Satire is one of the tools used by mark Twain to unveil social issues and changing values, new social relations, and self-understand of the main characters. Mark Twain’s satire can be characterized as moralistic and didactic aimed to teach readers. From a natural bent, Mark Twain is always interested in theology and philosophy, as well as in the problem of morals. Thesis In Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain uses satire and irony, mockery, and humor to unveil social discrepancies and false values of the society.
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In Huckleberry Finn, humor and irony are used by Mark Twain to criticize Sunday schools and family relations. The three figures, Tom, Huck, and Jim, represent three gradations of thought and three social classes. Tom is the most civilized; but he represents a mawkish, romantic, artificial society. Compared with him, Nigger Jim and Huck are low-class citizens. Mark Twain shows readers the African in Jim, imbuing him with a dark knowledge that lies in his blood and his nerve ends. it is possible to say that Huck Finn stands between Tom and Jim; he is the “natural man”. Jim “said he must start in and ‘interpret it, because it was sent for a warning” (Mark Twain). In this case, ark twain satirically portrays society through children’s characters and their values, world views, and personal vision of reality.
The irony is that children try to overcome social traditions and false morals limited by their class position and poverty. Tom cannot do anything against the rules of society; Jim cannot do anything against the rules of his taboos, his voodoo fears and charms, and superstitions. Only Huck is free of social values. The irony is that Tom and Jim are always sure they are right since each has his values to consult and to follow, but Huck is tormented by doubts. When he is with Tom, he is willing to join Tom in following the books; when he is with Jim, he is careful not to break Jim’s taboos, especially after the incident of the rattlesnake skin. Huck admits: “Human beings can be awful cruel to one another” (Mark Twain). When Huck is alone because he has no rules to go by he is guided by the voice within himself. He listens to what goes on inside him. He is free to probe within his own heart, where is to be found whatever bit of divinity man has what we know as his soul.
Huckleberry Finn has a broad field using satire as the main tool against false social and social relations within the society. Slavery is basic in this book. Mark Twain fulminates against slave-owners and the state. He attacks the oppressions of formal religion and formal law. He frowns upon the slavery by which young people are trained in hypocrisy and the forms of empty “honor.” Indeed, he sees the village itself as a little state which dictates the condemnation of all outlanders and innovators. Within each of the themes in Huckleberry Finn, there is a variation of character and atmosphere. After the romantic atmosphere which permeates the first three chapters, in the next four, the story veers sharply from the mood of Tom Sawyer, and Pap takes the stage, drunken and disreputable, feeling himself the victim of sundry social ills. Pap is completely revealed through his oration on the “movement.” This theme ends when Huck flees because he fears his father will kill him in a fit of delirium tremens. After so much violence, Jackson’s Island gives him a feeling of peace. He explores the island, and just as he begins to feel lonely he discovers Jim, a Negro who has run away from home because his owner is planning to sell him “down to Orleans” — the Negro’s equivalent of hell. Huck admits:
“No. Killed a nigger.”
“Well, it’s lucky…two years ago…the old Lally Rook… blew out a cylinder-head and crippled a man. He was a Baptist…I remember now, he did die”
Thereafter the runaway slave and the outcast waif share the island and comfort each other. This small theme of four chapters, the interlude on Jackson’s Island, ends once more in the threat of violence and fear.
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Satire and mockery of religious values are evident in relation to slaves and low-class citizens. Huck has a strong, vivid, natural imagination-not an artificial one, such as Tom’s, or a superstitious one, such as Jim’s. He describes, with memorable effect, a summer storm which he and Jim watched from the security of their cave on the island. After the episode of the feud, the king and the duke board the raft and begin to dominate the lives of Huck and Jim. The loafers of Brecksville, Arkansas, lean and whittle; around noon, they all laugh and look glad, for old man Boggs comes riding into town drunk and begins to blackguard Colonel Sherburn. Finally, Sherburn’s outraged honor demands that he stop this blackguarding with a bullet, and Boggs dies in a little drugstore, with a heavy Bible on his chest. All these wrongs are condemned through the mere fact of their presentation. In that scene, Colonel Sherburn appears on his veranda to pour his withering scorn down upon the mob and send them scurrying like whipped curs. “I know you clear through. I was born and raised in the South, and I’ve lived in the North” (Mark Twain). With each of these scenes, Huck’s character develops as his experience is widened. He perceives the manly qualities of Jim and scales correctly the duke and the king.
In sum, satire and irony help Mark Twain to unveil social problems and moral values, weaknesses of strict personal rules and values. Satire becomes a form of social commentary and criticism of false social values and traditions, slavery, and social relations dominated in the society.
Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn. n.d. Web.