Notes Huck Finn Final Project
1) What does The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn teach us about what is necessary for moral development? Use your understanding of Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development to answer this question.
Level 1 is Obedience and punishment orientation.(How can I avoid punishment?) An example of obedience and punishment driven morality would be a child refusing to do something because it is wrong and that the consequences could result in punishment.
Level 2 is Self-interest orientation (What's in it for me?)
"What's the use you learning to do right, when it's troublesome to do right and ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?" Chapter 16
A great deal of the book deals with characters selfishness. Tom reveals that he has known all along that Miss Watson has been dead for two months and that she freed Jim in her will. Tom’s confession reveals a new depth of cruelty: he treats blacks only a little better than slaveholders do, using Jim to have “the adventure of it” (290).” Tom’s "what's in it for me" selfishness is defined by whatever Tom believes to be in his best interest but he does not consider one's reputation or relationships to groups of people. Stage two reasoning shows a limited interest in the needs of others, "So after all our hard work and trouble this escape'll go off perfectly flat" (268). Tom decides to write a letter warning the family they are going to steal Jim just for fun.After the passage when Tom kept delaying the rescue, I experienced a good amount of annoyance towards him. He went back to playing the same role as he did when we saw him in the beginning. This passgage caused other characters to regress as well. Huck returned to the follower position and Jim lost all his power he gained on the river. I began to be disappointed in Huck as he, along with Tom, forgot Jim was a human being.
Level 3. Interpersonal accord and conformity or Social norms
"'Ransomed? What's that?' 'I don't know. But that's what they do. I've seen it in books; and so of course that's what we've got to do.' 'But how can we do it if we don't know what it is?' 'Why blame it all, we've got to do it. Don't I tell you it's in the books? Do you want to go to doing different from what's in the books, and get things all muddled up?” (9).
(The good boy/girl attitude) the self enters society by conforming to social standards. Individuals are receptive to approval or disapproval from others as it reflects society's views. They try to be a "good boy" or "good girl" to live up to these expectations
"Conscience says to me 'What had poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you, that you could treat her so mean?” (88)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
(Law and order morality)
"Mornings, before daylight, I slipped into corn fields and borrowed a watermelon, or a mushmelon, or a punkin, or some new corn, or things of that kind. Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things, if you was meaning to pay them back, sometime; but the widow said it warn't anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it.” (65)
Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation
"I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before." Chapter 43
6. Universal ethical principles
"'Quick, Jim, it ain't no time for fooling around and moaning; there's a gang of murderers in yonder, and if we don't hunt up their boat and set her drifting down the river so these fellows can't get away from the wreck, there's one of 'em going to be in a bad fix. But if we find their boat we can put all of 'em in a bad fix - for the Sheriff 'll get 'em.'" Chapter 12
"'I know what you'll say. You'll say it's dirty Low-down business; but what if it is? - I'm low down; and I'm agoing to steal him, and I want you to keep mum and not let on. Will you?'" Chapter 33
It was a close place. I took . . . up [the letter I’d written to Miss Watson], and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.
These lines from Chapter 31 describe the moral climax of the novel. The duke and the dauphin have sold Jim, who is being held in the Phelpses’ shed pending his return to his rightful owner.
He decides that going to “hell,” if it means following his gut and not society’s hypocritical and cruel principles, is a better option than going to everyone else’s heaven. This moment of decision represents Huck’s true break with the world around him. At this point, Huck decides to help Jim escape slavery once and for all. Huck also realizes that he does not want to reenter the “sivilized” world: after all his experiences and moral development on the river, he wants to move on to the freedom of the West instead.
2) Henry Nash Smith wrote, "Bringing the Duke and the King into the story was a master stroke
[great idea]. . . their mode of life makes plausible a narrative pattern which allows Mark Twain to deal with any desired aspect of life on the River or along the shore." Do you agree with Smith's claim that bringing the Duke and King into the story was a great idea? Why or why not?
The duke and king — The kind of people Huck and Tom might turn into were they to only act out of self-interest, the duke and king are a couple of con men that Huck and Jim travel with. The two are selfish, greedy, deceptive, and debauched, but sometimes their actions expose and exploit societal hypocrisy in a way that is somewhat attractive and also rather revealing. Though the exploits of the duke and king can be farcical and fun to watch, the two demonstrate an absolute, hideous lack of respect for human life and dignity.
There could be several reasons to support this statement, but there is one particular one that comes to my mind. The Duke and the King prove their fraudulence over and over again through their malicious actions. Mark Twain used them as another obstacle for Jim and Huck, but he also had another goal for these two characters. In every passage where the Duke and the King commit a malicious act on society, Twain carefully brings the same qualities of the society out in the open for the reader. This is shown when the society tries to trick everyone else into thinking the show is amazing instead of saving them from a waste of time and money. Also, the picture of ignorance is painted when they do not realize the Duke and the King are not the real uncles. These characters were one of many ways Twain established his points of views on society, which include the idea that the people are slaves to conformity and ignorance and the mob mentality. This brings me to my other though as I was reading. Jim is not the only one fleeing from slavery. Twain makes it clear that "Huck too is fleeing from slavery" (329).
“Leggo the boy, you old idiot! Would you a done any different? Did you inquire around for him, when you got loose? I don’t remember it.”
- Location: Chapter 30
"Old man," said the young one, "I reckon we might double-team it together; what do you think?" (19.16)
Talk about meet-cute. These two guys start off trying to con each other, and they end up going off to con the whole word—or, at least, the whole Mississippi. With the duke and the king, we get a pretty good look at hownot to do friendship.
The Wilks family is the target of one of the duke and the king's most conniving scams. The two cons learn from a local young man that Peter Wilks, a fairly wealthy local tanner, has just passed away. Peter Wilks's nieces—Mary Jane, Susan, and Joanna (who Huck refers to as "the hare-lip")—are about to inherit the family estate, since their mom and dad (who was Peter's brother) passed away the year before.
Peter had been hoping to see his other two brothers, William and Harvey, before he died, but they hadn't yet arrived from England. The duke and the king, being the con-men extraordinaires that they are, decide to pose as the two missing brothers in attempt to steal the family's riches.
Unfortunately for the cons, the Wilks ladies are very likeable, lovely young women, and Huck just can't stand by and let the duke and king take the girls' money. Huck grows especially fond of Mary Jane, the oldest of the group. She's "awful beautiful" (25.5), and "handsome" (25), and basically Huck has a giant crush on her. Her compassion for her family's slaves has a big impact on Huck's ethical questioning.
first. When the duke and king first meet, they consider conning each other and then decide that they'd be better off teaming up:
Like as not we got to be together a blamed long time on this h-yer raft, Bilgewater, and so what's the use o' your bein' sour? It 'll only make things on-comfortable. It ain't my fault I warn't born a duke, it ain't your fault you warn't born a king—so what's the use to worry? Make the best o' things the way you find 'em, says I—that's my motto. This ain't no bad thing that we've struck here—plenty grub and an easy life—come, give us your hand, duke, and le's all be friends. (19.47)
So, first, we get the sense again that the duke has the high moral ground in the this pair; second, we learn that these guys aren't pairing up out of loyalty or friendship, but for "plenty grub and an easy life."
At first, Huck is having a grand old time. No rules, no sitting up straight, and definitely no Sunday School. Soon enough, he starts to wonder if maybe life on the lam isn't so great after all, especially when the king and duke start trying to cheat the pretty Mary Jane out of her inheritance.
And when the duke and king end up tarred and feathered, Huck realizes that he's probably going to better off staying on the right side of the law. And that's a lesson worthy of royalty.
"Because Mary Jane 'll be in mourning from this out; and first you know the nigger that does up the rooms will get an order to box these duds up and put 'em away; and do you reckon a nigger can run across money and not borrow some of it?" (26.97)
Here, the duke is basically saying that all black men are thieves—which, of course, is exactly what the duke is. Ah, hypocrisy. But it's really no worse than the rest of the antebellum South, which welcomes in white strangers and... locks up black strangers.
3) To what extent is Jim a round (developed) character? Explain your answer. [Use this explanation from
Wheeler's literary terms to help you: "Also called a dynamic character, a round character is depicted with psychological depth and detail. Typically the round character changes or evolves over the course of a narrative, or appears to have the capacity for such change. The round character contrasts with the flat character, a character who serves a specific or minor literary function in a text, and who may be a stock character or simplified stereotype."]\
One of Miss Watson’s slaves, Jim runs away because he is afraid of being separated from his beloved wife and daughter. Jim is superstitious, but nonetheless intelligent; he is also freedom-loving, and nobly selfless. He becomes a kind of moral guide to Huck over the course of their travels together, and, indeed, something of a spiritual father. Despite being the most morally upstanding character in the novel, Jim is ruthlessly persecuted and hunted and dehumanized. He bears his oppression with fiercely graceful resistance.
Jim is the only character who comes out of the mess looking like a respectable adult. By helping the doctor treat Tom and shielding Huck from seeing his father’s corpse, Jim yet again affirms that he is a decent human being.
Huck's companion, Jim, is yet another character worthy of analysis. At a period in American history when most African-American characters were depicted as fools or "Uncle Tom's," Jim's triumphant but humble passage from simple house servant to Tom's savior is an outline for the heroic figure. He embodies all the qualities — loyalty, faith, love, compassion, strength, wisdom — of the dynamic hero, and his willingness to sacrifice his freedom and his life for two young boys establishes him as a classic benevolent character. Pap's role as an abusive parental figure is disturbing but vitally important to the novel, because it sets up as a direct contrast to the heroic and caring Jim. When Huck and Jim come upon the floating frame-house in Chapter 9, they discover a dead man among the various items. After Jim looks over the body, he tells Huck to come in the house, but "doan' look at his face — it's too gashly." Jim's gesture is similar to that of a protective parent, but the symbolism of the act is not fully realized until the last chapter of the novel. In Chapter the Last, Jim explains that the dead man aboard the house was Pap, and Huck realizes that Pap will not bother or abuse him ever again. With this realization, readers now view Jim's earlier gesture as an act performed by an empathetic and caring figure, and, in this sense, Jim serves as a father figure. With Jim as his role model, Huck is able to "inherit" the admirable and worthy qualities that Jim possesses and, therefore, is able to make his later decision to free Jim.
"Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches."(6).
"'Yes-en I's rich now, come to look at it. I owns mysef, en I's wuth eight hund'd dollars. I wisht I had de money, I wouldn' want no'.'" Chapter 8
"Well, den, dis is de way it look to me, Huck. Ef it wuz HIM dat 'uz bein' sot free, en one er de boys wuz to git shot, would he say, 'Go on en save me, nemmine 'bout a doctor f'r to save dis one?' Is dat like Mars Tom Sawyer? Would he say dat? You BET he wouldn't! WELL, den, is JIM gywne to say it? No, sah—I doan' budge a step out'n dis place 'dout a DOCTOR, not if it's forty year!" (40.46)
"Well, I b'lieve you, Huck. I—I RUN OFF."
"Jim!" (8.45, 8.46)
Pot, meet Kettle. Huck is outraged that Jim has run off, because apparently Huck doesn't remember that he's also run off. Why is it okay for Huck to escape an abusive situation and not Jim?
Jim is pretty convinced that Tom would sacrifice his own freedom to save Jim. That's really noble of Jim, but we're not convinced that Tom's views on race are quite as progressive.
Jim is a slave. For most people living in the pre-Civil War South, that's about all there is to know. Who cares about a slave's motivations, or character, or background, or feelings? It would be like trying to psychoanalyze your family pet—or not even, since that's apparently a thing that exists.
But Twain is smarter than that—and so is Huck, eventually. Jim is every bit as complex a character as Huck is, and maybe even more. So what makes him tick?
Well, for one, loyalty. Jim sees Huck as the only "white genlman dat ever kep' his promise to ole Jim" (16.16), and Jim repays him: he shelters Huck from seeing his dead father; he lets Huck sleep through his watch, staying up all night to keep lookout ("he often done that" (23), says Huck); and practically dancing a jig when he realizes that Huck actually is alive. "It's too good for true, honey, it's too good for true," he says: "Lemme look at you chile, lemme feel o' you" (15.19).
Just for contrast, check out the way Huck's own father greets him after not having seen him for a year: "You think you're a good deal of a big-bug, don't you" [5.4]. Warms your heart, doesn't it? Jim may not exactly be a father figure to Huck, but he's doing a much better job looking out for him than Pap is.
Jim's loyalty extends to Huck's friends, too. When the doctor is operating on Tom Sawyer after the boy's been shot, Jim pops out of his hiding place to help save the kid, risking his own life and (he thinks) giving up his hard-earned freedom.
The Magic Hairball
For all his practical street smarts—or, uh, river smarts, Jim has a superstition for every occasion. Cooking dinner? Don't count your food. See a snakeskin? Don't touch it. Bit by a rattlesnake? Kill it, roast it, and eat the meat. (Tastes like chicken.) Oh, and tie the rattles around your wrist. Got a big hairball? Use it to tell fortunes.
This may all sound a little silly, but is it any sillier than Miss Watson's religion, which will send you straight to hell if you slouch? Or Aunt Sally, who thinks that spirits must have stolen Jim away? Or Huck himself, who wants to throw salt over his left shoulder when he pills it?
We think not. Jim is a product of his time. Sure, maybe he's a little goofier and more committed to these superstitions than Huck or Tom. But can he help it? He's a slave. He was never sent to school or coerced into going to church. In fact, Jim might actually smarter than Huck, or at least has more natural smarts. Huck may think he's silly not to know that some people speak languages other than English, but, come on, he has a point: why do people speak so many different languages?
So, we know that Jim is loyal, and we know that he's superstitious. But what does he want? What makes Jim run away, when we really get the impression that he's basically okay with being enslaved?
He finds out that Miss Watson is planning to sell him down to New Orleans, where he'd be separated from his family. And Jim loves his family. Huck is a little surprised by this, actually, saying, "I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n. It don't seem natural, but I reckon it's so" (23).
Uh, okay, Huck.
But the point is, Jim loves his family. We never see him interact with them—although we do see a sort of disturbing incident where he smacks around his deaf daughter, although, to be fair, he didn't know she was deaf—but, based on the way he treats Huck, we're going to guess that he's a pretty good dad.
In the end, Jim gets what he wants: freedom. He also gets the respect of the white folks, who say, like Huck, that he's a "good" black man.
4) WILD CARD. Choose one of the following:
A) How does Mark Twain use minor characters to highlight a theme or themes in The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Make sure you clearly define the theme(s).
Judge Thatcher and Widow Douglass are the dynamic duo fighting for Huck's safety and well-being at the start of the novel. The judge is super-respectable and seems like an all-around good guy. At the end of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer (this novel's prequel), the judge takes the money that Huck and Tom found during their adventures and invests it for them, so they'll earn as much interest as possible.
Judge Thatcher and Huck have a father-son relationship, and when Huck gets worried something bad is about to happen to him, he literally runs to the judge and tries to make the judge take his money. Judge Thatcher won't have any of that, though; he "studied awhile" and then comes up with a way to let Huck keep the money while protecting it from Pap (4.16). This says a lot, since most of the other characters in the book would take the money and sprint away in the opposite direction.
Besides taking care of Huck's money issues, the judge tries to gain custody of Huck when Pap proves to be an incapable father. Go judge!