Site Loader
Rock Street, San Francisco

  Satire can be defined as the use of humor or irony to critique a part of society or human nature. In the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses the protagonist, Huckleberry Finn, to voice his opinions on the people and institutions in the South, specifically Missouri and Arkansas. Throughout the progression of the novel, Huck and a runaway slave, Jim, set off onto an adventure that they hope will lead them to a new life. As the two characters make their way through their journey, Twain creates scenarios in which he can satirize religion, education, and Southern gentility.         In Twain’s satirization of religion, there is irony. In some instances in the novel, characters, like the Widow Douglas and the Grangerfords, claim to be “good Christians”, but fail to live their lives in a way that will allow them to truly follow God’s commands. For example, in the beginning of the novel, the widow is extremely intent on teaching Huck all about religion and wants to create a Christian out of him. She even “fetched the slaves in and had prayers” right before she sends them off to bed (Twain 5). However, she fails to state in her teachings that God does not wish any race to remain inferior to another. The Grangerfords, as well, can’t seem to remain the “good Christians” that they present themselves to be. During their Sunday trip to the church, they have no shame in taking their guns and keeping them “between their knees or stood handy against the wall” as the priest speaks about “brotherly love…and good works, and free grace, and preforeordestination” (129). Though the sermon should have been full of happiness and peace, Huck describes it as being “one of the roughest Sundays he had run across yet” (129). In the Grangerfords failure to follow God’s words, they ironically bring weapons and hate to the sermon about love. The hypocrisy of both the widow and the Grangerfords is clearly portrayed here, for they are Christians for the eyes of onlookers, but practice only the parts that will benefit themselves. In Twain’s use of satire, he is able to portray how shallow their belief is, as it doesn’t go deeper than it must for their image to remain intact in front of the rest of the community.  Twain also emphasizes Huck’s confusion and uninterested attitude through diction, including the word “preforeordestination.” By making up a word, he shows how religion can be seen as a joke and a waste of time to onlookers if it’s not taken seriously by the ones who claim to practice it. Instead of practicing a shallow religion, Twain’s use of satire proposes that people who choose to be religious should not be able to create their own rules and follow what they believe is right, even if they are extremely rich.Some characters have no problem exploiting the entire religion for their own greed. The king, for instance, is one of the most despicable characters in the novel, as he doesn’t care about anyone and will use whatever advantage he can think of to make a quick dollar. While visiting another town, the king and Huck attend a camp meeting. During the meeting, the king rushes on stage and makes a huge speech about being a pirate who wants to change, but has no funds to go help save his former pirate friends. The weeping Christians believe his false tale and donate money to his “noble” cause. The exaggeration is hard to miss. Not only are the people’s responses to the preacher’s words overstated, but when the king describes them as “benefactors to the race” in order to get money, walking around and “swabbing his eyes and blessing them and thanking them…while the prettiest kind of girls, with the tears running down their cheeks, would up and ask him would he let them kiss him”, they basically throw themselves at him, begging him to stay (155). By choosing to include this scenario, Twain satirizes Christians for being gullible and foolish. Even the syntax of this section, being one huge run-on narrated by Huck, portrays how unbelievable the story is. Twain’s hope is to change how eager religious people are to accept those that praise and want to be like them, yet turn others away for being different and to bring attention to the fact that Christians never ask questions, believing anything that is said to them without hesitation.In another part of the novel, Twain uses humor and understatement to satirize religion. When Miss Watson takes her turn at forcing religion down Huck’s throat, he really doesn’t understand it. In his defense, he has prayed for the things he wants, those being a fishing line and hooks, but he only gets the line and it “warn’t no good to him without hooks” (14). When Miss Watson tells him he has to pray for spiritual gifts and to help others, he “couldn’t see no advantage about it—except for the other people” so he decides to just forget about religion altogether (14). Although it is humorous for the audience to read about how truly unaware Huck is about praying and what can be achieved by it, it’s Twain’s way of mocking Christians and their beliefs, because who says that it can’t be the way that Huck envisions it. By choosing to take a child-like approach to the matter and allowing the child to speak out about his own thoughts, in a funny and straightforward way that seems way too over-simplified, Twain truly breaks down the whole concept of religion and makes it seems as though anything is possible, if one truly believes in it. There doesn’t need to be such a set of strict restrictions on something that should be so freeing. It’s actually how direct Huck is with his opinions that causes the audience to chuckle, since there seems to be no hesitation in his colloquial language, and his stubborn conclusions portray a sense of confidence and ignorance that only a child has in such instances. Through what the audience can decipher from Twain’s descriptions, the South doesn’t seem open to a lot of change and society seems set with specific rules, and Twain’s use of satire criticizes their disinterest in change. He shows that he is all for advancement by portraying Huck as a moral character who made the right decisions without the need of religion or God.Twain satirizes education, as well. Education seems to be a major factor of status. Those who are educated see themselves as higher than those who aren’t. Huck, who has only been going to school for a short while, “could spell, and read, and write just a little, and could say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty-five” (19). In this statement that Twain uses, there is irony that creates humor. As the novel progresses, however, the audience realizes how truly quick-witted Huck is, which is Twain’s way of criticizing those who only value education from a book and don’t take anyone seriously if they’ve learned their lessons through life experiences. Twain reinforces his standpoint by portraying Jim to be very knowledgeable about the world. When having a disagreement about King Solomon, Huck, being educated to an extent, can only make an argument because “the widow told him all about it” and because he could read what the Bible said and even goes on to talk about the son of Louis XVI, which is impressive to an extent, though he goes on to call him the “dolphin”  (93). Twain’s decision to make Huck say the wrong word is comical, but it also reinforces the satire and the point he is making. Huck, only knowing what others have told him to believe, has truly no opinion for himself on the matter, while Jim can make a believable argument because he believes what he is saying himself and has justifiable arguments in his defense. By showing how an uneducated person can hold his own when in an argument with someone who is literate and educated, Twain argues that common sense is valuable, too. An opinion should be valid, even if the person stating it isn’t restating someone else’s. It is also Twain’s way of denouncing the idea that slaves, or more importantly African Americans, are perpetually and without a doubt less intelligent than the “superior” white race. Twain’s portrayal of Jim being the more mature person, though Huck is the educated one with the reading skills, tries to convince society to change the way they view uneducated people, as they are usually labeled as ignorant and unintelligent. Lastly, Twain satirizes Southern gentility. In the novel, being respectable is something that is looked up to. The Grangerfords are the main people that Huck really sees as respectable people. This civilized, privileged family is feuding with another, the Shepherdsons. The hypocritical aspect of the whole situation is obvious. Instead of being the respectable people that they claim to be and working things out with the Shepherdsons, the Grangerfords decide to put themselves and their relatives in danger to uphold their pride. There’s a lot of understatement used while Buck tells Huck about the feud, nonchalantly explaining that the feud started when a man “shot the man that won the suit—which he would naturally do, of course. Anybody would” (128).  While Buck defines what a feud is, he drawls out that “by-and-by everybody’s killed, and there ain’t no more feud. But it’s kind of slow, and takes a long time” (127). Though comical, these understatements portray how Buck and the other Grangerfords don’t understand how truly serious a feud is and decide to go along with it, willing to fight without really understanding the consequences that will follow. The Grangerfords portray themselves to be respectable and civilized, but have no problem going after other human beings like savages, even when there’s truly no point. This feud is Twain’s way of bringing the public’s attention to the amount of violence and unneeded death that is occuring daily, hoping to make the audience realize that there’s no reason to fight against one another. Instead, they should find a way to unite, just as Harney and Sophia do. This can also be Twain taking a stance against the Civil War, which was fought by people who really never pinpointed the true reason that they were fighting and fought because of honor for the majority of the war.         Satire is Twain’s technique of bringing up touchy issues and taking a stance on them, without actually directly choosing a side, and therefore not offending anyone. In the antebellum South, where Twain’s novel is set, there is much to change about the lives of the people there. By writing this book, Twain is able to propose some of that change and reach a broader audience, for his words, or more specifically the words of a young, ignorant boy, are accepted as being humorous and harmless.  Being that this isn’t a serious and direct novel, the backlash to the opinions of Twain is subdued and more people are willing to read his words. Twain’s satire, which includes his, irony, syntax, overstatement, and understatement, gets the message across, but in a subtle, gentle way.

Post Author: admin


I'm Dora!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out