Huckleberry Finn – Loyalty and Trust
Huckleberry Finn does not address questions of law as directly as the other novels that we have read. Ostensibly, Huck is torn between disobeying the slavery laws and honoring his conscious. However, Huck shows a disregard for other laws throughout the story, so I think that his conflict stems not from a belief that one must obey the law because it is the law, or on a social contract theory. Huck is never overly concerned with the truth or the norms of society, he adheres to the mores of society because of the consequences as opposed to any fundamental acceptance of them or authority. Unlike Billy Budd, however, Huck does not seem to be influenced by the fear of corporal punishment, as much as he is concerned with the social consequences that would result if his disobedience was discovered. The choice that Huck eventually makes is deeper than just choosing to accept the social consequences, he is willing to `go to hell' for Jim, rather than betray the loyalty and trust that has grown between them.
I think that Mark Twain choose an excellent vehicle for the presentation of a sharp, social satire. By letting Huck tell the story, Twain was free to present the ignorance underscoring the mores that were passed onto to children. Huck interprets the world literally, which starkly contrasts with the romanticism of Tom Sawyer and spiritualism of the widows. Huck's literalism also allows him more leeway than a third-person narrator can have. Mark Twain could have presented his criticisms in an essay, or a more sensational, fictional novel; however, he has chosen the most powerful form because the realism of the scenes and Huck's literal perception of the world make the events seem truthful and their description seem unvarnished.
This does seem incongruous with Huck's casual disregard for the truth but as one gets to know him, the disregard seems more pragmatic than casual. He lies when he has to, but not for personal gain, or even for purposes of a game, for example, he saw no point in calling vegetables jewels so he quit the game. Moreover, he does not condone the lying of the duke and the King when it hurts the innocent daughters as opposed to licentious men in town and more importantly he makes efforts to remedy the perceived hurt. All of these factors lead the reader to trust Huck and his presentation of the story.
It seems to me that Huck learned a great deal along his journey and learned nothing at all. He was from the beginning an essentially good and earnest young man, the childish pranks were a result of his ignorance of their effects, not from any ill intent. He does not like to see people get hurt, and he tries to help whenever he can, even trying to warn the King and the Duke of their impending feathering despite their bad acts and...