Discuss how four significant quotations contribute to the novel's theme.  Choose quotations up to three lines each.

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All right, then, I'll go to hell.

The climax of the novel when Huck makes a moral decision. He will help Jim escape from slavery even if he damns his soul. He believes that what he is doing is wrong, by his society's standards, but he does it anyway.

Twain presents the theme that an individual's conscience must take precedence before society's laws.  In Huck's naive point of view, he does not realize yet that society's laws are unjust, but he has the courage to follow his heart and his own conscience to do what he feels is right, despite the consequences.

Dat truck dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed.

Huck had just played a practical joke on Jim, lying to him that they had not been separated in the fog and that Jim had just had a bad dream, only to reveal the debris on the raft as proof that they DID, indeed, get separated, and Jim's interpretation of his dream was foolish and silly.  Jim teaches Huck how to be responsible for his actions, and how his actions affect others. For the first time, Huck realizes that Jim is a human being that deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, not just a play thing to be used for entertainment.

The novel criticizes racism and prejudice. This quote reinforces the theme that all human beings have an intrinsic worth. People should not be judged based on the color of their skin but based on the quality of their character and actions.

. . . and I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n. It don't seem natural, but I reckon it's so.

Huck overhears Jim crying at night because he misses his family. He has been taught that slaves are property and inferior to white people. However, Jim's actions disprove that belief, and Huck begins to question the beliefs of his society. 

This quote stresses a major theme that all human beings are equal and deserve the same rights to respect, dignity, and happiness.

Colonel Grangerford was a gentleman, you see.

After this statement, Huck describes Colonel Grangerford as a clean cut, handsome, gentle, respectable man. He is clean shaven, wears clean and classy clothes, speaks in a mild manner, and presents an air of authority and respect. Huck's judgment of character are superficial.  Meanwhile, we find out that Grangerford is involved in a bloody feud fueled by blind hatred.  Both famlies attend the church with their guns, ready to kill each other on the spot as soon as they exit from church.

This is a good example of dramatic irony, where the reader knows the opposite is true from what Huck thinks. We know that Grangerford is a heartless, cold blooded murderer, a far cry from a gentleman.

See the above theme about not judging people on external qualities such as the color of their skin, or the clothes they wear, but on the merit of their character.

Read the study guide:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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