What exactly is satire. Satire is the use of wit especially irony, sarcasm, and ridicule to criticize faults. Samuel Clemens or also more known as Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn, a sequel to his other novel, Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn has been acclaimed to be one of the greatest pieces of American literature of all time. This is due to Twain’s use of many writing elements, one of them being satire which he incorporated in this novel. This classic story tells of a young white boy named Huckleberry Finn, and a runaway slave named Jim. Together they travel down the Mississippi River trying to get Jim free, and have an unbelievable journey, with nail biting encounters. Twain satirizes man’s cruelty, religious hypocrisy, and superstition, in one of his best works Huckleberry Finn.
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A problem in society of course in the 19th century was mans cruelty especially to blacks. Mark Twain detested the fact of how one man could be so merciless and malice to another one. An example of someone who is subject to cruelty in the book is obviously Jim, the runaway slave. Tom Sawyer who we see from time to time in the book shows a supplementary amount of cruelty to Jim towards the end of the novel. When Jim was locked up in the shed Tom, created an extremely complex and enigmatic plan to help Jim escape. Not only did this plan take weeks and weeks to complete, it made Jim confused, and caused him some pain. Tom already knew Jim was free through Miss Watson’s will, instead of telling people about Jim’s newly discovered freedom he continued to use Jim as his own form of entertainment. During this elaborate escape plan, Tom could have easily freed Jim; they actually unchained him so he could move a stone into the shed. “We see it warn’t no use; we got to go and fetch Jim. So he raised up his bed and slid the chain of the bed-leg,” and then when the job was done “we helped him fix his chain back on the bed-leg.” Tom deliberately put Jim in a situation where he could’ve been free in minutes instead of weeks. Huck someone who has been Jim’s partner, someone who has been through a moral dilemma due to this whole journey was even cruel to Jim at one point in the novel. When the two friends got separated by the fog, Huck eventually found Jim sleeping on the raft. When Jim finally awoke and found Huck with him, he was surprised and ecstatic to have his friend back. Huck being insensitive at the time told Jim he didn’t go anywhere. He explains to Jim how he was just dreaming the whole thing and that the separation never occurred. Once Jim notices the broken oar and debris on the raft he realized Huck was fooling him. Then Jim with a serious expression tells Huck “Dat truck dah is trash, en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren’s en makes ’em ashamed.” Huck feeling ashamed and disgusted apologizes to a black man for the first time and never again would he be cruel to Jim. With the incorporation of satire Twain was able to expose what blacks had to go through, and Twain was able to point out the cruelty that occurred. The most dominant sense of satire of cruelty to men in the novel is when the king and duke get tarred and feathered. After weeks of swindling people with their subterfuge they finally got there dosage of karma. Huck points out after watching the scene that “Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.” This shows the satire of what’s going on but it shows that not only criminals can be cruel but humans in general.
Religious hypocrisy is another way Twain can use satire in this novel. Twain makes fun of religion clearly throughout the book. One prime example of this is when Huck resides in the Grangerford’s home. When they all go to church on Sunday and “The men took their guns along,” you can’t help but chuckle at the enormous irony in this scene. The sermon is about brotherly love, the Shepardsons and Grangerfords both believe heavily in this sermon. Even though they want to kill each other when they are not in church. What Twain is trying to say is people at this time tried to act religious but didn’t, hence the hypocrisy they both possess. One night with Widow Douglass, she tells Huck about Moses, Huck really didn’t care about her preaching saying “Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see…” Through Huck, Twain is able to tell the reader of the sightless faith that a civilized people presented towards religion. Towards the climax of the novel when Huck is in a moral dilemma we can see religious hypocrisy. He could do the right thing and write a letter telling where the runaway slave Jim was or go to hell to aid him. Through morals that have been taught to Huck he should have turned Jim in, but after contemplating he screams “All right, then,Â I’ll go to hell- and tore it up.” Even though he ignored his morals and religious teachings he does a Christ like thing by saving a human being.
Finally superstition is used in Huckleberry Finn as one of Twain’s many satirical targets. Twain used superstition in the novel to show hope for Jim and Huck. Jim is hoping to be a free man one day and Huck running away from trying to civilized. Superstition provides a hope that fortunate things will happen in the future. In the beginning of the novel when a spider is crawling up Huck’s shoulder he brushed it off and killed it before he could even react. “I didn’t need anybody to tell me that that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck, so I was scared and most shook the clothes off of me. I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair to keep witches away.” Already the premature use of bad luck and superstition in the novel can foreshadow that more is to come later in the novel. When Tom and Huck take off Jim’s hat and put it on the limb of a tree, Jim comes up with this elaborate superstition about witches. “Jim said the witches bewildered him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over the state, then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on a limb to show who done it.” The other Negros were entranced by this story “so favorably…that he enlarged the territory covered until the witches ‘rode him all over the world.” Twain shows how fascinated people were by the supernatural with Jim’s story of what happened to his hat. Later in the novel Jim was telling Huck how it is bad luck to touch snakeskin with your hands. Huck not believing Jim’s frivolous superstitious fact pulls a prank on him and puts a dead snake by Jim’s feet while he is sleeping. Ironically the snake’s mate comes and bites him, which gives both Huck and Jim and reason to believe in superstition. With these examples and some others (hairball oracle) Twain is able to satirize superstition effectively and well. It gave slaves hope that better things were to come, and in this instance Huck, a different and better life. Twain satirizes how society in this time would believe silly rituals and precautionary actions for a better future.
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Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is truly a great book. It’s funny and Sam Clemens really uses satire in a genius manner to depict and criticize society at the time in the 19th century. While it did have some laughs in it, it also contained and pointed out serious issues at the time. The conflicts that I’m talking about are cruelty towards man, religious hypocrisy, and superstition. I can see why people acclaim this book as one of the greatest American literary novels of all time; it is a moving book and will be remembered for years to come.
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