Why does Huck decide to "go to hell" in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Identify events in the novel which have led to his momentous decision.

Expert Answers
e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Huck's dilemma throughout much of the novel relates to his final decision to "go to hell" by going against society's "moral code" and choosing to follow his own moral sense.

Huck is clearly running from a civilization that attempts to control him, rather than running in pursuit of something tangible. 

The events of the novel, by and large, all lead to this climactic moment. 

When Huck finds Jim on the island early in the novel, he decides to side himself with the run-away, acknowledging, however, the idea that this choice represents a transgression. 

People would call me a low-down Abolitionist and despise me for keeping mum—but that don't make no difference. I ain't a-going to tell...

Huck decides to protect Jim, for a while, but remains burdened and bothered by the idea that he is breaking the law and, therefore, acting immorally. As the novel progresses, Huck continues to have a difficult time balancing his own notions of right and wrong with the moral code (and often the legal code) of his society. 

Only when a decisive moment faces Huck does he determine what his ultimate attitude will be regarding this balance. 

Finally making his final moral choice, Huck tears up the letter, proclaiming that he is willing to go to hell if that is what it takes to see Jim on the road to freedom.

This decision follows a protracted debate. Huck debates with himself regarding what he should do, considering Jim's friendship and the sacrifices and kindness he has undertaken for Huck and also considering the rights of Miss Watson. 

Miss Watson's rights here symbolize the right of society to dictate morality and a moral code. While Huck cannot bring himself to disavow Miss Watson's rights (and by implication society's right to dictate morality), but he does make a definite and difficult decision to free himself from the obligation to adhere to society's rules. 

He is representative of the American frontiersman who chooses the unknown over the tyranny of society.

Huck's experiences with the King and the Duke help to teach him that blind loyalty to social codes can have disastrous consequences. Also, Huck's relationship with his father proves to him that accepting conventional "moral roles", such as a father-son relationship implies, can be destructive as well. 

Huck's association with Jim is perhaps the most poignant and certainly the most extensive example of an experience that teaches Huck to think for himself. Accepting society's moral code, once Jim is captured, would lead directly to a betrayal of Jim's friendship and the values of friendship. This is unacceptable to Huck's developing, independent moral sense.

Independence of moral thought requires bravery and leads to a particular kind of freedom - the kind that Huck achieves in the end. 

shyannaneu | Student

It's because He helps Jim out the whole time and cant turn him in, so he rips up the paper, it's like he desides that being Jim's friend is more important and he's the only friend Jim's got now( he said this earlier in the book.), and through the whole book he has protected Jim even when he sais he'll turn him in. Though he never does. So he said "All right then I'll go to hell." So he decisdes to go to hell because he values their relationship (more then salvation I guess), and how Jim was always nice to him and would call him "honey" and pet his head.

Read the study guide:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question