What can your conscience do for you?
What is conscience? It is that small nagging voice in the back of your mind enticing you to do the right thing. When listened to as we see within the relationship of Huck and Jim in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, there can be a sense of companionship, and dedication that builds even against the flow of societal norms. If it is ignored there can be dire consequences which we see in Mary Shelleys Frankenstein when Victor slowly loses all who are close to him.
Early on in Victors quest to create the impossible his conscience was quietly trying to tell him to slow down. He mentions receiving a letter from his father who had not heard from him in some months, requesting attention and inquiring about his well being. Although he expresses a feeling of guilt he ignores it and instead of responding, chooses to disregard his fathers curiosity. Instead he chose to delve back into his work with a feverish sort of passion. (Shelley p.37) We see him as selfish in this part of the book with blatant disregard of his familys correspondence and his choice to seclude himself in isolation to finish his work. Imagine how different things could have turned out for Victor if he had paused, just for a moment, to think about what he was doing and consider his conscience. He might have recognized how morbid and disrespectful his graveyard work actually was, and may have changed his mind about creating the monster. Victor, despite being selfish, was a highly intelligent man and possibly a conversation with a colleague could have led him to a different avenue of research, and together created a more helpful discovery instead of the nightmare he created.
Later we see Victors conscience at work again while in the midst of creating a companion for his first creation. This time, differently from the first, he is not as ambitious and has time to think about what he is creating and the consequences of it. What if this monster is born into the world and taught to hate? This time he submits to conscience, and does what he thinks is right and destroys his current experiment. (Shelley, p.138-139) Although this decision leads to more anguish and death in Victors circle we are better able to see him as a human being. This act showed us he was capable of thinking of someone other than himself and that his conscience was still alive and well within him.
When the decision is made early on to listen to your conscience there can be a more positive outcome which Huck shows us in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Jim and Huck come into some pretty complicated situations while floating down the river. One such adventure is when some men who are hunting runaway slaves run into Huck. At this point Huck is preparing to turn Jim in as a runaway slave. He feels guilty for stealing Jim from Miss Watson when she has shown him nothing but kindness. Surprisingly, Huck is unable to bring himself to tell the men about Jim. Instead, he construes a lie about his father being aboard the raft with a case of small pox which scares the men off and keeps Jim safe. (Twain, p.103, 104) As a reader in a time when all men and woman are thought of as equals we celebrate Hucks decision to keep Jim from being sold down the river. Still Huck is torn and thinks of himself as weak for not being able to do what society deems as proper.
Further on in the story we see a similar internal battle Huck is having with right and wrong. In an effort to cleanse his self from sin Huck decides to write a letter to Miss Watson revealing where Jim is located so he may be returned to his rightful owner. Upon completion of the letter Huck feels as though he made the right decision, but as soon as he starts to think of all the acts of kindness Jim had done for him he begins to change his mind. Ultimately, he tears the letter up and decides to go to hell instead of turning his friend in. (Twain, p.101) This gesture is one that truly shows us just how much Huck has come to care for Jim. With the guidance of his conscience he is able not only to save Jims life, but build a strong relationship with him, a relationship full of kindness and a sense of cordialness. We come to admire Hucks ability to overcome what society is pressuring him to do, but instead build a companionship with Jim and come to think of him not just as a piece of property but as a human being who deserves to be free.
No matter your size or shape, young or old, black or white we are all equipped with a healthy burden of conscience. The hard part is taking a moment to pause and listen to what it is trying to say to us. Would things have been different for Victor if he had listened sooner, I think so. What would have happened to Jim had Huck not had a conscience to steer him in the right direction? He would have been a victim of society and sold down the river to be someone elses piece of property. I think a valuable lesson is taught in these two books. Your conscience exists for a reason. It is jumping up and down and waving its arms crazily like a little kid trying to get his mothers attention. When it finally does, though, it changes to something more of an old wise women whom you hate for always being right and dictating the right thing to do because we rarely ever want to.