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Satire in Huck Finn
Transcript of Satire in Huck Finn
There are several themes presented in Mark Twain's 1884 novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”; they included:
Twain addressed or criticized these themes in a variety of ways throughout the novel, but a main way was by using humor or satire.
What is satire?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, satire is "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".
Twain is famous for his use of satire, Huck Finn is an excellent example of how well Twain understands satire.
"Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."
The above quote is the "Notice" at the beginning of the novel. This quote sets up the entire novel and how it uses satire. It reminds the reader that the book is full of satire.
"I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a lock of my hair with thread to keep witches away." -pg. 3
This quote is taken from the first chapter. In this chapter, Huck details how much of a role religion plays in his living with the widow. This quote satirizes the stress that society places on religion. If God were so present, why would Huck feel the need to protect himself from "witches"?
Another example of satire in this novel can be found on page 13. Huck is asking a house slave, Jim, about why his father has returned to town. Jim says he cab perform a ritual on a hairball that will make the hairball reveal why Huck's father has returned. Jim claims that the hairball will not reveal anything until it is paid, and Huck gives Jim money. Jim knows that the hairball can do no such thing and spits vague answers to Huck, and Huck believes every word Jim says.
This sequence is Twain's criticizing how society treated slaves. Slaves were treated as property with no sense, but Jim is about to trick Huck into paying him. If slaves were really as incapable as society portrayed them, then how could Jim so easily trick Huck?
Satire in Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
"Except some that you bring to the cave and keep them here until they're ransomed.
'Ransomed? What's that?'
'I don't know. But that's what they do. I've seen it in books; and so of course that's what we've got to do.'" -pg 7
This is a conversation between Tom and the gang. This is satire because Twain is making a comment about society. Tom is the leader and the boys are the civilians. The government has always had a very strong influence over civilians, and often times civilians do not fully understand what they are supporting. Twain is making the comment that those who just follow their leaders solely because they are the leaders are no better than children.
"...it was a new judge that had just come, and he didn't know the old man; so he said courts mustn't interfere and seperate families if they could help it; said he'd druther not take a child away from its father." -pg 16
This quote is Twain's comment on the judicial and court systems in the United States. It was obvious to all in the town that Huck's father was more than unfit, but because the new judge "did not know" Huck's father he would not separate him. Huck's future would depend upon who his guardian is, and it was up to a single person who was completely separate from and oblivious to Huck's situation.
"She said it was a mean practice..." -pg 2
was going to so as to go to the good place." -pg 2
"Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it." -pg 8
The above quotes are all about the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson. Twain used both characters to satirize the irony of pre Civil War America. How could one claim to be an upstanding member of the Christian faith, but still own slaves? In Exodus 21:10 it states "He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, he shall surely be put to death". Both women, and many slave owners during that time, were doing something that was desiring of death according to their god.
Modern Media Examples of Satire
South Park is known for its parodies of current or controversial events. Both clips are great examples of satire about race and government.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.
"South Park - Watch Full Episodes, Clips & More." South Park. Comedy Central, 2016. Web. 11 Jan. 2016. <http://southpark.cc.com/>.
Modern Media Examples of Satire
Another modern example of satire is the comedy show Saturday Night Live. SNL has been making social commentary through skits since the 70s.