Satire in Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain is a great example of a satire that Twain uses to mock different aspects of the society. The novel is filled with wild adventures encountered by the two main character, Huckleberry Finn, an unruly young boy, and Jim, a black runaway slave. Throughout the novel, Twain uses Huck to satirize the religious hypocrisy, white society’s stereotypes, and superstitions both to amuse the reader and to make the reader aware of the social ills of that present time.
One of the main victims of Twain’s satire is Religion. Throughout the book, Twain uses various situations to mock the beliefs of religion. Twain uses the feud between Grangerfords and Shepardsons to satirize religion and to expose the hypocrisy in people during this time. Mark Twain writes, “Next Sunday we all went to church about three mile, everyone a-horseback. The men took their gun and kept them between their knees or stood them handy against the wall.”(Twain 109) For Twain, such a feud is pointless and against his common sense. The feud has gone on so long that neither of them knows why or how it started. Additionally, these men go to church to pray to God and when they’re done, they go out and kill each other. This shows that they go to church to make themselves look good in front of the community, not for religious purpose. Another example of satire is when Huck says, “Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it.” (Twain 10) Twain uses this to mock Christian beliefs. After praying and getting nothing out of it, Huck seems to conclude that there is no point in praying to God if nothing is gained from it.
During this time stereotypes of black people was common in the white society. Twain satirizes white society stereotypes in an attempt to tactfully ridicule society. Huck’s upbringing teaches him that slavery is a part of the natural order. Because of this, he didn’t find anything wrong with the way slaves were treated. In the beginning of Huck and Jim’s journey Huck thinks of Jim as different from him. He expresses this when he says, “when we was ready to shove off we was a quarter of a mile below the island, and it was pretty broad day; so I made Jim lay down in the canoe and cover up with a quilt, because if he set up people could tell he was a nigger a good ways off.” (Twain 51) Here, Huck wrongly assumes that people can spot a black person form great distance. At this point, he still believes that blacks are essentially different from whites. Another example of this is when Huckleberry speaks of Jim, he says, “he judged it was all up with him anyway it could be fixed; for if he didn’t t get saved he would get drowned; and if he did get saved, whoever saved him would send him back home so as to get the reward, and then Miss Watson would sell him South, sure. Well, he was right; he was most always right; he had an uncommon head level head for a nigger.” (Twain 76) Here, Huckleberry assumes that black people are not as smart as whites. This is another example of a common stereotype of that time. Twain uses Jim tactfully to illustrate the fact that dark colored people are just as intelligent as light colored people. Finally, Twain also uses satire when he writes of the rumor of Huckleberry’s supposed death. Twain writes, “Some think old Finn done it himselfâ€¦ most everybody thought it at first. He’ll never know how nigh he come to getting lynched. But before night they changed around and judged it was done by a runaway nigger named Jim.” (Twain 56) At first, Townspeople suspect Pap, Huck’s father, the town drunk for the murder of Huck. Then, people began to suspect Jim because he ran away the same day Huck was killed. However Jim would not have a motive to kill Huck whereas Pap’s motive for murdering Huckleberry would be for his inheritance. Through this, Twain depicts that white people of that time would rather blame an innocent black person for a crime, than blame one of their own kind.
Through the book, Twain uses Jim to describe many examples of superstitions. Jim discusses a great variety of superstitions from the time Huck meets him on Jackson’s Island until the end of the novel. At first, Huck rejects most of Jim’s superstitions as silly, but at last he comes to be grateful for Jim’s deep knowledge of the world. One point at which Twain mocks superstition is when Tom plays a trick on Jim as he sleeps, hanging his hat above him on a tree. In an attempt to explain what happed to his hat, Jim says, “Afterwards Jim said the witches be witched him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over the State, and then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on a limb to show who done it.” (Twain 6) Here, Twain ridicules superstitions for their fascination with the supernatural by showing a confused Jim attempting to explain what happened to his hat. Another example of superstitious is when Twain writes, “And he said that handling a snake-skin was such awful bad luck that maybe we hadn’t got to the end of it yet. He said he druther see the new moon over his left shoulder as much as a thousand times than take up a snake-skin in his hand.” (Twain 53) Throughout the book, handling a dead snake-skin is seen as a sign of bad luck and apparently leads Jim and Huck into all sorts of bad luck adventures. Yet another example of superstitious is when Twain writes, “Some young birds come along, flying a yard or two at a time and lighting. Jim said it was a sign that it was going to rain.” (Twain 45) This is another example of one of Jim’s superstitious views. Jim believes there is a sign for all things that happen in nature. Jim views the birds as the sign of rain. Since no weather devices were available at this time, signs like these were used to predict the weather.
Mark Twain uses much satire in the novel, especially centered upon the society that was present at that time and their stereotypes, religion and their superstitions. He ridicules society for what Twain thinks is their ignorance. At the time the book was written, society was strict and committed to their religious beliefs. Even though spirituality and religion are a serious matter, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn allowed them to sit back, analyze their ways of thinking and hopefully lighten up a bit.
Twain, M. (2010). The adventures of huckleberry Finn. William Collins.