashamed of the human race. As the Duke and the King become less human in the eyes of Huck, Jim increasingly becomes more vulnerable. Huck begins to sympathize with others and experiences remorse for the Wilks women, and in chapters 27 and 28 Huck becomes proactive with his attempts to help others.
At the conclusion of chapter 43 the ending is all but happy and barely satisfying. Huck seems to be relieved that his journey has come to an end but unfortunately does not seem to have learned anything. Tom's character at the end seems to be just as malicious as the Duke and the King and Jim comes out of the story as the only reputable man of moral fiber.

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