Essay, Research Paper: Adventures Of Huck Finn By Twain And Cruelness

Literature: Mark Twain

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Throughout the tale of Huckleberry Finn as told by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens),
almost every character for his or her own reasons lies. This can be considered a
commentary on the morality and ethics of man kind by Mr. Clemens. Almost no
person exists that has never uttered at lease one untruth. That is one of the
wonderful things about this novel. It closely mimics real life. There are
characters that lie for personal gain. There are also those that lie only in
hopes of helping others. Though both are lies, one can be considered courteous
or even heroic at times, where the other can only appear greedy and wrong no
matter what light it is viewed in. Mark Twain often uses the river to denote
freedom and purity, however just as many lies are told on the river as off. This
is because Twain doesn’t make the assumption that all lies are wicked, and can
thus attach them to his symbol of pure good. Practically every “good”
character in Huckleberry Finn lies. Huck himself lies on almost countless
occasions. Miss Watson lies on at least one occasion. Jim tells several lies
during the tale. Tom Sawyer is practically unable to speak the truth. Yet none
of these characters are seen as morally corrupt. The villainous characters lie
on a constant basis in the course of the story. The king makes lying an art at
times, while the duke lies without pause for his entire appearance in the story.
Pap makes up numerous tales during his time in the book. All these characters
are considered evil and wrongdoers. The difference is the fact that the latter
characters lie in hopes of personal gain, while the first characters lie to help
others, or in order to entertain. Nearly every character lies in Huckleberry
Finn; it is their motivation for their lies that defines their character to the
reader. Huckleberry himself tells many a lie during the story. Perhaps his
biggest lie is when he fakes his own death, and makes the whole town look for
his “dead carcass” (Clemens 32). This caused the widow and Miss Watson a
terrible amount of heartache and concern. He also helped Jim escape by telling
men on a passing boat that the man on his raft was his father who “got the
small pox” rather than a run away slave (Clemens 75). Although the first lie
hurt some people, the reader interprets it as Huck’s only choice and therefore
doesn’t “mark him as a bad person” (Miner 23). The perception of Huck is
that of a hero, so no matter the moral choices he makes, we tend to see him as
such. Miss Watson, a picture of Godliness tells a terrible lie. She swore to Jim
that he wouldn’t “sell him down to New Orleans,” while she had full
intention to until he ran off (Clemens 39). This lie was the type that held gain
for Miss Watson, but negative affects for others namely Jim. Yet even though she
is seen as somewhat of an ogre until she eventually releases Jim, she is not
seen as one of the villainous characters of the book for this lie. This has to
do mostly with her being introduced with Huck’s interests apparently as her
main concern by giving him directions for his own good such as “sit up
straight” and the like (Clemens 8). By being brought into the reader’s view
as a role model, the cruel lie she told is diminished and barley even dwelled
upon by most readers. Tom Sawyer is a professional liar. Tom however is
considered imaginative rather than a liar for the most part. He is known well
for his lies amongst the other characters. When Huck fakes his own death, Jim
comments that “Tom Sawyer couldn’t get up no better plan” since Tom is
constantly lies (Clemens 39). Tom also takes part in the scheme to steal Jim out
of captivity; the whole time lying to Huck that Jim isn’t free when he knows
perfectly well that Miss Watson freed Jim on her deathbed. Tom’s character is
a diabolical liar and is yet seen only as a mischief-maker and not a true threat
to anyone. Even the lovable innocent Jim will lie for personal gain. His
“innocence is lost” when he successfully scams unwitting Huck (Miner 21). He
manages to trick Huck out of a quarter for the use of his “magic hairball”
that tells the future (Clemens 19). This lie was only designed to get Huck’s
money, not to hurt anyone. This and the fact that Jim is practically ignorant
account for his being a “hero” in the story even though he lies to his
friend and steals himself out of slavery. The King and the Duke are dubbed
villains for their lies. Even the only names the reader is able to call them by
are frauds. The “Duke”, purely to receive preferential treatment from Huck
and Jim claims he is a descendant of the “Duke of Bridgewater” (Clemens
100). Inspired by the duke’s lie, the king tells his own tale. He claims to be
the long lost “King of France” “Dauphin” (Clemens 101). This is clearly
not true to everyone except for trusting old Jim. Huck however treats them as
royalty so as not to anger them. These men only lied in order to escape work and
receive favors from Jim and Huck. They later deceive entire towns with their
makeshift theatre presentation “The Royal Nonesuch” for financial gain
(Clemens 121). Also they play with the emotions of two girls that recently lost
their uncle in order to steal his money. The king and the duke lie only to
“please themselves”, this is why, unlike other liars throughout the story,
they are pegged as the criminals and eventually ridden out of town on a rail
(Miner 24). The river and the shore often have meanings in Huckleberry Finn. The
river can represent purity and freedom. The shore almost always represents the
things that are wrong with society and captivity. Even so, both contain an equal
amount of lies. This suggests that the lies themselves are not necessarily evil,
so much as the person telling them may be. The king and duke lie to Huck on the
river on many occasions. This illustrates the fact that all the characters lie;
it is just a question of their character that denotes the nature of the lie. Had
all lies in the story been evil, Clemens never would have had any occur on the
utopian Mississippi. While all characters and for the most part all people lie,
it is the motivation behind the lie and the moral fiber of the person telling it
that causes harm or good. The fact that a character in the story lies does not
make them a bad or evil character, simply more realistic. The focus of Clemens
through the social graces of his characters and their dialects was to create a
true to life story. By adding the complexity of honesty to good or evil ends
greatly contributes to this theme of realism.
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