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Essay/Term paper: The religion of huckleberry finn

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Religion

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Religion is a simple concept to learn. Webster's dictionary defines religion
as: "belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and
worshipped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe." Although it is
understood what religion is, not everyone has the same views. There are
numerous varieties and sub-vrieties of religions. In fact, religion can be so
diverse that one might say that he or she is of the same religion as another
person but the way he or she demonstrates their beliefs may be dramatically
different. In the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain,
writes about a young boy's growing and maturing experiences one summer as he
travels down the Mississippi River. One of the things that this boy, Huck
Finn, discovers is how religion affects his lifestyle. Huckleberry Finn's
views of religion have an impact on many essential points in the episodic
novel. Religion has an effect on three of Huck's major decisions throughout
the novel. His religion is tested when he first decides to help Jim run away.
His religion is tested when he lies to most of the people he meets traveling
down the Mississippi River, and Huckleberry's religion is tested when he
decides to help Jim escape from slavery for good.
Huckleberry Finn was raised without a strong religious influence. Huck's
father being a raging alcoholic, and Huck living mostly on his own, were two
of the factors that contributed to this. Pap came to visit him one night and
expressed his negative thoughts on school and religion. "First you know
you'll get religion, too. I never see such a son" (Twain 20). Despite these
warnings, the Widow Douglas continued to teach Huck. Later in the novel,
these teaching have consequential effects on Huck.
Huck's religious morals are first tested when he decides to help the Widow's
slave escape to freedom. During the time that The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn took place, slavery was not uncommon. In the beginning of the story,
Huck displays similar beliefs as the people that are raising him; blacks are
considered property and not people. Huck chooses to help Jim run away despite
the fact that he knows that Jim is considered property and helping him would
be like stealing. The widow tries to convert Huck to Christianity. She
preaches all about heaven, hell, and the things that one should do to get to
either place. Huck is not too concerned about either, obviously, because he
helps Jim run away.
As Jim and Huck travel down the Mississippi, Huck, at first, does not think
much of the fact that he is helping Jim escape to freedom. As the novel
progresses, though, Huck begins to think about the consequences of his
actions. The things that the Widow had previously worked diligently to
install in Huck had some effect on him. This is apparent for the first time
when Jim expresses his anxiety to become free. This makes Huck feel nervous
of the deed that he is doing. "Well I can tell you it made me all over
trembly and feverish, too, to hear him, because I begun to get it through my
head that he was most free --- and who was to blame for it? Why me" (Twain
85). Huck's first reaction is that he is letting the Widow Douglas down by
not returning her property. Huck is only worried about honor and what was
right for the time but a similar event happens later in the novel where Huck
considers his actions a little more carefully.
Huckleberry finally begins to realize that Jim is not property, but an actual
person. He plays a trick on Jim and finds out that he has feelings too. This
brings Huck and Jim closer together and Huck accepts the fact that Jim is not
a slave but a friend. Huck is tried again for what to do about Jim when Jim
is sold to Silas Phelps down south. He knew he had to get Jim out somehow and
he still was feeling guilty for taking him in the first place. "And at last,
when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence
slapping me in the face and letting me know that my wickedness was being
watched all the time from up there in heaven" (Twain 204). Huck decides to
write to Jim to save him from a life of slavery with a complete stranger. He
never sends the letter but he feels much better after he writes it. "All
right, then, I'll go to hell" (206). Ultimately, Huck came to the conclusion
that he has already done so many sinful things that there was no use in
trying to get to heaven anymore.
Today, many Americans would look at Huck and believe he was right in trying
to free Jim. During the era of the Civil War, many would think differently.
Huckleberry Finn could hardly be called sacrilegious but he was no saint
either. Religion had a good deal of impact on him. It almost caused him to
give himself up to do what he thought was right. In the beginning of the
novel, we see that Huck is not interested in religion, or what the Widow has
to say at all. Throughout each episode, however, one can see that what the
Widow taught him had some effect. 

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