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Satire in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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Ava Kahn

on 3 December 2015

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Transcript of Satire in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Law was to report runaway slaves and try to recapture them
Huck thinks Jim has been sold to slavery again after he doesn’t show up to meet with him. He’s in a dilemma and can’t decide whether to tell Miss Watson what happened, by giving her a letter, or to find Jim and set him free. Huck decides to help Jim because he doesn’t want him to go back into slavery
“It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was 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” (223)
Twain satirizes this fugitive slave law
this law is making Huck tremble and stress out

Satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Social Norms
Twain writes "civilize" as "sivilize"
no rules of civilization
“She [widow Douglas] put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn’t do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up...After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers; and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t are no more about him; because I don’t take no stock in dead people” (14-15).
Huck feels confined in his new attire
"civilized" clothing
References to Cain
“Everytime he got money he got drunk; and every time he got drunk he raised Cain around town; and every time he raised Cain he got jailed. He was just suited -- this kind of thing was right in his line” (36)
Cain cursed for killing his brother (Abel): mark was put on him
He represents the vengeance of God
Also referenced in
Scarlet Letter
“raising Cain” is to raise chaos or cause trouble
Pap’s is a cycle of taking money from his son, then getting drunk, then causing chaos, and then back to taking money
Huck says that “this kind of thing was right in his line”
no one’s life is in the right line when it consists of getting drunk and stealing money
when Jim is left on the wigwam and the duke suggests that he dress up as an Arab, ridiculously over-the-top
“...when we left him [Jim] all alone we had to tie him, because if anybody happened on him all by himself and not tied, it wouldn’t look much like he was a runaway n-----, you know...He [the duke] dressed Jim up in King Leer’s outfit-it was a long curtain calico gown, and a white horse-hair wig and whiskers; and then he took his theatre-paint and painted Jim’s face and hands and ears and neck all over a dead dull solid blue, like a man that’s been drowned nine days. Blamed if he warn’t the horriblest looking outrage I ever see. Then the duke took and wrote out a sign on a shingle, so- Sick Arab-but harmless when not out of his head” (171).
Twain does this to point out the extremity of racism and by making it this exaggerated and satiric he is criticizing it
shows the community’s views on the different races
African Americans looked on as the worst
Arabs looked down on as well but not as much as African Americans

Satire in
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Twain's use of satire
social norms
social justice
artistic structure
Artistic Structure
the King and the Duke making money from making a fool of themselves
“[the duke] rolled up the curtain, and the next minute the king come a-prancing out on all fours, naked; and he was painted, all over, ring-streaked-and-striped, all sorts of colors, as splendid as a rain-bow...The people most killed themselves laughing; and when the king got done capering, and capered off behind the scenes, they roared and clapped and stormed and haw-hawed till he come back and done it over again; and after that, they made him do it another time” (166).
Miss Watson - well mannered, religious, tries to “sivilize” Huck yet owns Jim as a slave
“for if he didn’t get saved he would get drownded; and if he did get saved, whoever saved him would send him back home so as to get the reward, and then Miss Watson would sell him south, sure. Well, he was right; he was most always right; he had an uncommon level head, for a n-----” (86).

Social Justice
conflict with Peter Wilks’ inheritance - the duke/king vs. the real brothers -> the tattoo on Peter’s chest
conflict with Peter Wilks’ inheritance - the duke/king vs. the real brothers -> the tattoo on Peter’s chest
Duke/King: “Yes, sir, I k’n tell you what’s tattooed on his breast. It’s jest a small, thin, blue arrow” (211).
Real Brothers: “‘Now what you did see on his breast was a small dim P, and a B, (which is an initial he dropped when he was young,) and a W, with dashes between the, so: P-B-W’” (212).
there was no mark on the body
“But the lawyer he jumps on the table and yells, and says: ‘Gentlemen-gentlemen! Hear me just a word-just a single word-if you PLEASE! There’s one way, yet-let’s go and dig up the corpse and look’” (212).
Twain pointing out the flaws in the community finding social justice, lawyer jumping on the table, yelling
satirizes death, disturbing the respect of this man just for the money, going to unbury him just to see where his money goes

When Huck’s father, Pap, unexpectedly shows up to Huck’s house, he starts lecturing Huck and telling him he can’t go to school anymore
“Well, I’ll learn her how to meddle. And looky here -- you drop that school, you hear? I’ll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own father and let on to be better’n what he is. You lemme catch you fooling around that school again, you hear,” (32)
Twain uses situational irony
irony in which a situation has a different outcome than what was expected to happen
Most parents, if not all, would want their child to get an education
“I had been to school most all the time, and could spell, and read, and write just a little, and could say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty-five…” (27)
Twain is ridiculing the education of this time
Huck is considered well educated but is not smart

Mark Twain
grew up on the Mississippi River
his father, John Clemens, died unexpectedly when Mark was young -> family financially unstable
has witnessed death and violence repeatedly as a child - slave
stopped school at 12 to work to help support his family
during the Civil he sided with the Confederacy and fought with them for a short period of time until his group disbanded
religious views: Presbyterian-reformed tradition of Protestantism

Discussion Questions?
Knowing that Twain sided with the Confederacy during the civil war, are his descriptions of Jim and the other slaves considered racist or just representing the popular views of the time?
It's hard to understand some of the words being said by the characters, and have to be read aloud. What effect does the dialect of the novel have on the reader?
The feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons parallels with the feud, and storyline, of Romeo and Juliet
When Huck moves in with the Grangerfords, he learns about their feud with the Shepherdsons. Huck starts asking questions about the feud.
“‘Has this one been going on long, Buck?’ ‘Well I should reckon! it started thirty years ago, or som’ers along there. There was trouble ‘bout something and then a lawsuit to settle it…’ ‘What was the trouble about, Buck? -- land?’ ‘I rekon maybe -- I don’t know’” (128)
Twain satirizes feud
concept of honor
don’t even know what they’re fighting about anymore
similar to the feud in Romeo and Juliet
Full transcript