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Antebellum South in Huckleberry Finn

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by

Erin Moore

on 31 January 2014

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Transcript of Antebellum South in Huckleberry Finn

*The End*
The Antebellum South is represented in many different ways in Huck Finn. Those discussed include slavery, religion, violence and even touches upon alcoholism. The Antebellum South is arguably the most important theme of the book, because it is revealed in many other great themes such as those mentioned.
Antebellum South and Violence
The Grangerford-Shepherdson chapters expose the war-like mentality in the Antebellum South. No matter what either family was doing, they were prepared to attack the other viciously. They are punishing each other consistently with the murder of family members. Huck also experiences a similar violence in his home life before his escape. As an alcoholic, Pap brutally abuses Huck to punish him, even when he did nothing wrong, just as in the case of the family feud. Violence is used as a tactic of keeping people within their boundaries in Huck Finn. This relates to the Antebellum South because they were always prepared to fight for what they believed was right, which in the case of the war following the time frame of the book, slavery. Twain's use of violence in the story allows readers to get a sense of what the south was like shortly before war.
Antebellum in Huck Finn
The Antebellum South describes the southern states before the slaves were freed. Slavery was a great part of the south. Black men, women, and children were sold and traded as property, considered inferior to the white man. The Antebellum South is referenced satirically in Huck Finn more than once. In Huck Finn, the south is full of slave-holding states with owners who are willing to pay great prices to keep their slaves under their control. Due to the conditions of the time, Jim is kept as a slave in the household of Widow Douglas and Miss Watson. His enslavement was typical of the antebellum society and it is perfectly acceptable for him to be treated as property. As the story advances and the plot develops, the antebellum theme of Huck Finn becomes more prominent.
Religion in the Antebellum South
It is easy to see that Huck disputes the ideas of religion is his head multiple times in various chapters. In the South, religion was a unifying force that allowed upper classes to disregard the destruction that they have imposed on other people. Throughout the course of the story, Huck wrestles with religion, especially when he is introduced to the Grangerford-Shepherson family feud. He goes to church with the Grangerford family every Sunday, but he sees the family also turn around and attempt murder towards the Shepherdsons. The chapter describes how the sermon speaks of brotherly love, but the men sit in the church with their guns. This shows how the antebellum time period twisted religion to act as a shield from reality, thus in turn allowing the enslavement of individuals who weren't considered more than property.
Antebellum Slavery
In the Antebellum South, there were many different forms of slavery, which included house slaves such as Jim. Situations of plantations with hundreds of slaves, however, were rare. Slaves were more commonly found in concentrations of less than 20, and were mainly industrial or urban, meaning that they worked in homes and factories. Slave owners had great pride in the work that their slaves produced, leading to abuse of those who aren't quite up to par. The societal standards allowed for this treatment and even encouraged it.
Antebellum South in Huckleberry Finn
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