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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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What quotes from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn show the theme of societal hypocrisy?

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As Huck journeys through the events that befall him during this text, it is clear that more and more he associates "civilisation," or the kind of life lived by many of the adults in this book, with hypocrisy, and it is clear based on this why he is so eager to escape being "civilised" by the Widow Douglas and Aunt Sally. This theme of hypocrisy within civilisation is one that appears early on in the book, when the new judge orders that Huck should stay with his father, even when he is mistreating Huck so badly:

The judge and the widow went to law to get the court to take me away from him and let one of them be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had just come, and he didn't know the old man; so he said courts mustn't interfere and separate families if they could help it; said he'd druther not take a child away from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow had to quit on the business.

Note the way that this clearly teaches Huck about the importance of bending the law. The law, in the form of the judge, in theory should be making decisions that are sensible and for the best, however, as Huck realises, in this case, it is better for him to break the law, as it is much more important that he escapes his father than be with him.

The picture Huck forms of society becomes more and more confusing and full of contradictions, as even the characters who appear to be pleasant and loving have a side to them that points out their hypocrisy. An important example of this is Aunt Sally, who appears to be full of love and concern for Huck. Note how she talks to him soon after he arrives:

But we won't LET you walk—it wouldn't be Southern hospitality to do it. Come right in.

Aunt Sally is so pleasant to Huck that her "Southern hospitality" expresses itself by urging him in and making every arrangement possible to ensure his comfort. Yet, at the same time, she is a slave owner who clearly does not apply the same code of "Southern hospitality" towards her slaves. It is clear that Huck is presented with a confusing, hypocrital image of civilisation that he finds very difficult to understand and chooses to flee rather than embrace.

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