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In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, how does Huck's reaction reverse the moral...

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ricky-c95 | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted February 4, 2013 at 9:47 PM via web

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In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, how does Huck's reaction reverse the moral positions between you and him and therefore make you the reader another target of Twain's satire?

If you were happy about what happened to the King and Duke, how does Huck's reaction reverse the moral positions between you and him and therefore make you the reader another target of Twain's satire?

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 25, 2013 at 5:57 PM (Answer #1)

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Huck feels sympathy for the King and the Duke, despite the frauds they have perpetrated against so many innocent people and despite the fact that they betrayed and sold Jim. In this act, they have also betrayed Huck, yet he maintains sympathy with them. 

Huck's moral instincts lead him to identify with others. (These instincts do not stop him, however, from lying and inflicting suffering on people like Mrs. Phelps.) 

Though we may presume that the reader will have little sympathy for the King and the Duke when they are tarred and feathered (because by social standards they are fully deserving of punishment), we also should recognize Huck's fallibility of perspective. The reader sympathizes with Huck's compassion but not with his blind attachment to the notion of loyalty. 

(This sense of loyalty and willingness to follow the dictates of others, like Tom Sawyer, leads Huck to repeated positions of moral compromise. He wants to free Jim but to do so he inflicts terrible punishments on him because he has bowed to Tom's leadership. This attribute in Huck is part of what he attempts to overcome. The most potent freedom Huck can attain is a freedom from guilt, from being beholden to putative and punitive social norms...)

The result of Huck's sympathy with the King and the Duke does not indicate a new moral turn. Instead, it continues Huck's conflict. 

The reader is not put into a position where the reader becomes the target of satire. Rather, Huck's dilemma is brought to light. He has not completely overcome his crisis of conscience. He feels bad where he should not. He did not force the King and the Duke to continue practicing fraud on the community. He is not at all responsible for their fate.

 

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