While there are many themes expressed in thenovel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnone makes a stronger presence by its continued,if not redundant display of itself. Far too often insociety people’s lack of knowledge on a givensubject causes their opinions and actions to relystrictly on stereotypes created by the masses.
This affliction is commonly known as ignorance.
This is curable but people have to becomeopen-minded and leave their reliance on society’sviewpoints behind them. In the novel, TheAdventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain,the ignorance of society becomes extremelyevident at many parts of the book.
Society formsideals for all walks of life and then lets thembecome like stone in their minds. Thus, once aperson has been put into a group they will remainthere forever. The ignorance of society is clearlyseen when one looks at Huck Finn, Jim theSlave, Pap, and the senseless violence of theGrangerfords and the Shepardsons. Many people see Huckleberry Finn as amischievous boy who is a bad influence toothers.
Society refuses to accept Huck as he isand isn’t going to change its opinions about himuntil he was reformed and civilized. The WidowDouglas and Miss Watson try to “sivilize” Huckby making stop all of his habits such as smoking,etc. They try to reverse all of his teaching fromthe first twelve years of his life and force him tobecome their stereotypical good boy. The rest ofthe town also refused to view him as good untilthey received visual proof of this. Until then, hewill be viewed as someone undesirable. The onlytime that the town’s people are able to put awaytheir views of Huck was when there wasexcitement to be found, like when they allcrowded on the steamboat to see if the cannonscan bring Huck’s body to the surface. Everyonegot interested in him and tried to show that theycared about him, but this is only after he ispresumed dead. They take on these views tofollow society in its ignorance. Few of themwould have cared about Huck before becausethey didn’t know him and didn’t want to knowhim, but since taking interest in mysteries was thepopular thing to do, society did it. Although Huckis viewed in an ignorant light, he was also inaccordance with this novel and very ignoranthimself. Huck said “I thought it all out, andreckoned I would belong to the widow if hewanted me, though I couldn’t make out how hewas a-going to be any better off then than whathe was before, seeing I was so ignorant, and sokind of low-down and ornery.” Huck talks aboutPap with some disgust and disregard. WhileHuck is not completely afraid of him in this quoteas he later becomes, he still does not showrespect for his father. The following is a goodrepresentation of what Huck does and does notunderstand. “I studied a minute, sort of holdingmy breath, and then says to myself: All right,then, I’ll go to hell’–and tore it up.” Huck wrotea letter to Miss Watson but tore it up. He decidedthat he would go to hell for Jim. Another goodexample is when Huck was having problems withJim wanting his children back. “…Jim wouldsteal his children — children that belonged to aman… a man that hadn’t ever done me noharm.” This quote shows that Huck is stilltroubled by helping Jim and that he still does notyet understand that Jim is just as human as thosepeople who own his children. This shows a stagein his growth in understanding about slavery andJim.
Society once again set the stereotypes in anothersection of the book by their feelings toward Jimand Pap. Society automatically sees a blackperson, and even further, slaves, as inferior.
They never thought of slaves as human beings,only as property. A slave, such as Jim, could bethe nicest, most caring person you have evermet, but since he is a slave he would bepresumed incapable of such things. While societyis doing this it will let a person whom is as evil asPap go on without question. Society’s ignoranceshines radiantly once again. They have theknowledge that Jim is a slave but make nojudgments on his personality. This is shownwhen they assume that Jim killed Huck justbecause he ran away near the time of Huck’sdeath. They don’t consider the motives of suchan action, but just look at the surface facts thathe might do this because he is savage, missing,and possibly in the area at the time. Pap is alsosuspected, but not as much as Jim even thoughhe has a motive, and could have easilycommitted such an evil deed in one of hisdrunken stupors. Society, because of their lack ofknowledge of the personality of Jim,automatically assumes that he is the one thatcommitted the murder. Society makes superficialaccusations because it doesn’t know what hasreally happened or of the true feelings of the twosuspects. Again, society isn’t the only ignorantparty. Jim is awfully ignorant, and if you searchfor proof you need to look no further than anydirect quote in which he is speaking. “What’s deuse er makin’ up de camp fire to cook strawbriesen sich truck? But you got a gun, hain’t you?Den we kin git sumfn better den strawbries.”(When I typed this out it drove my spell checkcrazy!)In another part of the novel the Twain illustratesthe ignorance of society very well with the feudbetween the Grangerfords and the Shepardsons.
When Buck Grangerford was questioned aboutwhy he shot at Harvey Shepardson he firstexclaims in disbelief that Huck doesn’t knowwhat a feud was, and says “Why, nothing — onlyit’s on account of the feud.” Then, however, hedoesn’t know why the two families are feuding inthe first place and hasn’t made any effort to findout. It is remarkable that people will continue onan old grudge without knowing how it originated.
On top of that, they won’t make any attempts togain knowledge about the subject. Buck, in thisfragment of the novel, represents how societyoften bases its actions on what it has been told byothers without questioning the motives. WhenBuck was asked when the feud was started, hetold Huck that he didn’t know, but replied,”Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon, and some of theother old people; but they don’t know now whatthe row was about in the first place.” Withouttrue knowledge of why the feud is occurring onemight wonder how people could continue on withthe killing. It may seem bizarre, but so are manyof the other actions of society. When a large group of people takes oneviewpoint others are often forced into thismentality even if they are more enlightened.
People can oppress others into conditions byforcing their incorrect views on them. They oftenwill not allow people to rise through the rankswithout blatant proof of improvement. Theoblivious members of society who only considerthe surface instead of looking deep for trueknowledge can falsely accuse people. Societyconstantly judges people based on stereotypes ofa certain group and it often fails to consider thepersonality of an individual. Society takes actionwithout being properly informed or will take uparms against opposing groups just becausesomeone who it respects has blindly told them to.
The ignorance of Society constantly causespeople, issues, and views to be regarded inadverse ways.
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