Thursday, April 25, 2013


How does Mark Twain utilise satire in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"?
(I have highlighted satirical techniques)

In "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Mark Twain uses satire to mock many different aspects of the modern world. Throughout his trip down the Mississippi River, and even prior to leaving St. Petersburg, Huck encounters a variety of people and situations that are designed to scoff at the American people.

"The Adventures of Huckleberry FInn" was written shortly after the Civil War, where slavery was one of the key issues. While Twain's father had slaves throughout his childhood, Twain did not believe that slavery was right. Through the character of Jim, and the major moral dilemma that followed Huck throughout the novel, Twain mocks slavery and makes a strong statement about the way people treated slaves. Miss Watson is revered as a good Christian woman, who had strong values, but she is a slave owner in the story. She owns a slave called Jim, who runs away upon hearing that Miss Watson might sell him to New Orleans. Rather ironic, don't you think?

Twain uses satire to show how hypocritical a "good Christian woman" can be when it comes to owning slaves as property. In the end, Miss Watson feels guilty for trying to sell Jim and gives him his freedom in her will. Of course, no one knows this until the very end of the novel, after all of the crazy schemes that Huck and Tom Sawyer concoct to help keep Jim out of slavery.

We see satire again in the novel through the idea of family feuds. The Shepardsons and Grangerfords are a pair of feuding families, and no one can remember why they are even fighting. The young Buck Shepardson Grangerford respects the Shepardsons, making it known that they are certainly not cowards, but that he wants to kill them so bad, though he hardly knows why. This feud is said to model one particular feud during the same time period between two families, the Hatfields and the McCoys. These two families had a huge feud that lasted for many years. There are a great deal of similarities between the fictional feud and the real feud. The fictional feud is satirical, in that it takes the happenings of the real feud and makes them seem pointless and silly, commenting on the stupidity of human nature.

Another example of satire that pokes fun at human nature is the Boggs and Sherburn incident. When Sherburn killed Boggs for continued harassment, the town felt the need to lynch Colonel Sherburn for his crimes. Sherburn comes out with a gun and crazily speaks to the mob. He preaches to them about their nature and how they wouldn't be able to stand against him if they weren't a group of people. As individuals, they were essentially cowards, and that they had no reason to be there to lynch him. Through Sherburn, Twain satirizes the idea of lynching and the human nature that goes along with whatever the crowd decides as opposed to what each individual thinks or believes. After his speech, the crowd walks away.

There are many examples of satire in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Through satire, Mark Twain shares his beliefs about slavery and human nature, among many other topics that plagued the country at the time.

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