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Intolerance in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

 

The entire plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rooted on
intolerance between different social groups. Without prejudice and
intolerance The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would not have any of
the antagonism or intercourse that makes the recital interesting. The
prejudice and intolerance found in the book are the characteristics
that make The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a great American Classic.
The author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Samuel Langhorn,
who is more commonly known by his pen name, Mark Twain. He was born in
1835 with the passing of Haley's comet, and died in 1910 with the
passing of Haley's comet. Twain often used prejudice as a building
block for the plots of his stories. Twain even said, "The very ink in
which history is written is merely fluid prejudice." There are many
other instances in which Twain uses prejudice as a foundation for the
entertainment of his writings. Even in the opening paragraph of The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Twain states, "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." There were many groups that Twain contrasted
in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The interaction of these
different social groups is what makes up the main plot of the novel.
For the objective of discussion they have been broken down into five
main sets of antithetic parties: people with high levels of melanin and
people with low levels of melanin, rednecks and scholarly, children and
adults, men and women, and finally, the Sheperdson's and the
Grangerford's. Whites and African Americans are the main two groups
contrasted in the novel. Throughout the novel Twain portrays
Caucasians as a more educated group that is higher in society compared
to the African Americans portrayed in the novel. The cardinal way that
Twain portrays African Americans as obsequious is through the colloquy
that he assigns them. Their dialogue is composed of nothing but broken
English. One example in the novel is this excerpt from the
conversation between Jim the fugitive slave, and Huckleberry about why
Jim ran away, where Jim declares, "Well you see, it 'uz dis way. Ole
missus-dat's Miss Watson-she pecks on me all de time, en treats me
pooty rough, but she awluz said she woudn' sell me down to Orleans."
Although this is the phonetic spelling of how some African Americans
from the boondocks used to talk, Twain only applied the argot to Blacks
and not to Whites throughout the novel. There is not one sentence in
the treatise spoken by an African Americ! an that is not comprised of
broken English. In spite of that, the broken English does add an
entraining piece of culture to the milieu. The second way Twain
differentiates people in the novel of different skin color is that all
Blacks in the book are portrayed as stupid and uneducated. The most
blatant example is where the African American character Jim is kept
prisoner for weeks while he is a dupe in a childish game that Tom
Sawyer and Huck Finn play with him. Twain spends the last three
chapters in the novel to tell the tale of how Tom Sawyer maliciously
lets Jim, who known only unto Tom is really a free man, be kept
prisoner in a shack while Tom torments Jim with musings about freedom
and infests his living space with rats, snakes, and spiders. At the end
of this charade Tom even admits, "Why, I wanted the adventure of it^"
The next two groups Twain contrasts are the rednecks and the scholarly.
In the novel Twain uses interaction between backwoods and more highly
educated people as a vital part of the plot. The main usage of this
mixing of two social groups is seen in the development of the two very
entertaining characters simply called the duke and the king. These two
characters are rednecks who pretend to be of a more scholarly
background to cozen naive people along the banks of the Mississippi.
In one instance the king and the duke fail miserably in trying to act
more studiously when they perform a "Shakespearean Revival." The duke
slaughters the lines of Hamlet saying, "To be, or not to be; that is
the bare bodkin. That it makes calamity of so long life. For who fardel
bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunshire, but that fear of something
after death." Another contrast made by Twain is that of adults and
children. Twain portrays adults as the conventional group in society,
and children as the unconventional. In the story adults are not
portrayed with much bias, but children are portrayed as more
imaginative. The two main examples of this are when Huckleberry fakes
his death, and when Tom and Huck "help" Jim escape from captivity.
This extra imaginative aspect Twain gives to the children of the story
adds much humor to the plot. Also in the novel Twain contrasts women
and men. Women in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are portrayed as
frail, while men are portrayed as more outgoing. The foremost example
of a frail woman character in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Tom
Sawyer's Aunt Sally. One example was when Tom and Huck were collecting
wildlife to live in the shack that Jim is being held prisoner in they
accidentally let loose some snakes in Aunt Sally's house and Aunt
Sally, "^would just lay that work down, and light out." The main
reason that Twain portrays women as less outgoing, is that there are
only four minor women characters in the novel, while all major
characters are men. Twain's final contrast is between two families
engaged in a feud. The names of the two families are the Sheperdson's
and the Grangerford's. The ironic thing is that, other than their
names, the two factions are totally similar. They even attend the same
church. This intolerance augments a major part to the plot because it
serves as the basis for one of the escapades Huck and Jim become
involved in on their trip down the Mississippi.

The entire plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rooted on the
theme intolerance between different social groups. Without prejudice
and intolerance The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would not have any
of the antagonism and intercourse that makes the recital interesting.
 



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