Huck often has to decide

on his own what is right

Meryl Brod

Because the authority figures in Huck's life, especially his father and the widow, offer conflicting views. Review our Philosophy Page When deciding whether to steal food, Huck recalls how “Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things[...]but the widow said it warn't anything but a soft name for stealing”(84). Huck and Jim decide they will not steal persimmons, or crabapples “because crabapples ain’t ever good and the p’simmons wouldn’t be ripe for two or three months yet which are not yet”(85).  Huck and Jim have a practical morality, they often do the right thing without the standard ethics most take for granted; they do what is best for them. This suggests that, for better or for worse, much of our moral sense comes from society, not human nature, and it must be learned. Twain illustrates in the terms of a twelve-year-old mind the importance of questioning society and making decisions with one’s own judgement.  Huck, feeling guilty about helping Jim, decides to turn him in. Yet when the opportunity arises “[He] warn’t man enough so [he] just give up trying, and up and says: ‘He’s white’”Huck reflects on his actions, thinking “I knowed very well I had done wrong” but “s’pose

 [I]’d a done right and give Jim up, would [I] felt better than what you do now? No,[...]I’d feel just the same way I do now”(131,133). On the surface Huck accepts society’s racist morality but subconsciously he knows that it would have been wrong to betray his friend. Without his free thinking Huck would have lost Jim’s help and protection, and Jim his freedom. Huck is principled when it matters the most.  He and Jim escape from a shipwreck with a boat belonging to a group of apparent murderers, whom they leave to die on the wreck. Huck soon feels guilty and decides to get help. Knowing that no one will be willing to risk their lives for the sake of murderers, Huck lies to the ferry man, “pap and mam and sis and Miss Hooker”are on the wreck.(94) Society teaches never to lie, and that murderers deserve to die, but Huck, perhaps due to his limited contact with society, thinks that a life –even that of a murderer– is worth lying for. Through the eyes of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain distinguishes the pure, vital ethics of humanity from the often contradictory, confusing or down-right wrong moral rules constructed by society.

 [I]’d a done right and give Jim up, would [I] felt better than what you do now? No,[...]I’d feel just the same way I do now”(131,133). On the surface Huck accepts society’s racist morality but subconsciously he knows that it would have been wrong to betray his friend. Without his free thinking Huck would have lost Jim’s help and protection, and Jim his freedom. Huck is principled when it matters the most.  He and Jim escape from a shipwreck with a boat belonging to a group of apparent murderers, whom they leave to die on the wreck. Huck soon feels guilty and decides to get help. Knowing that no one will be willing to risk their lives for the sake of murderers, Huck lies to the ferry man, “pap and mam and sis and Miss Hooker”are on the wreck.(94) Society teaches never to lie, and that murderers deserve to die, but Huck, perhaps due to his limited contact with society, thinks that a life –even that of a murderer– is worth lying for. Through the eyes of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain distinguishes the pure, vital ethics of humanity from the often contradictory, confusing or down-right wrong moral rules constructed by society.


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