Individual vs Society
In the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain exposes faults that exist within our society. Society as Mark Twain portrays it is very harsh and critical of those who don’t conform to society’s high standards, even though society’s standards may not be morally correct. Throughout the novel, society looks down upon, or sometimes even harms those who are different. Unfortunately, it is hard to meet society’s standards. Because of their race, religion (or lack of religion), or different way of thinking, one may be subject to criticism by society. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain warns us that if we aren’t going to conform to the standards of society, we must be prepared to be criticized.
On page 7, Ben Rogers disagrees with Tom about ransoming hostages. Tom says that their gang will keep hostages until they are ransomed to death. Ben Rogers replies by saying “
We’ll keep them till their ransomed to death – and a bothersome lot they’ll be, eating up everything and always trying to get loose. (p.7)” Even though Tom is entirely wrong about the concept of ransoming and that Ben Roger’s logic makes much more sense, Tom shoots down his opinion, simply because it wasn’t the way it was done in the book. Tom blindly follows what the book says because he feels that the author would know the correct way to do it.
Mark Twain uses situations such as this to show how society conforms to its standards, whether or not they are correct, and how society responds to those with different views. Though Tom doesn’t even understand the concept of ransom, he believes that he is doing the right thing because he read it in a book. Ben Roger’s logic makes much more sense than Tom’s, yet because what Ben Roger’s thinks isn’t in the books, Tom automatically assumes that he is wrong. This shows how people will blindly follow society’s standards, whether or not society is correct, and criticize those who don’t agree.
Huck Finn prefers a more outdoor-sy lifestyle that includes wearing raggedy clothing, not bathing regularly, and cussing. The widow and Miss Watson are always quick to correct him when he is slouching, cussing, or doing anything that they consider impolite. The widow also won’t let him smoke, yet she takes snuff. Mark Twain uses this to show that society is hypocritical. People will criticize a person’s habits or qualities even though they have similar habits or qualities. On page 2, Huck says, “The she (Miss Watson) told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then, but I didn’t mean no harm.” Miss Watson was angry because Huck’s view on religion was different than what the church accepts.
On page 7, Tommy Barnes gets made fun of because he was scared and started crying. “Little Tommy Barnes was asleep now, and when they waked him up he was scared and cried, and said he wanted to go home to his ma, and didn’t want to be a robber no more. So they all made fun of him, and called him cry-baby.” In this society, it is not usually acceptable for boys to cry, especially for something minor like that. Because crying isn’t accepted in this society, all the other boys made fun of him. These examples are just a few of the many examples in this novel that show how cruel and un-accepting society is of those who are different.
Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, society frowns upon the individual who does not meet the standards of society. Those who do not meet society’s standard are often subject to cruel treatment and most of the time are not accepted. People often blindly conform to the rest of society without completely understanding what they are conforming to, and whether or not it is morally correct. Society is very harsh towards the individual, as this novel shows us. Mark Twain uses The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to warn those who don’t conform to the standards of society to be prepared to not be accepted and face criticism from others who conform to the standards of society.
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