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Satire in Huckleberry Finn: Exposing the Aristocracy as Hypocrites By Vedika Kanchan

  in Arts and entertainment | Published 2018-09-06 05:16:46 | 301 Reads | Unrated

Summary

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” Mark Twain uses satire in multiple contexts to point out the flaws in society and provide a cohesive picture of injustice. Twain satirizes religion in order to expose the hypocrisy in aristocracy: by comparing the socially advantaged sisters and rivalling fam ilies dedication to Christianity with their contributions to slavery and violence, he draws at how society’s superficial parade of religious values does not translate to their ordinary practices.

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In particular, Twain satirizes religion through the conflicting teachings and actions of Widow Douglass and Miss Watson to expose their religious hypocrisy. When teaching Huck, Douglass encourages him to “help other people” because it is his religious obligation to do all that he “for other(s)” (Twain 23). However, as Twain ironically points out, her own application of this value is selective. While she goes to lengths to secure Huck’s freedom from when his father “locked (him) in” she remains blind to the moral questions of her sister’s &ldqu

o;nigger, Jim” (Twain 22, 15) Rather, her values only take form when they are social conventional; she chooses to address bondage in a white context, an action which elevates her social respect, but ignores her own injustice to a black man, an action which secures her social acceptance. Through the contrast between her actions and values, Twain satirizes the application of religion. He illustrates the religious Douglas as a hypocrite, who chooses to follow the values she parades only when it is beneficial to herself and the social conventions she admires. Moreover, Twain demonstrates the hypocrisy of aristocrats by the irony in Watson “fetch(ing) the niggers in” for evening prayer (16). The idea of Watson exposing slaves to the ‘positive’ practice of prayer while forcing them to the far more negative practice of bondage reveals an asymmetry in the aristocracy’s contributions to society. Through the absurdity visual, Twain does not only directly juxtaposes Watson’s values to her actions but also illustrated how obvious her hypocrisy is. At the same time, Twain refrains from the conventional pause or punctuation that would highlight a surprising statement. Instead, he uses specific syntax to imply how a practice this hypocrisy is seen as ordinary – it is neither questioned for its injustice nor is it treated as anything out of a norm. The idea of an image so obviously wrong being normalized adds to Twain’s ridicule of Watson’s self-perception and hypocrisy. This ridicule is particularly relevant because Huck, and by extension society, often look at Watson as “someone who was going to a good place,” an example of moral perfection (Twain 16). When coupled with the prefix “Miss,” Twain implies that this makes Watson is a figure of authority (23). Therefore, Twain satirizes the actions of religious aristocrats in order to expose how the values they uphold, and the positions they assume, are contradictions to their routine practices. While Twain’s satire of religious people exposes the hypocrisy in aristocrats, he also satirizes the principles of religion in order to illustrate why Watson and Douglass’ values do not reflect in ordinary practices. In her pursuit to “civilize” Huck, Watson also implores him to “pray every day,” promising “whatever (he) asked for” (Twain 23). However, Huck does not receive his wishes and concludes that “there ain’t nothing” that can come from following religious practices (Twain 23). Through this, Twain implies that the virtues of religion are deceiving; he argues that observing “prayer every day” offers the false promise of “whatever (one) asked for” (23). However, in reality, it gives aristocrats – and those in their culture – “a fish line but no hooks” (Twain 23). Metaphorically, Twain argues that religion only contributes to individual goals; much like a “fish line” it adds to but does not guarantee, a successful pursuit of concrete objectives (23). As a result, “pray(ing) every day” does not bring the Widow “back her silver snuff-box,” or “fat up” Watson (Twain 23). Through metonymy, these desires stand for the materialistic and superficial ends society strives for. Instead, all that religion provides is a “spiritual gift” that has no “advantage” to it (Twain 23). By calling the virtues of religion a “gift” while questioning its “advantage,” Twain exposes the irony in how greatly religion is perceived and how little it has to offer (23). At the same time, he implies that, because the benefits of religion are abstract, aristocrats have to look at alternative means for fulfilling their selfish desires. Part of these means are the social conventions of slavery, which make Watson and Douglass religious hypocrites. Essentially, their ordinary practices became involved in the pursuit of the goals religion does not abide

Therefore, the religious values they preach do not translate to their ordinary actions. Twain also satirizes what constitutes as religious in order to expose the hypocrisy in the Grangerfords and Shepherdson’s feud. placing a “big family Bible” on “a table in the middle of the [family] room,” Twain implies that Christianity is central to the Grangerfords family life (121). However, when compared to the description of “beautiful oilcloth, with a red and blue spread eagle,” Huck’s description of the Bible is underwhelming, in tone. He clubs the family Bible under the category of “some books” and treats it as such, using a telegraphic sentence to acknowledge its presence (Twain 121). Through Huck’s perception, Twain satirizes religion – arguing that despite the perceived importance of religion, in reality, it is treated with as much dignity as an interest, and second to displays of the aristocracy. Moreover, because Twain chooses to symbolize the family’s religiousness through an object rather than an event, he also implies that their accordance with it is largely superficial. This idea of hypocrisy takes a more concrete form when Huck begins speaking with Buck. He realizes that, while members of the families “read the Bible,” they are consumed with a feud with the Shepherdson that they “don’t know how, now, what their row was about in the first place” (Twain 126). Therefore, while religion appears to be the centre of their family, their actions suggest otherwise. When the two families attend a sermon of “brotherly love,” Huck saw that the men “took their guns along” and “kept them between their knees” (Twain 129). In terms of imagery, Twain places the auditory exhibit of unity alongside a visual of war to illustrate how the values aristocrats hear do not translate into their actions. The paradox between the teachings of their faith and the conduct of their character implies that attending sermons is simply a routine. They reach the physical and explicit demands of their faith – that is attending church every Sunday – but they do not consider the more implicit values which Christianity offers. Moreover, Buck suggests that Grangerfords always carry weapons because Bud “hav[ing] no weapon” is “foolishness” – making their violence a constant and their religion an interruption (Twain 129). This is also true to Emmeline’s romance with someone of the rivalling family. As he satirizes this superficial adherence to religion, Twain also unveils the irony in murdering because of love, a value crucial to Christianity. Through the contrast between the families’ violent actions and the reasons for their actions, Twain illustrates the aristocrats as lacking depth. Because the values of amicability they parade have not truly resonated, they practice war as if it was ordinary and become hypocritical to Christianity.

Unlike in the case of Watson and Douglas, Twain satirizes the influence of religion as a way to explain the irony between the Grangerfords’ religious adherence and practices. Twain signals that the Grangerfords, who “talked” about the idea “good works” and “preforeordestination,” are aware of God's demands (129). However, even a “good sermon” could not change the intensity of their feud (Twain 129). Rather, it was only the presence of Grangerford that influenced “everybody” to “always [be] good mannered” (Twain 125). This is because the standards held by a “well born” “gentleman,” or aristocratic society, are more valued than the ones held by religion (Twain 125). As they keep a gun “between their knees,” during church the families are, by synecdoche, prioritizing the will of Grangerford over their religious values (Twain 129). Because Grangerford is pictured as the ideal “gentleman,” living up to his standards implies living up to the romantic ideal of a powerful aristocracy as a whole (Twain 125). To the Shepherdsons and Grangerfords the feud is a channel to achieving this power and, therefore, religion comes as second to romanticism. Through this dynamic, Twain satirizes the influence of religion; he points out the irony in the fact that a meaningless feud directs behaviour to a larger extent than the meaningful teachings of religion can. As a result, their adherence to Christianity is merely superficial and does not translate to their day-to-day conduct, allowing Twain to expose the aristocracy as religious hypocrites.

At its crux, Twain satirizes multiple aspects of religion in order to illustrate how the aristocracy’s ordinary actions subvert their supposed values. Ultimately, this satire allows him to expose members of the upper class as religious hypocrites.

The best blogger in Mumbai, Vedika Kanchan has scripted the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in her best way where she has explained the adventures in details making it fun and adventurous.

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