“It was easier to recognize the traits that Twain was contemptuous of, since the entire book was supposed to satirize society. But there were certain traits that Twain admired, too.” (3) Twain showed that he admired morality in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn personified through Huck. “We have no real morals, but only artificial ones—morals created and preserved by the forced suppression of natural and healthy instinct.”(4) Such instances include his not telling on Jim when he ran away, Huck returning the stolen money to the girls and Huck trying to escape from the King and the Duke after the burial. Twain chooses to have Huck evolve morally in the novel instead of giving him an outstanding sense of morals throughout the novel. There are three distinct phases of Huck’s maturing process that can be found in the beginning, middle and end of the novel.
Huckleberry Finn was raised in an environment in which he developed a deformed conscience. He was a fostered in an unpleasant atmosphere. “His traditions and environment pull him one way…”(1) His father known only as Pap was a drunk and would beat him constantly, when Pap was around. And since his father was not around for the majority of the time he didn’t have a strong influence to tell him what was right and wrong. He did not care for his guardian, the Widow, very much. When she was telling Huck about heaven and hell he “couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going (heaven), so” he “made up” his “mind that” he “wouldn’t try for it.” Which again shows Huck’s navet of the concepts of heaven and hell. His only real idol was Tom who shared the same deformed conscience and sense of immaturity that Huck did. Huck also had this sensation of immaturity and corrupt morals plainly because he didn’t know any better. Where he was raised, slavery was not only accepted, it was condoned. Since he had no real morally upstanding role model, he never learned otherwise.
Due to the numerous jeopardizing events that Huck was exposed to on both the river and on land he was forced to grow up very quickly. He was a very cunning boy. He constantly made up lies in order to get out of trouble. For example, when Huck met up with the men who were searching for runaway slaves, he made up a story about his father being on the raft with a severe case of smallpox. Huck knew that this story would prevent the hunters from following him and looking for Jim to be with Huck. He also outwitted the King and the Duke on several occasions. Huck successfully hid the money from the King and the Duke by convincing the King that it was slaves who stole it and also eventually was able to escape from them both. Toward the middle of the novel Huck’s sense of morality and maturity begin to develop but yet still have a ways to go. He begins to see Jim for what he really is, a friend, and not a slave. He shows this when he realizes that he hurt Jim by lying to him and finally decides to “humble” himself “to a nigger.” He also does some good deeds along the way, such as returning the stolen money to the girls.
Eventually, Huck goes through a complete transformation into boy with a conscience and upright morals. He is able to discern between right and wrong. When Huck ran away, he was able to see that what the King and the Duke were doing was wrong and immoral. He uses his cunning nature in order to come up with a plan to get rid of them once and for all. Once he got rid of the King and the Duke he helped Mary Jane by returning the money that the King and the Duke stole from them. Most importantly, his heart overcomes his warped conscience and he is able to see that slavery is unjust. When he comes to this realization he is capable of seeing Jim as a human being as opposed to a piece of property. His first step was humbling himself and apologizing to Jim for lying to him. Next he decides to free Jim, even if he is going to hell. “’All right, then, I’ll go to hell’—and tore it up.”
“Whatever may be said of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn is a developing character.”(1) From the beginning to the very end of the novel, there is a noticeable change in Huck’s ethics. He goes from tricking and lying to Jim to helping him to freedom. Morality is a key trait that is admired by Mark Twain. Huck’s moral persona goes through three phases until he becomes a boy who is able to make conscience decisions that are mature and ethical.
1) – Reader’s Supplement to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
2) – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
3) – Savanna King (critic)
4) – Mark Twain (author)