How does Twain force us to look at ourselves?How does Twain use Huck as a catalyst between the reader and his/her moral conscience?

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Huck confronts the difference between his moral instruction and his moral instinct. We all face similar dilemmas from time to time, where what we are told is right or wrong proves to be at odds with a given situation. Examining our ethical principles as a result of these moments is natural. Also, as Huck does, we can all use some reflection on what underpins real moral behavior. It's not the law. It's something more basic than that; something human.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think the main way that Twain forces us to look at ourselves is by giving us a character we most likely cannot relate to, and making us ask ourselves what we would do in the same situation.  Would we run away?  Would we defy social convention and the law, to do what we thought was right?

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slchanmo1885 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Twain based most of his characters off of real people. Huck was partly based on a boy he knew as a child, Tom Blankenship. Jim was partly based on a slave that Twain's uncle owned. Because his characters were conceived by his relationships with real people, they seem that much more real. Huck is a character who many can identify with; he is sometimes teased, or looked down upon, sometimes admired, he is a bit lost, always questioning, not knowing the right thing to do. His feelings are often conflicted, because people are telling him one thing but he feels that he should do something else. Life is hard for him, but it's also joyful. The reader gets to know his mind, know his person so intimately, that Huck becomes a part of us. And in doing so, Twain forces us to look at ourselves, because we're really not all that different from Huck. Many times we'll have to make decisions that won't be easy, that may go against the grain, and it'll be up to us to make the right choice and live with that choice.

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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In my opinion, I believe Twain forces the reader primarily to look at the role of human beings in relation to one another through race (Huck and Jim).  Huck, many times in the novel, is cruel and mean to Jim, but Jim remains loyal to him.  In the end, Huck realizes how he has treated Jim and realizes he should not have been that way. Perhaps Huck realizes that no matter what skin color, humans are simply that, humans, and that is what ties us together.  

I would agree that Twain does want the reader to reflect on his/her own moral values.  I think Twain wants to challenge the "on the fence" reader regarding the political and social issues of the day to take a stand.  Twain was great at satire, and how better to suggest the hyprocrisy of adults by having them realize their hyprocisy through the eyes, mind, and actions of a boy.  

kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In my opinion, I believe Twain forces the reader primarily to look at the role of human beings in relation to one another through race (Huck and Jim).  Huck, many times in the novel, is cruel and mean to Jim, but Jim remains loyal to him.  In the end, Huck realizes how he has treated Jim and realizes he should not have been that way. Perhaps Huck realizes that no matter what skin color, humans are simply that, humans, and that is what ties us together.  

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