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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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What are three justifiable lies Huck tells in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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One of the most prominent of Huck's lies occurs when he fakes his own death to escape from Pap Finn, who would otherwise ruin Huck's life. It is a justifiable lie because Pap is a hopeless alcoholic who wants to impede Huck's education, take his money, and physically abuse him to keep him under his control. It is for Huck a self-preserving decision to pretend to be dead.

A second lie that Huck tells happens when the slave hunters on the river want to come aboard his raft and take a look at who is in the tent. It is Jim, and so to prevent Jim from being captured, Huck lies and said it is his father, who is suffering from smallpox. Huck knows that the fear of disease will keep the men at bay, and it comes with the unexpected added benefit that the men become sympathetic and send some money over on a floating plank.

A third lie that Huck tells for a morally justifiable reason is in chapter 13 when he sends rescuers to the sinking ferry boat where some trapped robbers will otherwise meet their deaths. Though Huck's efforts are unrewarded, he has the partial satisfaction of knowing that he tried to save their lives by lying and saying that it is his family members who are in peril.

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While there are many lies told in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck is the only character who lies at times for a noble cause. These are lies that Huck relies on Providence for there creation. In Chapter 32, when Huck arrives at the Phelps farm, he explains how he will lie in order to learn about Jim so that he can save him from slavery,

I went right along,... but just trusting to Providence to put the right words in my mouth when the time come; for I'd noticed that Providence always did put the right words in my mouth if I left it alone.

Here are three examples of such "noble lies" that Huck feels Providence provides him:

1. After stealing the boat of the robbers, in Chapter XIII Huck makes up a tall-tale to the watchman on the steamship, telling him that Miss Hooker was on the horse-ferry and the oar was lost, so they floated down the river until Miss Hooker grabbed ahold of the wreck of the Walter Scott. Huck further tells the watchman that Miss Hooker's uncle is a rich man, so that the watchman will assume there will be a reward for retrieving the lady. 

Knowing that the watchman would not be inclined to search after murderers, Huck tells this lie in order to save the robbers from drowning. He also cannot tell the watchman that these men are endangered because he has stolen their boat for Jim and himself. In one of Twain's satiric comments on society, Huck is proud of his lie that has done the murderers a good turn:

I wished the widow knowed about it. I judged she would be proud of me for helping these rapscallions, because rapscallions and dead-beats is the kind the widow and good people takes the most interest in.

2. In Chapter XVi, Huck lies in order save Jim from being caught as a runaway slave, although at first he thinks of turning Jim over to authorities. However, when he begins to wrestle with his conscience, two white men on a skiff with guns stop by Huck and ask about the raft and if anyone is on it; then, they explain that five Negroes have run off. Upon hearing this, Huck quickly feels that he cannot let these men take Jim, who has praised him for being the only white man who has cared about him. So, Huck relies again on "Providence," and he tells the men that a white man is on the raft.

 I see I was weakening; so I just give up trying, and up and says:

“He's white.”

“I reckon we'll go and see for ourselves.”

“I wish you would,” says I, “because it's pap that's there, and maybe you'd help me tow the raft ashore where the light is. He's sick—and so is mam and Mary Ann.”

When the men hear that others have gone away when he has asked for help, they assume that "pap" has smallpox; therefore, they guiltily give Huck money, and push off. Huck tells a bigger lie, 

“Good-bye, sir,” says I; “I won't let no runaway n---s get by me if I can help it.”

3. In Chapter XXXII, Huck learns that Jim has been sold by the king for forty dollars. From a boy Huck learns that Jim is on the Phelps Plantation, a miserable farm. Again, he wrestles with his conscience over writing Miss Watson and telling her where Jim is. Finally, he decides against doing so; instead, he goes to the Phelps' place where he pretends to be the person they think he is, Tom Sawyer, so that he can learn the whereabouts of Jim. From Uncle Silas Phelps, Huck learns that the runaway slave has informed on the two shysters, and they have been tarred and feathered. Then, he and Tom plan to rescue Jim.


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