Satirical Huck: The Use of Satire in Huck Finn Assignment

Satirical Huck: The Use of Satire in Huck Finn Assignment Words: 2220

It is through satire that Mark expresses his personal views in his books. His story Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is an excellent example. If this is so, then in what ways does Mark Twain use satire in the book? Well in the case of Huck Finn, Mark Twain uses satire to express his views on religion, race, and romanticism. Religion One major way that Twain uses satire in the book is to criticize organized religion. Dr. Gregg Camfleld of the University of California wrote that Mark Twain “doubted the religious, as opposed to the moral, truth of Christianity.

His Juxtaposition of superstition with Christianity suggests the depth of this skepticism” (Camfleld, par. 6). According to his autobiography published after his death, Twain reveals that he was brought up as a presbyterian Christian. In spite of his upbringing, Twain in fact, used this as fuel to question his own religion along with those of others. It was this view that influenced Mark Twain’s satire on religion. Huck Finn serves as a perfect example of this as much of the satire used to make fun of religion in the story were inspired by actual experiences in his life.

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In chapter one for instance, the main character, Huck, is taught by the Widow Douglas to pray to God for the things he wants. Huck soon discovers, however that this does not always work and that it was best Just to get it himself. In actuality, at the age of four, as revealed by his autobiography, Twain learned the same lesson as Huck from school, and also came to the same conclusion soon after. When talking of Twain’s religious satire, it is also important to point out the time and the surroundings on which it was based on.

Mark Twain was born and raised in the south. In the mid 1800’s south in which he lived in, religion played a large part in the racist indoctrination that influenced the coming American Civil War. Southern interpretation of the Christian bible supported acts of racism such as slavery. African American slaves were even deemed as naturally corrupt. Twain reinforced this fact when he once stated, “In my schoolboy days I had no aversion to slavery. I was not aware that there was anything wrong about it.

No one arraigned it in my hearing; the local papers said nothing against it; the local pulpit taught us that God approved it, that it was a holy thing, and the doubter need only look in the Bible if he wished to settle his mind ” and then the texts were read aloud do us to make the matter sure”. With this statement, Twain reveals how even he was at first led to believe in the racist doctrine so often preached in his younger days. As Twain got older However, he began to resent these religious teachings so championed in his earlier years.

Michael Taylor of Brigham Young University’s Department of American Studies Shares insight that supports this notion. In his Satirical Huck: The Use of Satire in Huck Finn By youl pratama common traders of theology, who say much but do little, that Twain denounces throughout his novel by Juxtaposing Hucks moral development outside of church and is Christian community to the moral dearth of the church-going Mississippi Christians”(Taylor 2). As it can be seen religion in the south was full of contradictions.

With the religious who “say much but do little” Twain would soon begin to question his religious teachings which would lead to his growing suspicions with the overall message of god. Huck Finn merely served as a catalyst for his distinct views. In Huck Finn, he satirizes southern Christianity by revealing its utter hypocrisy through the Widow Douglas’s strict practice of religion despite owning slaves. Though the Widow Douglas is quite strict in her followings of the Christian faith and shows qualities of good nature, she does not seem to have any quarrels whatsoever with owning people.

This is Just a first rate example of exactly how deceptive the Widows beliefs are compared to what she practices. Another more serious case in which Twain points out is the oblivious nature of the hypocrisy of the gospels. In chapter 17, Huck is taken in by the Grangerford family, a rich southern family of aristocratic nature who are at that moment in time, locked in a deep feud with the equally rich Shepherdson family. In one of the most famous satirical scenes in the book, Huck attends a sermon with the Grangerford family.

Huck is surprised when he meets the Shepherdson family there as well. To his horror, both families bring guns ready for use on each other to a sermon which ironically focuses on the notion of brotherly love. In a startlingly funny way, Twain criticizes the ridiculous nature in which people in the south casually went against what they preached. Race/Racism Mark Twain’s satire in Huck Finn is not only confined to religion, but race as well. During the 1860’s in which he wrote Huck Finn, Twain was very progressive for his ime when it came to issues of race.

The 1860’s marked the age of American Reconstruction. Policies that were “… begun by Lincoln and continued through the United States Congress after the Civil War, aimed to reintegrate the Southern states into the Union politically and to provide support to freed slaves” (Gibson and Howe, sec. 4) explains history professors Lawrence Howe and Alexandra Gibson of the Roosevelt University and Northwestern University respectively. With the abolishment of slavery that came along with Reconstruction, freed African Americans now saw themselves with newfound liberties.

They could now do things like vote, own property, and find employment for themselves. However, as the history department of the Library of Congress reports, “the south… saw Reconstruction as a humiliating, even vengeful imposition and did not welcome it” (Lib. of Cong. , par. 2). This was displayed through the South’s adoption of Black codes created to maintain white supremacy (ushistory. org, par. 4). In the end, racism from white people from both the North and the South quickly suppressed the new African American gains.

Mark Twain became irritated of the dismal results of Reconstruction and expressed this in Huck Finn. To this end, Shelley Fishkin of Stanford University’s Department of English writes that “Huckleberry Finn is a masterful satire not of slavery, which had been abolished a decade before Twain began writing the novel, but of the racism that suffused American society as Twain wrote the book in the late 1870s and early 1880s and which continues to stain Amer-ica today’ (Fishkin, par. 6). By this statement, really focuses on is the racism behind the slavery.

This is reinforced by the fact that it is not shown whether or not Huck sees slavery as bad. Fredrick Kallin of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Kristiand University also writes that “during the chronological period of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn evolution was used as a means to Justify doctrines of racial purity, and more particularly, the idea that one race may claim superiority over another”(Kallin, 2). Twain will end up using this fact, and exploit it with his satire in Huck Finn.

Within the story, Twain does this through the ironic satire of the supposed “superior” white race. This happens in Chapter six when Huck Finn witnesses Pap Finn’s drunken rant about the government ranting a colored African professor the right to vote. What makes this ironic is the sheer difference between the successful black professor and the drunkard white man, Pap Finn which completely shatters the notion of white supremacy. Another example of Twain’s critique on racism is expressed through his illustration of the ironic extent of racism to even the more good natured characters of the story.

This is illustrated in chapter 32 when Huck arrives at the Phelps farm and is mistaken for Tom Sawyer by Sawyer’s Aunt Sally. When asked about his late arrival, Huck explains hat it was because of a boiler explosion on the steamboat he was on. When further asked if there were casualties, Huck answers, “no’m. Killed a nigger” (Twain 221). To this, Aunt Sally then replies, “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt” (Twain 221). This time, the irony lies in the casual nature in which the death of the one black man is disregarded as an actual casualty.

This shows the nature of the racism expressed among even the most kindhearted of the 1860’s like Aunt Sally in a humorous manner. Romanticism Another target of Twain’s satire in the story of Huckleberry Finn is the romantic utlook on life. The romantic view of life, or romanticism can be generally defined as the idealistic or heroic view of life. During the period of time that Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written, the literary world was in the midst of a romantic movement. Famous writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and Walter Scott symbolized this movement.

Romanticism focuses mainly on imagination, emotion, and freedom states the NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms. These views include “subjectivity and an emphasis on individualism; spontaneity; freedom from rules; solitary life rather than ife in society; the beliefs that imagination is superior to reason and devotion to beauty; love of and worship of nature; and fascination with the past, especially the myths and mysticism of the middle ages. ” (Whitney, par. 2). Another movement that was occurring around the same time as romanticism was that of realism.

Compared to the romantic view, realism represents the opposite. While romanticism is a mode in which glorifies or exaggerates life, The Electronic Labryinth which is a project meant to help creative writers notions that “realism, is an aesthetic mode which roke with the classical demands of art to show life as it should be in order to show life “as it (Keep, McLaughlin, and Parmar, par. 1). As it can be observed, there is an obvious conflicting difference between romanticism and realism. Twain exemplifies this difference between the two in his book through the characters of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

William Byrne is a doctoral candidate in politics at the Catholic University of the subject of Twain’s view of romanticism in the book that Twain “… wants to convince us [the readers] that the romantic imagination is not Just silly, but downright dangerous” (Byrne, par. 9). Byrne’s point about the dangers of romantic imagination is all but true. History serves as an excellent example. World War l, which is considered one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century was the embodiment of disillusioned people spurred on by the romanticism of war and the supposed glory that it held in store.

Many people in the beginning supported the onset of world war, unaware of the countless bloodshed to come. Another reason that romantic imagination proves to be dangerous are the obvious impracticalities that stem from its idealistic views. This was illustrated yet again in history during the early 19th entury and the rise of socialist utopian ideals that would bring forth communism to the world. Mark Twain displays his view of the dangers of romanticized thinking in Huck Finn in a couple of instances. For one, he displays the disillusionment displayed in the first World War of the glory of armed conflict.

He does this through the feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons. Both sides are of southern dignified aristocratic backgrounds. Both families greatly respect each other with one of the Grangerford’s boys having said that “there ain’t a single coward” (Twain 108) mongst neither of them. They have been locked in a bitter feud for more than thirty years over a long forgotten legal dispute. After finding out that the son and daughter of the Shepherdson and Grangerford Family were engaged in a secret love affair, all out war breaks out between the two noble families resulting in the death of the Grangerford family.

Just like in World War I both sides were of great social standing, and were blinded by the romantic and glorious call to arms that lead one to their utter destruction. That was the danger of romanticized vision that Twain was trying o express through his ironic satire of the whole premise of the feud. The premise having been lost and ridiculously exploited by the gravity of the feud’s end result. Huck Finn, as it would turn out would be a mixture of all kinds of satire in which definitely served their purpose.

They were instrumental tools in the story telling of the plot while also expressing Mark Twain’s underlying opinions and views. He used satire to criticize and make fun of controversial subjects such as organized religion, racism, and romanticism in life. Looking back on the earlier question of how he used is satire in Huck Finn, he pointed out the hypocrisy and lack of meaning of religion, made fun of the ridiculous nature of prejudice, and warned of the impending danger of romanticism in a realist world.

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Satirical Huck: The Use of Satire in Huck Finn Assignment. (2019, Sep 13). Retrieved September 17, 2021, from