How does Mark Twain criticize society in Huckleberry Finn?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The central way in which Twain criticises society in this novel is through his use of a narrator like Huck, an outsider who views society from a certain distance and with almost constant puzzlement. Being both young and marginalised in society as the son of a good-for-nothing drunkard (although the Widow Douglas does attempt to take him in hand for a while), he radiates a quality of innocence which generally leads him to question society's ways.  He relates events and characters as he sees them, simply and clearly, and this often leads to him presenting a picture of social hypocrisy, prejudice and violence. In his youthful innocence he isn't always able to understand the significance of things but he is is generally moved to act according to his natural instincts and against the false teachings of society, most notably of course in his support for Jim, the runaway slave, who society demands must be returned to his owner and punished.  Huck's natural goodness is set against the values of society which appear in an unflattering light by contrast.


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