Hypocrisy And The Race Issue In Huckleberry Finn
Huckleberry Finn was written well after Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Although this had been complete two decades before Mark Twain wrote the book, America was still trying to see where African Americans fit into society. Some would say the racism was abundant while Mr. Twain wrote the Novel. America had a decision to make following the civil war and although things were better for a while it is apparent that it was a vital issue in Mr. Twain’s mind when he wrote this novel. Leets look at the racial divides Mr. Twain brings to the forefront in his controversial novel Huckleberry Finn. (“Huck Finn’s America: Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece,” 2015)
When writing this novel Mr. Twain decided to write it about twenty years in the past. This was when slavery was the way of America. It would seem as though he did this to emphasize the story he was about to tell. This was clearly a parallel to the times of Mr. Twain’s life when conditions for African Americans were still very poor. In Huckleberry Finn we see Mr. Twain show parallels to the hypocrisy of how African Americans were treated as slaves to how he saw them treated in his lifetime. One example of this text comes from when Miss Watson expresses no concern when separating Jim from his family. But this is a very specific example deep in the subtext let’s start at a broader point then dive in. (Levine, 2017) (“Huck Finn’s America: Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece,” 2015)
We learn that Huckleberry Finn is a young white boy from the bottom of the white hierarchy. He has hardly a father figure in his life. Basically, an orphan with no home who refuses to change his independent ways. Although he has some schooling, he is far from trusting and disconnected from society. We learn that Jim who is eventually Huckleberry’s father figure or best friend in the book is essentially an escaped slave. Torn from his wife and children. We learn that he is an intelligent man despite some unusual superstitions. But the novel is about the travels of these two down the river. Their bond showing all of America that we can accept each other in the real world. (Levine, 2017)
Now this isn’t just an easy story to say all is good in the world, as to say they were best friends and never thought of betrayal or had an insight into what was happening. An example of this is when Huckleberry finds that he is going to have to hurt someone since he essentially stole from Miss Watson. “What had poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you, that you could treat her so mean?” (Levine, 2017) This is when Huckleberry begins to understand he has a very grown-up choice to make. Does he betray his friend or his race or beliefs? He prays and thinks about this a lot. He believes in the golden rule but believes in his heart his friend should be free. And then decides that is what should happen. Ganesan, Sankar & G.Menaka,. (2018).
“I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knew I could pray now.” (Levine, 2017) “The result is a world of moral confusion,” Writes Menaka and Sankar. (“Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Documentary Volume,” 2009) which is of course referring to the moral dilemma of Huckleberry in this situation. Does he turn in the letter like he believes he should? Ruining Jim’s life but returning “property”. Helping the women who taught him when no one else would. But Huckleberry decides to tear it up. Stating boldly “All right, then, I’ll GO to hell’—and tore it up.” (Levine, 2017) Making his decision to write down where to find Jim as if he is turning him in to miss Watson frees Huckleberry into being able to pray but also think clearly. It would seem as a parallel can have drawn as to Mr. Twains would be saying that lives are more important than property. This can also be interpreted as a reference to Huckleberry’s faith that was taught to him by the widow. The story has many religious moments but this one brings into it race. And makes a hard choice harder. The saving grace could be Huckleberry’s resiliency to think about the golden rule. Not stealing is both against his religion and the rule. He wouldn’t want someone to steal from him, but we also see huckleberry look at this situation as Jim as a person in my opinion. “And got to thinking over our trip down the river, and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along,”. (Levine, 2017) clearly shows huckleberry seeing Jim as a person, not property. (Scholten, 1954) (LIU Xi & MA Wen-ying, 2015)
Throughout this class in American literature we have seen this same theme before. Fredrick Douglas said “Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? (Levine, 2017) Here Mr. Douglas points out the hypocrisy of celebrating America’s birthday as an African American. Although not written as a story with a subtext it is clear it is on the same lines of pointing out the hypocrisy of the racial divide in America. Asking “Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?” (Levine, 2017) in its self this statement is evoking an emotion deep inside everyone he spoke it to, or anyone who reads it after. This statement is mostly meant to be rhetorical but if we answer it, we learn a lot about our history, specifically the African American history of our great country. At the battle of Monmouth, African Americans were fighting in the fight for independence from the crown and the British empire. Both with the promise of being free men after the war, if they chose the winning side. Now going back to Huckleberry Finn’s moral dilemma of betraying his Friend or his social upbringing we can clearly see the same theme in this statement. Where as the Americans who just won the war had a choice to keep their promise of freeing those who fought or simply treating them like “property”. As history can tell us very few were freed after the war and even those that were still was not treated like their Caucasian counterparts. (“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Revisited | Harvard University Press,” 2012)
“I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me.” (Levine, 2017) Stated by Mr. Douglas far before Mr. Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn. “[Jim] was thinking about his wife and his children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick; because he hadn’t ever been away from home before in his life; and I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks do for their’n. It don’t seem natural, but I reckon it’s so”. (Levine, 2017) this stamen from the thoughts of Jim show his empathy across the line of race. It is a crucial turning point showing Jim is in fact a human being and not a piece of property or animal as is the social norm of their timeline. This two quotes side by side should prove that Mr. Douglas and Mr. Twain had the same sense of how intelligent each person was. Simply put both men believed that there was no racial handicap of intelligence. Furthermore, they should be treated as humans and not “property”. (“The Double-sidedness of racial discourse in Twain’s Huckleberry Finn: A Reconsideration in Bakhtin’s Theory,” 2013)
I conclude that racism in its self is a hypocritical thought. That any one person is beneath another is morally wrong in my opinion. I showed there were racial divides in two separate reading assignments that were written well apart from one another. Showed the same logic was given to the thought of racism by two very different men. One who’s, masterpiece was a work of art that led people to discover that they might be looking at people in the wrong light. And another who was bold and had people question their own beliefs. Both who helped heal a promise broken long before they were alive, and helped a nation finally end a hypercritical racial divide.
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