Editor’s Notes:

Brett recently completed an essay about what he discovered in the classic American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Once again I had the pleasure of being around when he wrote this essay with my role limited to coaching him to dig into his head.

He began with the general observation that Huck was continually running away from various situations; being difficult I then asked him what might Huck be running towards. He quickly hit an impasse and for several hours went nowhere.

I kept trying to tell him to not write but to jam his hands deep into the dirt and claw around in it; till the soil enough and the words would escape the earth to fly free.

Eventually he started to articulate this essay to me in spoken words and his challenge then became to scoop the words out the air with wild stabs of his muddy hands. He quickly found out that words fly fast and that steady hands are needed if they are to be captured.

He persevered and discovered that engineers engineer, that musicians make music and that yes, that writers simply write.

Such is the nature of human endeavors. Such is the nature of finding your confidence.


Huck Finn Essay
By Brett Johnson

In the novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , the author Mark Twain creates a world where the central character, Huckleberry Finn is trained for hypocritical thinking by Miss Watson and the Widow, among others. Only through the experience of Huck, himself, being a victim of hypocrisy does he find the means to build an honest relationship as he is able to see the hypocrisy in ways others cannot. As he adventures down the Mississippi river he is overwhelmed by the hypocrisy that he finds is embedded in pre-civil war America. He comes to a point where he finds the adults in his life to be untrustworthy and the only person he can trust is his own personal freedom.

While Huck stays with the Widow he is first introduced to hypocrisy through the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson. The Widow tells Huck that, as a well-intentioned Christian, he should treat his fellow man with respect and “help other people.” Yet the hypocritical nature of her religious beliefs is divulged through the way she treats slaves as less than human. For the Widow tells Huck, he should “do everything I[he] could for other people,” but she herself, isn’t bothered by the fact that she owns slaves.

The same goes for Miss Watson who “fetched the niggers and had prayers” with them. Miss Watson, like the Widow, holds up her religious ideals, but she too, sees nothing wrong with owning slaves, and in doing so makes an image for Huck of Heaven, by telling him “all about the good place.”

When asked if Tom Sawyer would go to “the good place,” Miss Watson responds with a no, for if “Miss Watson’s got him there warn’t[it wasn’t] no help for him anymore.” In similar fashion to the Widow, Miss Watson practices the same good ideals of “help other people,” but she won’t always help everyone, which further solidifies the contradictory moral emptiness in the two sister’s beliefs.

The sanctimonious way that the Widow and Miss Watson see their own hypocritical views as righteous and not immoral teach Huck to engage with the same faulty logic.

The generalization of hypocrisy in society is further pushed by the fact that civilization, at its core, through its institutions and rules, strives to eliminate disorder and cruelty in life. In the case of Huck, when “The judge and the widow went to law to get the court to take me[him] away from him[Huck’s father],” the Judge rules that they “mustn’t interfere and separate families.”

As the courts fail Huck by trading his welfare for his Father’s natural “rights,” a parallel is drawn between Huck and that of a slave. As Huck is bound to his abusive Father, so were black men bound to the abuse of slavery. With Huck’s “family” being more in line with that of ownership, Huck’s Father attacks Huck in a drunken panic, which similarly shows how slaves are treated; with abuse. Which pushes the insincere idea they are family: Huck is more like property than a son.

Yet the hypocrisy becomes utterly clear when Huck’s Father, in a drunken stupor, raves about a black college professor’s inferiority and the fact that “he[professor] could vote” and how it is “the wurst.” For a man so debased and flawed, such as Huck’s Father, to still be better than that of a civilized professor solely based on the color of their skin clearly exemplifies the way superiority is hypocritically claimed.

As Huck adventures down the Mississippi into the heart of the South and deeper into the soul of hypocrisy he finds himself entangled in a feud between two families, the Grangerfords, and the Shepherdsons. When the two families attend a sermon, the Grangerfords bring Huck along, who notices the sermon praises and preaches that of “brotherly love,” yet both families have “took[taken] their guns along.” After the service“everybody said it was a good sermon,” but the whole meaning of the preached gospel was lost on every single one of them.

The hypocrisy of religion is further condemned, as the two families praise the idea of “brotherly love,” yet they all “kept their guns between their knees” ready to use which further shows the hypocritical irony of the whole situation. They use religion to back up their own selfish agenda, yet the purpose of it is lost to them, and they are left blind in the teachings of their own gospel.

In contrast to the previous examples of the falseness in society, an alternative view is given on the by the relationship between Huck and Jim. Huck, when given the opportunity to profit by turning Jim in, an escaped slave, he refuses and decides to help Jim escape. With the harsh environment that Huck has been exposed to for most of his life, one might expect that he would do the opposite, based on the lessons he had been taught by his life experiences. Yet as it turns out that the greatest source of humanity in the novel comes from an escaped slave and a runaway boy because of their honest relationship.

Even though Huck encounters throughout his travels a world where adults say to him, “do as I say and not as I do,” he never seems to lose his core humanity for he had found a selfless relationship with Jim. Even though Huck repeatedly is running away from one injustice after another, throughout the novel, Twain also has Huck running towards something for more heroic: his own personal integrity, honesty, and the guts to live free of the hypocrisy of the south out west.

Copyright 2016 – Brett Johnson – All Rights Reserved