The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Examining Huckleberry Finn through Thoreau's Theory of Morality

"My idea of our civilization is that it is a shoddy, poor thing and full of cruelties, vanities, arrogances, meannesses, and hypocrisies," Mark Twain once reflected. Morality does not flourish in such a society, as illustrated by its rampant violence and racism. Living in such an environment, Huck Finn assimilates many of its prejudices. Yet, the influences of society, both positive and negative, cease to influence Huck upon his departure, suggesting that they are external elements. Once these influences are removed, the development of Huck's inner, moral self begins to emerge. The conflicts that arise during Huck's journey south stem directly from the clash between his developing moral nature and his society dictated "conscience," brought together by external circumstances. Huck "[finds] himself often enough 'in formal opposition' to what are deemed 'the most sacred laws of society,' through obedience to yet more sacred laws, and so have tested his resolution without going out of his way" (Thoreau).

The "sacred laws" that Thoreau refers to can be used to describe Huck's emerging morality. They are the laws of himself, laws of humanity - morals based on the...

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