Morality in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
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
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn teach us what is necessary for moral
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.