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A Sound Heart and a Deformed Conscience

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Katie Pruitt

on 5 February 2015

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Transcript of A Sound Heart and a Deformed Conscience

“The ending of Huckleberry Finn makes so many readers uneasy because they rightly sense that it jeopardizes the significance of the entire novel. To take seriously what happens at the Phelps farm is to take lightly the entire downstream journey” (Marx 425).
Huck cares little about societal norms. He doesn't care about going to the”bad place” as long as his “God,” Tom Sawyer, would be there with him
"A Sound Heart and a Deformed Conscience"
"A sound heart and a deformed conscience come in collision, and the conscience suffers a defeat."
“Ms. Watson would say, “Don’t put your feet up there, Huckleberry”; and “Don’t scrunch up like that , Huckleberry -- Set up straight”; and “Don’t scrunch up like that , Huckleberry -- why don’t you try to behave?” Then she told me about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then, but I didn’t mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewhere; all I wanted was a change, I warn’t particular” (2).
“We played robber now and then about a month, and then I resigned. All the boys did. We hadn’t robbed nobody, hadn’t killed any people, but only just pretended” (12).
The Ending
“I was feeling ruther comfortable on accounts of taking all this trouble for that gang, for not many would ‘a’ done it. I wished the widow knowed about it. I judged she would be proud of me for helping these rapscallions, because rapscallions and dead-beats is the kind the widow and good people take the most interest in” (75).
“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? Why, she tried to learn you your book, she tried to learn you you manners, she tried to be good to you every way she knowed how. That’s what she done” (88).

“They went off and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well I had done wrong, and I see it warn’t no use for me to try to learn to do right; a body that don’t get started right when he’s little ain’t got no show” (91).
-- Mark Twain on
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
What Does Twain Mean?
Sound Heart = Huck
Deformed Conscience = Society
Does society "suffer a defeat"?
IN SUMMARY
“I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together” (3).
After Jim is captured, Huck seemingly forgets the morals he's learned, falling back under Tom's and society's wing.
How can the ending be reconciled with Twain's quote?
The Problem
Is Huck Entirely Defeated?
Huck rejects the refined religious and moral system enforced upon him by Miss Watson, in favor of the "change" his heart calls for. However, Huck's desire to join Tom even in hell shows the influence of Tom's conscience on Huck
The Real Ending
“But 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” (294).

To the extent that Huck's morality suffers a defeat while he attempts to rescue Jim, the river journey, where he's free from outside conscience, remains an option
Huck keeps some of his focus on Jim's freedom
He doesn't entirely capitulate to Tom or back all of Tom's motives
Most importantly, Huck is not Tom
To an extent, Huck rejects the Tom's beliefs in adventure. This event in particular serves to distance Huck and Tom, showing that while circumstance may drive them together they operate under separate moral codes.

Before:
"Do you reckon Tom Sawyer would ever go by this thing? Not for pie, he wouldn't. He'd call it an adventure—that's what he'd call it; and he'd land on that wreck if it was his last act." (67)

After: " '
Why, to saw Jim's leg off,' he says.
'Good land!' I says; 'why, there ain't no necessity for it. And what would you want to saw his leg off for, anyway?' " (240)
Huck Doesn't Always Agree with Tom
Huck bases his decision to help criminals not on his own morals but in his hope that the action would conform to the moral system that she taught him.
Huck questions some of Tom's ideas
He accepts some of Tom's most ludicrous ideas because Tom has agreed to help him free Jim
Huck follows the morals of the society he grew up in, that slavery is justified and that slaves are property. He doesn't see Jim as a person and does not question the morality of the conscience that he was taught.

“Hold on; s’pose you’d ‘a’ done right and give Jim up, would you felt better than what you do now? No, says I, I’d feel bad --I’d feel just the same way I do now” (91).
"And his Aunt Polly she said Tom was right about old Miss Watson setting Jim free in her will; and so, sure enough, Tom Sawyer had gone and took all that trouble and bother to set a free nigger free! and I couldn't ever understand before, until that minute and that talk, how he
could
help a body set a nigger free with his bringing-up" (291)
Huck feels bad after he lies to protect Jim from being captured. He knows that he had done something wrong in the eyes of society. However, he realizes that if he had given up Jim he would still feel bad, since he's begun to recognize that Jim is a person, in opposition to what he's been taught.
Tom's Reasons Are Different
Huck is Bound to Tom to Free Jim
Huck at Miss Watson's
Defecting from Tom's Gang
Saving the Thieves
Intepretation
"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 a-going to steal him, and I want you keep mum and not let on. Will you?"
His eye lit up, and he says:
"I'll help you steal him!"
Well, I let go all holts then, like I was shot. It was the most astonishing speech I ever heard—and I'm bound to say Tom Sawyer fell considerable in my estimation. Only I couldn't believe it. Tom Sawyer a
nigger-stealer
!" (226)
Huck calls on Tom to help him free Jim, even though he acknowledges that in the eyes of society he's "low-down"
Huck's motives for stealing Jim are clearly different than Tom's
For now, Huck is tied to Tom to achieve his goal and must obey Tom to an extent
Who "Suffers A Defeat"?
Both
Who "Suffers A Defeat"?
Conscience
Interpretation
Who "Suffers A Defeat"?
Heart
Interpretation
Who "Suffers A Defeat"?
Heart
Turning Jim In...?
Interpretation
Who "Suffers A Defeat"?
Conscience
Huck Lies About Jim
Huck Tears Up the Letter

Works Cited
"But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him... always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he's got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper" (214).
Marx, Leo. "Mr. Eliot, Mr. Trilling, and 'Huckleberry Finn.'"
American Scholar
22.4 (1953): 423-40. JSTOR. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
Gullason, Thomas Arthur. "The 'Fatal' Ending of Huckleberry Finn."
American Literature
29.1 (1957): 86-91. Print.
Works Referenced
By Sejal Dhawan, Katie Pruitt, and Ally Scholle
Kochman, Period 3

“It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.” (214)
Interpretation
Huck decides to go "whole hog" and turns away from the societal norms about slavery, because he cares more for Jim's happiness than for "sivilization." He turns away from what everyone else thinks is "right" to make Jim free.
Who "Suffers A Defeat"?
“The ending of Huckleberry Finn makes so many readers uneasy because they rightly sense that it jeopardizes the significance of the entire novel. To take seriously what happens at the Phelps farm is to take lightly the entire downstream journey” (Marx 425)
Conscience
Huck sets himself apart from Tom, since Tom conformed to his "bringing-up" in his decision to kidnap Jim where Huck did not
Interpretation
Although Huck wavers in his beliefs throughout the novel, he ultimately rejects societal norms in favor of what he feels is right.
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