In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, analyze the scene where Huck flips the spider into the candle. Why does this scene foreshadow superstition in the novel?

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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There is a lot of superstition in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Huck flicking the spider into the candle proves to be bad luck for him when the next day Pap shows up in his bedroom at the Widow Douglas’s.  This early incident in the novel sets the stage for more bad luck to come for Huck.  Another event that shows superstition is when Jim finds a hairball and claims it knows everything.  He also claims that a witch “rode” him all over the countryside and left his hat hanging on a tree branch.  When Jim and Huck are together on the river, Huck touches a rattlesnake skin, another sign of bad luck.   Most of the superstitions center on Jim, who has unusual ideas about what brings bad luck.  For example, some of Jim's beliefs include, you shouldn’t count the number of things you eat or shake a tablecloth of its crumbs after sundown.  Mainly, the superstitions foreshadow events to come for the reader.

There are several reasons why Mark Twain includes superstition in the novel.  First, he is trying to capture a realistic view of people during that time who relied on signs to predict the future.  These signs include predicting weather, and in this case, bad luck.  It is almost a “religion” to the people he is portraying.  Twain is satirically ridiculing these myths and old wives’ tales by poking fun at ignorant people who attempt to explain natural events through superstition.  Some critics also believe that Twain is poking fun at the American Gothic Romantics like Edgar Allan Poe who wrote about supernatural things and events.  Twain was not a fan of romantic literature and considered it ridiculous because of its flowery words and unrealistic characters and events. 

People have always tried to explain the weird or fantastic with superstitious beliefs.  It is a part of the culture Twain is showing during the time period of the book, the 1840s.

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