Huckleberry Finn – Satire to Criticize Society Essay
Mark Twain harshly undermines our society in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain himself says, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. ” The side of majority in most cases can refer to the norms of society, in which Twain claims is where you wouldn’t like to be. That is because Twain’s views society as feeble in weak. He sees society at an almost hypocritical view, which can be seen through his great American classic.
In Mark Twain’s novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain satirizes religion, civilization, and human nature to expose the flaws and weaknesses behind American society. Twain criticizes religion in society through satirizing Miss Watson and Silas Phelps as highly religious yet hypocritical figures. Miss Watson was a leading character in Huck’s childhood, and gave multiple attempts at civilizing Huck into a civilized religious boy. Twain satirizes the hypocrisy of religion when describing Huck’s life with Watson and the widow. Miss Watson she kept pecking at me, and it got tiresome and lonesome. By-and-by they fetched the niggers in and had prayers, and then everybody was off to bed. ” (3) Twain states that religious people can be hypocrites in instances like this, where they purposely ignore certain teachings of their religion. The Bible encourages that people treat others they wish to be treated, and here Miss Watson blatantly ignores that by being a slave owner. By saying, “they fetched the niggers in and had prayers,” there is no evident contrast or pause highlighting this contradiction.
Twain leaves the syntax in this manner to prove how leisurely and commonly people in society contradict their own religion. This goes to show how easily religious hypocrites managed to be accepted by society. Twain satirizes this aspect of ignorance existing within society through Silas Phelps as well. Phelps was a farmer as well as a preacher and, like many farmers of this time period, Phelps owned a few slaves on the farm. This irony brings attention to the ignorance and hypocrisy of society as well.
A preacher, who speaks words from the Holy Bible itself, continues to go against its teachings by owning slaves. Twain reveals the ignorance within society by proving how people state their faith, yet only choose to believe certain understandings of their religion. Through the field of religious hypocrisy, Twain states that American society is flawed due to the fact that some deny the teachings of their religious scripture by being slave-holders and enslaving other men for their labor.
There are many instances where Twain satirizes civilization through Huckleberry Finn’s adventures. An evident example of a satirical representation of civilization is during the scene with the feud between the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons. Huck comes off the river and is offered a place in the “civilized life” when a family decides to let him stay with them. However he soon found out about their ongoing feud with a rival family. Twain satirizes civilized life through the Grangerford feud when Buck describes “It started thirty year ago, or som’ers along there.
There was trouble ‘bout something and then a lawsuit to settle it; … and so he up and shot the man that won the suit –which he would naturally do, of course. Anybody would. ” (109) This quote begins with a descriptive context surrounding the little vague knowledge behind the origin of the feud. However, the syntax shifts when Buck describes what any general man would do, “so he up and shot the man that won the suit –which he would naturally do, of course. Anybody would. ” The last sentence of this quote is simply “Anybody would. Twain’s purpose for this sentence structure is to highlight the idiocy behind keeping a feud. By plainly saying that anyone would shoot their opponent had they won an argument, Twain deplores society for their lack of rational thinking. The two families hardly know what is being fought for, yet they take it into custom that they continue to fight; neither of the two families attempt to make peace or solve things rationally between them. The reader can see that these “civilized” families are nothing but blood-thirsty men that only desire to kill one another.
These chapters serve as satire to American civilization in the sense that the society that makes up civilization does not always depict civilized decorum. However the uncivilized manner of society can be traced back to the roots of human nature, which Twain also satirizes. Twain comments on all of human nature, when analyzed, would almost make one feel ashamed to even be human. An evident instance of satirizing human nature is during the king’s performance of, “The Royal Nonesuch”, which was an event in which he dances naked on stage in an assortment of colors to make money.
Twain satirizes human nature when Huck states, “-but never mind the rest of his outfit, it was just wild, but it was awful funny. The people most killed themselves laughing; and when the king got done capering, and capered off behind the scenes, they roared and clapped and stormed and haw-hawed till he come back and done it over again” (152-153) Both the king and the audience are being undermined in this scene. Twain’s purpose of this scene is to depict, for one, how desperate some can be for money or other items of necessity.
The king “come a-prancing out on all fours, naked” (152) and this event further characterizes our dynamic duo as even greater rapscallions who would do anything, no matter how demoralizing, to make a quick buck. Secondly, the audience within this scene is also a subject of satire, as they critique human nature on their standards of enjoyment. Twain believes that men have devolved to find true comedy in one’s pitiful desperation for money. Before the Royal Nonesuch, the duke says after their Shakespeare presentation. These Arkansaw lunkheads couldn’t come up to Shakespeare: what they wanted was low comedy –and may be something ruther worse than low comedy, he reckoned. ” (151) Although being a target for much of Twain’s satire, even the duke finds it disgraceful that these southern men find Shakespeare not to their interests. The Royal Nonesuch is a satire for desperation and lack of intellectual amusement within human nature. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn doesn’t only satirize human nature, but society overall.
The satire within Twain’s novel is an extended statement for the instability of American society, by describing society as ignorant, uncivilized, and shamefully idiotic and desperate. Although having wrote the book in the late 1800’s, Twain’s perception of society isn’t too far off from what our society experiences today. The topic of religious hypocrisy exists within the argument to legalize gay marriage in certain states. Civilization isn’t always the happiest to be, with the country in a state of economic crisis.
As for human nature, media in today’s society seems to overlook the importance of education with all these reality television shows and inferior, uneducated mainstream music. The growing generation is exposed to the popular culture of disregarding education or any strive for success in life. Nowadays teens want to be on the next “16 and Pregnant” or listen to music with promiscuous and racy lyrics; whereas very few would appreciate the lyrical works of Shakespeare or even the contents of a classic novel. Twain foresaw that society would devolve in certain aspects, even ahead of his time.