In Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, consider Huck's understanding of "Providence" in Chapter 32 and explain whether Miss Watson would agree or not, and why.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In this chapter, Huck believes that "Providence," meaning God, is going to help him figure out how to get in with the Phelpses so that he will be able to set Jim free.

I think that Miss Watson would agree with Huck's idea to some extent, but not completely.

I think that Miss Watson would agree with the idea of putting your faith in God and trusting that God will take care of you.  This seems to me to go with her attempts to "civilize" Huck.

However, I do not think that she would believe that God would help someone tell lies in an attempt to "steal" a slave away from his owners.  I think she believes too much in following the rules of society to think God would approve of what Huck is doing.

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 32 of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck arrives at the Phelps' farm and notes:

I went right along, not fixing up any particular plan, but just trusting to Providence to put the right words in my mouth when the time come; for I'd noticed that Providence always did put the right words in my mouth if I left it alone.

In this quote, it seems that Huck is relying on "Providence," or God, to work things out for him with the Phelps as he attempts to free Jim.

In Chapter Three, Huck reflects upon "Providence," comparing the widow's version and Miss Watson's version:

Sometimes the widow would take me one side and talk about Providence in a way to make a body’s mouth water; but maybe next day Miss Watson would take hold and knock it all down again. I judged I could see that there was two Providences, and a poor chap would stand considerable show with the widow’s Providence, but if Miss Watson’s got him there warn’t no help for him any more. I thought it all out, and reckoned I would belong to the widow’s if he wanted me, though I couldn’t make out how he was a-going to be any better off then than what he was before, seeing I was so ignorant, and so kind of low-down and ornery.

While the widow is more charitable where God is concerned, Miss Watson (her sister) is focused more on a "fire and brimstone" version of God. Miss Watson puts on a great show of acting like a Christian woman, but she is never able to make Huck want to have any part of religion because Huck is never led to believe (based on her perceptions of religion) that he is worthwhile in the sight of God. He cannot see how someone as "ignorant" and "low-down and ornery" as he would do well with Miss Watson's version of "Providence."

[Miss Watson] represents a view of Christianity that is severe and unforgiving. 

Ironically, the widow seems to have a kinder understanding of "Providence." Huck believes that the widow...

...represents all that is good and decent to him. 

On his own, Huck leans toward seeing Providence as a kindly power, as long as Huck does not try to cook up some kind of plan, but instead has faith and lets "Providence" work things out.

For all of Miss Watson's holy talk, she does not grasp the concept of true Christian charity. Miss Watson struggled with the harmless trouble Huck found himself in at the Widow Douglas' home. With this said, there is little doubt that Miss Watson would have no sympathy or understanding if she knew that Huck planned to free Jim—especially in that Jim is not only a slave, but her runaway slave! It seems safer to assume that while the Widow Douglas might not be thrilled with Huck's actions in that what he is doing is socially wrong, she would at least be able to understand his motivation—his heartfelt desire to see Jim free and happy. 

Huck's sense of "Providence" is that of a kind and reliable spiritual power. Miss Watson's view is that "Providence" is an angry, vengeful God. If she knew what Huck was planning, she would believe her righteous indignation at Huck's behavior to be justified. Miss Watson would not agree with Huck's understanding of "Providence."


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