Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tom's negative influence and Huck's momentary fall

In the second half of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain shows Huck in a lapse of judgment fueled by Tom’s irrationality to demonstrate how others are capable of making the same mistakes, and show how unsettling those mistakes are. It is because of this tactic that I believe perhaps caused so many controversies about this novel. People become uneasy when they see their own rationalities being challenged, especially when they challenge their own rationalities without knowing it.
The reader sees Huck’s integrity and conscious shaken by his interactions with Tom. Up until being reunited with Tom, Huck demonstrated an understanding of right and wrong going beyond what was socially acceptable, and discovered that it was right to help and free Jim, and began to look at Jim more as a person than physical property. However when Tom enters back into Huck’s life he is too easily swept up in the fantasy world that Tom creates and treats Jim with great disrespect and almost cruelty.
Mark Twain perhaps uses this instance of fault to show how it is that other people can fall into similar traps when being influenced by others and others’ opinions. This is highlighted on page 251 when Tom says “ It don’t make no difference how foolish it is, it’s the right way- and it’s the regular way. And there ain’t no other way that ever I heard of;” While this quote is in reference to a particular technique of helping Jim escape, it could be easily used as a justification for racism of the time. When the reader recognizes Tom’s rationality as absurd, they must in turn recognize the irrationality of slavery.
Huck quickly follows this rationality and the readers find themselves disappointed in his inability to recognize that they should be merely helping Jim escape, and not using the situation for their own amusement. While some may claim that this scene shows Huck’s true feelings and shows that he does not have an understanding of racism and that slavery is wrong, I would disagree, and say that this scene shows that Huck is human, and is capable of making the same mistakes and getting caught up in public opinions just as easily as the population Twain is criticizing. It also shows Huck’s innocence in the matter. He is trying to help Jim escape because he feels it is wrong for him to be locked up, but his understanding of the severity of the situation is shown when he turns the escape of Jim into a month long exciting adventure filled with digging with stones, spiders, and snakes. He gets lost in the fantasy world of Tom, showing his ignorance and innocence of the situation.

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