Mark Twain's Pessimistic Views Exposed in Huckleberry Finn
In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain simply wrote about a boy and the
river. In doings so Twain presents the reader with his personal view of
mankind, whether he wants to or not:
Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative
will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in
it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot
will be shot. (2)
Possibly by giving us this warning Twain admits to the existence of a clear
motive, morality, and a strong plot in his masterpiece. Nonetheless,
Huckleberry Finn, through examples of hypocrisy, greed, violence, and
racism, shows Twain's pessimistic view of society and corruption of the
human race as a whole.
To understand the pessimism of the book, we must first understand
Huck. Huck is a character though whose eyes we see the ugly truth about
mankind. Huck is always on the run from people. In the beginning we see him
living a prim and proper life with the widow. He is then abducted by his
father, and for a time is relieved to get out of the moral trappings of the
town, and live sloppily, doing whatever he wanted to do. "It was kind of
lazy and jolly, laying off comfortable all day." (24) After some time, and
being unable to endure the abuse of his father, he runs away. Huck is as
dissatisfied by one extreme as he is by the next. Huck chooses not to take
sides on any matter, but instead be indifferent towards it. Huck avoids
moral decision making throughout the book as much as possible. In the end
of the book Twain saves Huck's indifferent persona by bringing in Tom to
make the decisions for him.
Some may argue that in saving Jim , Huck saves face for the human
race, giving a sense of hope for the future. However, Huck must go about
freeing Jim in an underhanded manner, lying and stealing his way down the
river. Also, Twain himself cuts down the "salvation" of Jim by, in the last
chapters, revealing that the entire adventure was useless, that the same
ends could have been met by staying home.
Violence plays a large role in the unflattering portrayal of man.
In the opening chapters we see young Huck joining Tom Sawyer's band of
murderers and thieves. "We stop stages and carriages on the road, with
masks on, and kill the people and take their watches and money." (10)
Although the reader realizes that the "gang" never does any
physical harm to real people, the fact that this group of youngsters
fantasizes about committing acts that were evil even to the most ignorant,
shows the acceptance with which violence is perceived by man.
When Huck fakes his own murder, he employs a fantastic knowledge of
graphic violence. He kills...