The novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” created by Mark Twain and is based on a character/narrator named Huckleberry Finn. The novel starts with Huck in St. Petersburg, Missouri living with a woman who goes by Widow Douglas who adopted Huck and a woman named Miss Watson. The situation Huck is in becomes bad when his father, Pap, who is an alcoholic and had been missing for a while shows up looking for Huck. Pap then takes Huck to his cabin in Illinois across the Mississippi river three miles from St, Petersburg. While in the cabin Pap does not allow Huck to leave. This makes Huck want to leave so Huck starts to plan to escape. Huck then devises a plan that entails making Pap believe that someone broke into the cabin, murdered Huck and threw Huck’s body in the river. While planning he finds a raft and that is how he leaves and goes down the river. While traveling down the river Huck decides to stop at Jackson’s Island and finds a slave named Jim who was a slave to Miss Watson and escaped when he found out the Widow was going to sell him. So, Huck and Jim start their journey down the river which many different events take place. Satire is a major literary device that is used and is defined by the comic portrayal of mankind’s departure from reason or common sense or ethical and moral behavior. Satire is used a lot in the novel by portraying the degrade of religious belief, romanticism, and sentimentality.
In “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” there are many examples of satire in the debased religious belief such as Huck’s rejection of prayer, Miss Watson, and Huck and Jim’s superstitions. Throughout the novel Huck does not believe in religion. In the beginning of the novel Miss Watson tells Huck that he should pray for “spiritual gifts” (pg. 19). Huck believes that praying is not worth doing since he believes that he gets nothing out of it. He believes that if someone prays for something then when can’t they get it. Huck wants physical gifts to come out of praying but Miss Watson tell him that the gifts that come out of prayer are not physical but “spiritual”. Another example of debased religious belief is Miss Watson. Miss Watson very religious but she also has a dark side. Miss Watson owns Jim who is a slave ends up wanting to sell him although Jim has a family there. Since Jim has left this is not possible. In chapter 42 it is noted by Tom that Miss Watson had passed way and has set him free in her will since she felt guilty and was afraid she might go to hell if she didn’t set him free. In the first chapter Huck tells Miss Watson that he wanted to go to hell as a joke, but Miss Watson took it very seriously and said that she was going to heaven. Then Huck asked Miss Watson, “… if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there” (pg. 11). Huck asked if Tom Sawyer, a friend of Huck’s, was going to heaven but she responded with, “…not by a considerable sight.” (pg. 11) Miss Watson unkindly said that there was no chance that Tom Sawyer would go to heaven but that is not very religious to decide who and who cannot go to heaven. Another of satire in debased religious belief is Huck and Jim’s superstitions. One example of this is Jim’s hairball that had a spirit in it and tells him fortunes. “Jim, had a hairball as big as your fist, which had been took out of the fourth stomach of an ox, and he used to do magic with.” (pg. 25) This is satirical because he would rather go to Jim and his fortune telling hairball than to go to someone else.
The second example of satire in “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is the satire on romanticism. Tom Sawyer is a major example of satire in romanticism due to the way he makes decisions and the influence he has on Huck. Tom in the beginning chapters of the novel creates a gang to rob and murder people. While setting the rules of the gang he always refers to the “books” when one of the gang members doesn’t like or understand what Tom says. This is explaining that Tom reads to may stories on outlaws and people of that nature and that influences his decision making. In chapters 34 and 35 he also does this when planning to steal Jim back. Huck makes a simple plan to steal Jim back, but Tom says “…it would work, like rats a fighting. But it’s too blame’ simple; there ain’t nothing to it.” (pg. 234) Tom does not like to do anything simple and want to be just like the “books” and be extravagant in whatever he does. This also influences Huck because Huck believes that Tom know how to live the fun way and sees Tom as an inspiration. Whenever Huck is contemplating on doing something, he always thinks what would Tom Sawyer do.
The third satirical example is the satire on sentimentality. The widow in the beginning of the book she is telling Huck about Moses and how she sees him as Pharaoh’s daughter and Huck is Moses. At first Huck loves the story of Moses but when the widow tells him that Moses is actually dead, he hates the story. The widow sees herself as Pharaoh’s daughter because Pharaoh’s daughter rescued Moses and took him in. The widow believes she is like Pharaoh’s daughter since she took Huck in and helped. Judge Thatcher and his wife are similar in the way they help Pap and they all cry for Pap. Judge Thatcher and his wife believe they can help Pap with his alcoholic tendencies. In chapter 5 Pap goes to Judge Thatcher to take Huck’s money but the Judge decides that he want to help Pap. When Pap agreed or what the Judge and his wife believed he agreed they all cried believing they have changed Pap. Pap then goes on to say “…it’s a hand of a man that’s started in on a new life, and ‘ll die before he’ll go back. You mark them words-don’t forget I said them.” (pg. 30) Pap may be trying to just say whatever to make the Judge and his wife believe he has changed to get what he wants. This goes wrong and Pap goes back to his ways. The Judge then regrets what he has done. The judge and his wife felt that they were doing something good and wanted the pride of helping someone. They saw themselves as doers.
In the book “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” there are many examples of satire. Satire is seen in the book by giving example of debased religious notions, romanticism, and sentimentality. Satire in debased religious notions is given by the way Miss Watson acts, Huck and Jim’s superstitions, and Huck’s rejection of prayer. Satire in romanticism is given by Tom Sawyer and the influence he has on Huck. Satire in sentimentality is given by the way the widow sees herself and how Judge Thatcher and his wife see themselves as doers.
- Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Penguin Books, 2014.