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Essay/Term paper: Intolerance within the novel

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Huckleberry Finn

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The entire plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rooted on

intolerance between different social groups. Without prejudice and intolerance

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would not have any of the antagonism or

intercourse that makes the recital interesting. The prejudice and intolerance

found in the book are the characteristics that make The Adventures of

Huckleberry Finn great.

The author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Samuel Langhorn

Clemens, who is more commonly known by his pen name, Mark Twain. He was

born in 1835 with the passing of Haley"s comet, and died in 1910 with the

passing of Haley"s comet. Clemens often used prejudice as a building block

for the plots of his stories. Clemens even said," The very ink in which history is

written is merely fluid prejudice." There are many other instances in which

Clemens uses prejudice as a foundation for the entertainment of his writings

such as this quote he said about foreigners in The Innocents Abroad: "They

spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they

pronounce." Even in the opening paragraph of The Adventures of Huckleberry

Finn Clemens states, "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will

be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished;

persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."

There were many groups that Clemens contrasted in The Adventures of

Huckleberry Finn. The interaction of these different social groups is what makes

up the main plot of the novel. For the objective of discussion they have been

broken down into five main sets of antithetic parties: people with high levels of

melanin and people with low levels of melanin, rednecks and scholarly, children

and adults, men and women, and finally, the Sheperdson"s and the


Whites and African Americans are the main two groups contrasted in the

novel. Throughout the novel Clemens portrays Caucasians as a more educated

group that is higher in society compared to the African Americans portrayed in

the novel. The cardinal way that Clemens portrays African Americans as

obsequious is through the colloquy that he assigns them. Their dialogue is

composed of nothing but broken English. One example in the novel is this

excerpt from the conversation between Jim the fugitive slave, and Huckleberry

about why Jim ran away, where Jim declares, "Well you see, it "uz dis way. Ole

missus-dat"s Miss Watson-she pecks on me all de time, en treats me pooty

rough, but she awluz said she woudn" sell me down to Orleans." Although this is

the phonetic spelling of how some African Americans from the boondocks used

to talk, Clemens only applied the argot to Blacks and not to Whites throughout

the novel. There is not one sentence in the treatise spoken by an African

American that is not comprised of broken English. The but in spite of that, the

broken English does add an entraining piece of culture to the milieu.

The second way Clemens differentiates people in the novel of different

skin color is that all Blacks in the book are portrayed as stupid and uneducated.

The most blatant example is where the African American character Jim is kept

prisoner for weeks while he is a dupe in a childish game that Tom Sawyer and

Huck Finn play with him. Clemens spends the last three chapters in the novel

to tell the tale of how Tom Sawyer maliciously lets Jim, who known only unto

Tom is really a free man, be kept prisoner in a shack while Tom torments Jim

with musings about freedom and infests his living space with rats, snakes, and

spiders. At the end of this charade Tom even admits, "Why, I wanted the

adventure of it…"

The next two groups Clemens contrasts are the rednecks and the

scholarly. In the novel Clemens uses interaction between backwoods and more

highly educated people as a vital part of the plot. The main usage of this

mixing of two social groups is seen in the development of the two very

entertaining characters simply called the duke and the king. These two

characters are rednecks who pretend to be of a more scholarly background in

order to cozen naive people along the banks of the Mississippi. In one instance

the king and the duke fail miserably in trying to act more studiously when they

perform a "Shakespearean Revival." The duke totally slaughters the lines of

Hamlet saying, "To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin. That it makes

clamity of so long life. For who fardel bear, till Birnam Wood do come to

Dunshire, but that fear of something after death."

Thirdly Clemens contrasts adults and children. Clemens portrays adults

as the conventional group in society, and children as the unconventional. In

the story adults are not portrayed with much bias, but children are portrayed as

more imaginative. The two main examples of this are when Huckleberry fakes

his death, and when Tom and Huck "help" Jim escape from captivity. This extra

imaginative aspect Clemens gives to the children of the story adds a lot of

humor to the plot.

Fourthly in the novel Clemens contrasts women and men. Women in

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are portrayed as frail, while men are

portrayed as more outgoing. The foremost example of a frail woman character

in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Tom Sawyer"s Aunt Sally. One

example was when Tom and Huck were collecting wildlife to live in the shack

that Jim is being held prisoner in they accidentally let loose some snakes in

Aunt Sally"s house and Aunt Sally, "…would just lay that work down, and light

out." The main reason that Clemens portrays women as less outgoing, is

because there are really only four minor women characters in the novel, while

all major characters are men.

Lastly Clemens contrasts two families engaged in a feud. The names of

the two families are the Sheperdson"s and the Grangerford"s. The ironic thing

is that, other than their names, the two factions are totally similar and even

attend the same church. This intolerance augments a major part to the plot

because it serves as the basis for one of the escapades Huck and Jim get

involved in on their trip down the Mississippi.

In conclusion the entire plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is

rooted on intolerance between different social groups. Without prejudice and

intolerance The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would not have any of the

antagonism and intercourse that makes the recital interesting.

The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University

Press. Copyright © 1993 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University

Press. Copyright © 1993 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


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