Saint Petersburg is introduced as a comfortable patron town in the ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, but ironically the main characters of the text reveal the obvious social ills it satirizes. A young boy and an escaped slave, Huck, and Jim have many adventures in the book. Twain uses both these characters to satirize different religious views, stereotypes among white people, and other superstitions that make the audience aware of the social ills which ultimately reveals a theme.
The first victim of Twain’s satire is religion. Commonly he mocks certain situations to highlight the religious beliefs practices at the time. The fight between Shepardsons and Grangerfords is an important part of the text because of the way Twain satirizes religion by describing a day “we all went to church about three miles, everyone a-horseback. The men took their gun and kept them between their knees or stood them handy against the wall” (Twain 109). This fight seems pointless for Twain as it’s been going on for so long that both the Shepardsons and Grangerford don’t recall the purpose of their fight. The men of the families are at each other's throat right after prayer at church, meaning they want to look good in front of their society. They use church and religion as a front for their reputation instead of actual religious purposes. Like when Huck says, “Then Miss Watson took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing comes of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it.” (Twain 10) Huck realizes that praying and asking God for advice has no purpose and is merely for a reputation.
Secondly, Twain tackles society by satirizing the stereotypes of black people set by white society. Finn was raised to believe slavery was just a normal part of society and couldn’t have any feelings about the way slaves were treated. Huck treats Jim as a different person knowing that he is a slave, for example, “we were ready to shove off we was a quarter of a mile below the island, and it was pretty broad day; so I made Jim lay down in the canoe and cover up with a quilt because if he set up people could tell he was a nigger a good ways off” (Twain 51). Huck improperly concludes that one can see a black person from a distance. Huck believes African Americans are not the same as white people for the majority of the book. He also believes black people aren’t as smart as white people describing Jim as “he had an uncommon head level head for a nigger” (Twain 76). And jest before saying that Huck assumes Jim “judged it was all up with him anyway it could be fixed; for if he didn’t t get saved he would get drowned; and if he did get saved, whoever saved him would send him back home so as to get the reward, and then Miss Watson would sell him South, sure” (Twain 75). Judging a black person’s intellect was another common stereotype at the time. To satirize allegations against Jim, twain uses his character to prove that black people are just as smart. And by the end of the book, Jim was more respected as a person. Twain’s satire is also predominantly present for the rumors of Huckleberry’s death. The people think Huck killed himself “most everybody thought it at first. He’ll never know how nigh he comes to getting lynched. But before night they changed around and judged it was done by a runaway nigger named Jim” (Twain 56). Here Jim was suspected of the alleged murder of Finn, but his father was originally convicted of murder. It made sense to suspect his father since he actually had a motive. Since pap wanted his inheritance he would have a proper motive, then Jim who coincidently left town the same day. With this example, twain emphasizes that the light-skinned people would blame a black person rather one of their own. His satire in this scene focuses on the irony that society can simply blame their slaves rather than actually knowing if he is dead or not.
Finally, superstition within the novel is another example of Twain’s use of satire in the book. Most of the superstition is seen through jin from the point he met Huck on the Island. Huck first ridiculed Jim for everything he says, but Jim’s adept intelligence of nature helps him the most at the end. Tom fools Jim to believe in one of his superstitions when “Tom plays a trick on Jim as he sleeps, hanging his hat above him on a tree. In an attempt to explain what happens to his hat, Jim said the witches bewitched him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over the State, and then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on a limb to show who done it” (Twain 6). Here Twain suggest that most of Jims superstitions are built out of his facinati9on for an explanation for everything. “And he said that handling a snake-skin was such awful bad luck that maybe we hadn’t got to the end of it yet. He said he druther see the new moon over his left shoulder as much as a thousand times than take up a snake-skin in his hand.” (Twain 53), Jim explains to huck that all the bad luck they have been constantly experiencing is because of the dead skin they have been carrying around. Once again Jin superstitious view about “Some young birds come along, flying a yard or two at a time and lighting. Jim said it was a sign that it was going to rain.” (Twain 45) is another example of his ridiculous superstitious views. At the time, superstitions were commonly used to predict weather and other outcomes of events. Twain suggest there is a lot to mock of the past and a lot of his satire is directed to that.
Twain mocks the old society at that time for their stereotypes, superstitions, and religious perspectives. His satire was directed for the time the book was published. With his intentions of publishing his book he also wanted people to realize the main message of the story. The theme of ‘The adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ is the struggling conflict between natural life and civilization. Even when Huck runs away from everything and lives in the wilderness he constantly refers to the constraints of the society he lives in like superstitions and how to treat colored people. So, twain satirizes these aspects that make people conflicted to hopefully allow people to analyze their own society. This book may have been published in the past, but it is also relevant to today’s society.