In the 1884 novel that is still controversial to this day, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the protagonist of the book, the young, fun-loving and adventurous spirit, Huckleberry Finn goes through an enormous change in the book, a moral change. From a naive kid with an inferiority complex who followed whatever his best friend told him, to a young man who did what he believed was right. Huck goes through a big moral change, doing what he believes is right, even if it means he’s going to hell.
In the beginning of the novel, Huckleberry Finn, a young and fun loving kid with very little sense of morals, starts off in the novel as a stereotypical hillbilly kid who doesn’t know how to read or write and with a bit of an inferiority complex, caused by living with a drunk and abusive father, his Pap. It is at this point in the book, where Huck is first seen without any sense of morality. Fortunately for him, Huck is later helped by a runaway slave named Jim, who belongs to Widow Douglas, the lady who adopts Huck. Jim later joins Huck on his exciting and perilous journey across the South and helps him gain his own sense of morality. Throughout his many adventures , Huck is put into numerous different situations, some more dangerous than the others, where he has to think on his own and use his own sense of judgement to make important decisions that will affect the morals of which he will carry with him throughout his own life and throughout the story. In one of the first few chapters of the book, Huck is friends with and looks up to a boy not much older than him, named Tom Sawyer who has decided to start his own gang, the Tom Sawyer Gang. In order for one to become a member, they must give consent to the murdering of their families if they break one of the gangs many rules. It was at this time, that one of the other boys that was joining the gang, realized that Huck did not have an actual family of his own. “They talked it over, and they was going to rule me out, because they said every boy must have a family or something to kill, or else it wouldn’t be fair and square for the others. Well, nobody could think of anything to do-everybody was stumped, and set still. I was most ready to cry; but all at once I thought of a way, and so I offered them Miss Watson-they could kill her” (8). It was at this moment that Huck hit his acme of immorality in the story. Huck offers the boys the lady who adopted him, who decided to take in this young, uncivilised hillbilly who can’t read or write all because she simply wanted to help him, and Huck offers her up all because he was going to be kicked out of a kid’s gang. By the end of the first half of the story, Huck could now begin his long, self-reflective journey of gaining his own sense of morality.
In the second and third half of the book Huck experiences his biggest morality change, especially in the third half where Huck, Tom and Jim are stuck on a farm trying to free the latter. Huck must decide if he should go along with what society says and turn Jim in as a runaway slave, or keep his promise to his new friend, and help him see through to his freedom. Huck feels guilty not turning Jim in when he hears him talking about hiring an abolitionist to steal his family. He does not think it is right to help take away slaves from people that he doesn’t even know. To turn Jim in for these reasons would be the influence of society on Huck. Huck’s decision on this matter marks another major step in Huck’s moral progression, because he decides not to turn in Jim on his own. This is the first time he makes a decision all on his own based on his own morality. Both this incident and the Wilkes Scheme represent Huck’s ultimate realization and rejection of society. To encapsulate Huck’s total moral progression through his decision to help Jim, Huck states, “It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was
a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then said to myself: ‘All right, then I’ll go to hell’ -and tore it up” ( 215). Huck’s moral progression can be traced throughout the book beginning from his total lack of morals to being able to make the right decisions on his own. It is only with the help of Jim as a moral guide that Huck is able to undergo this moral transformation to use his own judgement and truly progress. The situation that Huck is encountered with choosing his friends over society is the main dilemma that pushes Huck to establish his own standards of morality, rather than accepting those that society has set forth.
Huckleberry Finn goes through a monumental change within the story. From a young boy with no morals or ethics at the beginning, to a kid who does what he believes is right. Huck’s morals change for the better by the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.