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Morality in Huckleberry Finn Essay


Throughout Huckleberry Finns journey down the Mississippi River with Jim, he encountered people and situations that both helped and hurt his moral growth. He starts his journey at Miss Watsons house and ends at The Phelpss house. Although he learned a lot, he did not completely understand how he changed and developed. By the end of his journey, he defeated his fear of breaking away from societys morals and did what he thought was right, saved Jim.

While staying at Miss Watson and Widow Douglass house, Huck was forced to go to school and church, and he had to learn manners and how to be civilized. Huck did not like this, but he respected them and became educated and learned right from wrong to please them. This was a mostly positive influence, but they did confuse him about the concept of religion. He did not understand the concepts of heaven and hell, and of prayer. This greatly confused him, but he accepted their beliefs and decided to try to understand them.

Huck faked his death and ran away from his returned father. He went down the river to Jacksons island. This is where Huck began his journey with Jim, Miss Watsons run away slave. Throughout their journey, they depended on each other for survival. Jim, in a way, acted as a father figure to Huck. He knew how to get food, where to find good shelter, and he protected Huck. Jim depended on Huck to keep him safe and make sure he did not get caught.

Hucks whole moral journey is based on Jim. Although Huck acted as if they were friends, he still treated Jim like property. He played many tricks on Jim, and was mean to him. On many accounts Huck scorned himself for helping Jim, and all he could think of was how people would view him if they found out. This was a low point in Hucks development because he faced many moral conflicts from society about helping Jim, and at some points wants to turn him in. Huck did eventually solve these conflicts, but it took him a long time to really develop his own beliefs.

When Huck and Jim left Jacksons island, they traveled down the river and ended up at the Grangerfords house. While Huck was at the Grangerfords house, Jim hid on the raft. Huck liked this family because they were very hospitable and kind to him, and Huck became good friends with Buck Grangerford. Although they were a very nice family, they lived a life of hate and fear, and had many slaves for which they viewed as solely property. They had a serious family feud with the Shepherdsons, and they did not even know what the feud was over. This confused Huck because he did not understand how they could go around killing each other when they did not have a valid reason to. While with the Grangerfords, Huck saw a devastating fight that ended with all the Grangerfords being killed. Huck saw his new friend Buck get killed. This hurt Huck not only emotionally, but he saw how civilized people are not really civil. Death is a hard thing for everyone to see, but it is especially hard for a child.

This was a negative experience for Huck. Although he does not express it, this could be taken as Hucks loss of faith in the good of being civilized. Also, each of the Grangerfords had their own personal slave. By Huck seeing this, it was another influence from society that black people were not people but property. After grieving over Buck and his family, Huck and Jim went farther down the river and met the Duke and the Dauphin.

The Duke and the Dauphin were con artists that tried convinced Huck and Jim that they were royalty so they could go on the raft. They were very important to Hucks moral growth. They conned and stole from many innocent people, and made Huck a part of it. Although Huck was involved in some of their scams, he knew that what they were doing was wrong. He went along with them so he and Jim would not get in trouble, this showed that Huck did care for Jim and wanted to protect him. As he watched them do terrible things, he grew from their negative influence. Huck even mentioned that because of the Duke and the Dauphin, he was ashamed to be a part of the human race.

While with the Duke and the Dauphin, they stopped in Parkville, Arkansas. Here, Huck witnessed Colonel Sherburn kill Boggs when Boggs was drunk and threatening him. The townspeople formed a mob and went after Sherburn. While they were standing in his yard ready to lynch him, Sherburn made a speech about courage. He said how everyone forms together because they are safe, but they are all really cowards. This speech defined courage for Huck. It taught him that it was okay to stand up against society, and helped him be able to later in his journey. They traveled father down the river to the Wilks house.

The Duke and the Dauphin found out that Peter Wilks had died and his family was waiting for his brother, whom they never met before, to arrive. They also found out that Wilks brother would receive a lot of money, so they pretended to be his brother and cousin from England. They fooled everyone and became close to the family. This was the point at which Huck became really ashamed to be a part of their scams. He became close with Mary Jane Wilks, and formed a crush on her. Because of her, Huck wanted to warn her about the Duke and Dauphin and get their money back. This situation in their journey taught Huck that it was better to do the right thing, despite his fear and the consequences that could follow.

Huck made a plan to get the money back and then escape with Jim, but the Duke and Dauphin escaped right after them and joined them on the raft. They traveled downstream, and stopped at several towns. In one town Huck found a chance to escape, but when he went to get Jim, Jim was gone. Huck soon found out that Jim was sold as a run away slave to Silas Phelps.

This point in the journey was Hucks greatest moral conflict. He decided to write to Miss Watson to tell her where Jim was but then realized he would be ashamed if everyone found out that he helped Jim escape. He was confused by this and felt like it was Gods punishment for helping a slave. After thinking about everything him and Jim went through and all the time they spent together, Huck finally decided that he did not care if he went to hell, he would help Jim no matter what. Sherburns speech played into this because Huck decided to have the courage to go against society all on his own. This was a very important accomplishment in Hucks moral development, but he still had the notion that Jim was property.

Huck went to find the Phelps farm and planned to find Jim and help him escape. He was seen because the dogs saw him, but was mistaken for their nephew Tom. He pretended to be Tom and found out that they thought he was Tom Sawyer. Huck found Tom and they fooled the Phelps by saying they were brothers. Tom was a bad influence on Huck. Huck believed that since Tom was brought up well and was civilized, he was always right. Tom agreed to help free Jim, which Huck found very strange. The boys could have easily freed Jim, and Huck knew that, but Tom wanted to do it the way prison escapes happened in books. Tom forced Jim to do ridiculous and harmful things for no reason. He played games and did not even care that he was putting a mans life and freedom on the line. Tom was very immature and treated Jim like a toy. This was a very negative influence on Huck and basically pushed him back development wise.

After they attempted to free Jim, Tom told everyone that Jim was actually already free. Tom tortured Jim and put his life at risk for fun, and then paid him for going along with it. That was a terrible thing that Huck was fooled into being apart of. After the Phelps found out Jim was already free, they treated him like a king. They showed Huck that Jim could be treated as a person, not property. This was good, but they still owned slaves and treated them the same, which was not a good thing.

Throughout Huck and Jims journey, Huck developed morally. He learned that being civilized did not mean you were a good, intelligent, or morally correct person. He was able to break away from the beliefs society bestowed on him and do what he felt was right. Most importantly, he was able to see Jim as a friend, and thought he was putting his life at risk to save him, when in reality, Jim was already free. Although Huck came a long way, he did not fully learn that black people should be treated as people. He still referred to them as niggers and slaves.

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