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Superstition in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Transcript of Superstition in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Less Scary Superstitions
Superstition, defined by Merriam-Webster
: a belief or way of behaving that is based on fear of the unknown and faith in magic or luck : a belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck
Full Definition of SUPERSTITION
a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
b : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition
: a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
Superstition is a huge part in the decision making process in the lives of uneducated people.
One of the first examples in the book that relates to the superstitious beliefs of the people in this time is when Huck kills a spider. Once he realizes that what he has done, Huck goes through the ritual to get rid of his bad luck.
As explained in the quote, Jim wears a pendant necklace that was-supposedly- a charm from the devil. This shows that the uneducated African Americans were reliant on their superstitious beliefs because they would travel from all over and give all they had just to look at it.
We will show this with current day examples, media snippets, and through direct quotes and examples from the text.
By: Ashton Armstead, Savannah Huitema, Alexandra Plosch, Sam Heid, and Natalie Sturdy
- PG 7 (CH 1): (After Huck kills the spider) “I didn’t need anybody to tell me that that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck, so I was scared and most shook the clothes off of me. I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep witches away. But I hadn’t no confidence. You do that when you’ve lost a horse-shoe that you’ve found, instead of nailing it up over the door, but I hadn’t ever heard anybody say it was any way to keep off bad luck when you’d killed a spider.”
- PG 10 (CH 1): “Jim always kept that five-center piece around his neck with a string and said it was a charm the devil give him with his own hands and told him he could cure anybody with it and fetch witches whenever he wanted to, just by saying saying something to it; but he never told what it was he said to it.” “Niggers would come from all around there and give Jim anything they had, just for a sight of that five-center piece; but they wouldn’t touch it, because he got so stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches.”
- PG 19 (CH 4): “Miss Watson’s nigger, Jim, had a hair-ball as big as your fist, which had been took out of the fourth stomach of an ox, and he used to do magic with it.” “Jim put the quarter under the hair-ball and got down and listened again. This time he said the hair-ball was all right. He said it would tell my whole fortune is I wanted it to.”
Jim's hair-ball is supposed to tell the future, showing his underdeveloped mind set. Huck is also sucked into the superstition because he is an uneducated character too. Not from his race, but from his age. Alas, the fact that the hairball's predictions came true didn't hurt its case.
Book Connections Continued
- PG 44 (CH 8): “Some young birds come along, flying a yard at a time and lighting. Jim said it was a sign it was going to rain. He said it was a sign when young chickens flew that way, and so he reckoned it was the same way when young birds done it.”
Once again, Jim follows another one of his superstitions in order to direct what they should do. If he hadn't noticed the behavior of the birds, he would not have encouraged himself and Huck to take shelter.
- PG 50 (CH 10): “After breakfast I wanted to talk about the dead man and guess out how he come to be killed, but Jim didn’t want to. He said it would fetch bad luck; and besides, he said, he might come and ha’nt us; he said a man that warn’t buried was more likely to go a-ha’nting around than one that was planted and comfortable.”
The morning after Huck and Jim had found the dead body on the floating house Jim refused to talk about it. He was convinced it would bring them bad luck and that since the body wasn't buried, it was more likely to haunt them. This can correlate to our generation too. You constantly see media expressing the idea of ghosts and how they haunt people. In this case, Jim isn't too crazy to think this because we incorporate the idea into our own time.
- PGS 50 - 51 (CH 10): (Huck challenges Jim) “ Now you think it’s bad luck but what did you say when I fetched in the snake-skin that I found on the top of the ridge day before yesterday? You said it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a snake-skin with my hands. Well, here’s your bad luck! We’ve raked in all this truck and eight dollars besides. I wish we could have some bad luck every day, Jim.” Jim proceeds to get bit by the dead snake’s mate that Huck leaves at the end of Jim’s blanket. Huck begins to trust Jim more through this, and Jim thinks that they haven’t seen the worst of the bad luck the snake will bring to them.”
Jim and Huck blame their misfortunes on bad luck and superstitions. In this situation, they turned to the touching of snake-skin. They are now expected more bad luck to come their way because touching snake-skin with your bare hands is the worst bad luck.
"Superstitious" by Stevie Wonder is a great example of the media shown in today's culture. The song names off many of the common superstitions such as the unlucky number 13 or a broken mirror. The song also incorporates the idea that superstitions should not run your life, even if you don't understand things. This goes against the book and the many illusions the uneducated people live off of.
The previous quotes show that African Americans in this time period and other lower-class people were uneducated. Due to their lack of knowledge, they depend on superstitions . Although they rely on these superstitions, many of them seem to come true:
Behavior of the birds
Some superstitions were based off of observations in nature, while others were simply chance and folklore. Jim’s accuracy with his superstitious predictions is surprising and also shows that although he is not educated, he is wise.
In the past, some people would rely on superstition rather than common sense, or logic, because they lacked the education to do so. Nowadays, people are generally far more educated. However, some of us still fall subject to our own modern day superstitions. Whether it be a habit, a story that you like to imagine, or something that you simply do not have enough education about to believe otherwise, superstitions are around us to this day.
Directed towards children
Magic spells and witches
True Love's kiss
1. Shmoop Editorial Team. "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: The Supernatural Quotes Page 1." Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 19 May 2014. <http://www.shmoop.com/huckleberry-finn/the-supernatural-quotes.html>.
Modern TV Shows
Modern Day Superstitions
"Step on a crack and you break your momma's back."
Friday the 13th
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
Birthday candles being blown out in one breath means the wish will come true
Pot of gold at the end of a rainbow
The groom seeing the bride before the wedding is bad luck for the marriage