In "Huckleberry Finn", does Twain paint a kinder picture of the Widow Douglass than Miss Watson?

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amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Huck absolutely protrays the Widow Douglass with more kindness and understanding than Miss Watson.  It is possible that Huck realizes that the Widow cares about him as a person...maybe because she has been married and is more in touch with people than her unmarried sister who seems in all ways dried up and prickley.  The Widow actually talks to Huck, tries to explain things to him, and attempts to make life a better place for him.  He gets this...in fact, it is through his talks with Jim and their growing friendship on the raft that he comes to accept Jim as a person and not just a slave to be owned.  In a way, what Huck and Jim achieve on the raft and in their adventures, is what the Widow Douglass is attempting to achieve with Huck.  The worlds of each of these characters is equally different--Huck's to Jim's and the Widow's to Huck's.  All of them, in their own ways, are attempting to understand and accept the other.

Miss Watson, on the other hand, does not attempt to communicate with Huck in any way other than preaching and yelling.  She does not accept Huck, and deems their worlds too different to be able to co-exist peacefully.  Huck knows she sees him as a barbaric and uncivilized hopeless mess.  Therefore, he does not have much time for her.

sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

What a great question - and the answer is, certainly!  Widow Douglass is accepted by Huck.  Although he rebels against her attempts to 'sivilize' him, Huck recognizes that the Widow is providing a safe and stable home for him and trying to give him a foundation on which to build a good life.  She talks with him in the novel, and does not preach at him.  It is Miss Watson who does this.  Watson shows a version of Christianity that is tyrannical at best.  All is black or white, good or evil - and often hypocritical, though she would never admit that.  She takes no time to try and understand Huck, but labels him a misfit and portrays little sense that she believes he will turn out ok.

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