In Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, what is the meaning of "bringing-up"?From Chapter 43, Huck knows Tom's plot of setting a free Jim free. Then this passage: And I couldn't ever...

In Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, what is the meaning of "bringing-up"?

From Chapter 43, Huck knows Tom's plot of setting a free Jim free. Then this passage:

And I couldn't ever understand  before, until that minute and that talk, how he could help a body set a nigger free with his bringing-up.

 

Does Huck consider Tom's bringing-up superior to his own from this passage?

Asked on by james2011

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

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In Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck generally puts himself down when he does things that conflict with society's accepted mores (values), even though, ironically, Huck is the one who is really doing the right thing. Twain uses Huck to demonstrate the foolishness of the society's perceptions of right and wrong (re: slavery, feuding, etc.). Huck's character remains consistent throughout the story, letting us see the South and its citizens with Huck's "self-deprecating" honesty.

Huck does consider the way Tom was raised, with values of the deep South, superior to how Huck has been raised. (Once again, this is particularly ironic.) When Huck refers to Tom's "bringing-up," he is wondering how Tom could even imagine freeing Jim. It goes against everything that Tom would have been taught as a "son of the South." Huck may believe that he (Huck) can be excused for his behavior because he isn't educated or righteous like the others around him (though Huck needs no excuses). Huck's observation about Tom makes sense. Most people will not stray far from what they have been taught. One might first assume that because Tom has a wild imagination, perhaps it is his ability to envision the world as he wants it to be through the illusion of his adventures that allows him to see Jim differently than those in his family or society. We know for certain that he doesn't care about Jim the way Huck does.

However, the truth finally comes out that Tom did not have to make a moral decision about Jim; this makes much more sense—showing again what a good judge of character Huck is. Tom arrived at Aunt Sally's knowing that Miss Watson had freed Jim. The bottom line is that because he has this knowledge and no one else does, he can use Jim's predicament (that the locals think he is a runaway slave) as a form of personal entertainment: Jim provides Tom with the chance to plan out yet another unnecessary escapade. This also shows how cruel and unthinking Tom is: he does not even consider what Miss Watson's action would mean to Jim. Tom is clueless.

Once Tom explains Miss Watson's decision and his knowledge of it, we see that Tom truly is a young man with the values of his society—without the convictions that Huck has; and by comparison, Huck is the "better man."

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