Conflict Of Conscience In Mark Twain's The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

1168 Words 5 Pages
Conflict of Conscience
The term conscience is generally defined as “an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one 's behavior.” In most cases, conscience is dictated by one’s upbringing, both in one’s family and the society in which one dwells. One of the best literary demonstrations of conscience is Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which the author himself described as a book “where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision.” In the novel, Huck Finn’s deformed conscience and his essentially sound heart come into conflict, an opposition that Twain uses to explore the general theme of conscience. This conflict is exacerbated and exemplified through the relationship
…show more content…
Huck’s view of right and wrong is in most cases underdeveloped, and in many other cases completely wrong according to the modern idea of humanity. He was raised to see slaves as property, to understand stealing as justifiable, and to respect those who gained their ends through unsavory means. Huckleberry does not view the King and the Duke, who are the prime examples of characters completely devoid of conscience, as wrong in what they do; rather, he admires the way that they are able to make money so quickly (138). However, Twain reserves the most important defect in Huck’s understanding of the world to be shown in his relationship with Jim. Huck does not view Jim as a person: when he hears Jim talk about how he hopes to buys his family’s freedom, he feels “...sorry to hear Jim say that [he would steal his children], it was such a lowering of him. My conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last I says to it, ‘It ain 't too late-- I’ll paddle ashore at the first light and tell’” (80-81). Society has formed Huckleberry to remove all aspects of humanity from slaves; thus, upon hearing this, Huck’s first thought is not of Jim, nor of his children, but of the man whom Jim would be stealing from. Huckleberry’s reaction, namely horror, betrays how he views Jim, and how he views the world. Huckleberry’s unconscious acceptance of this idea of non humanity for slaves demonstrates what Twain sees as the tendency in society: to accept what is said or taught without question. Conscience, for Huckleberry, and for the people that Twain depicts in the novel, has become not a way of discerning right from wrong, but a way of discerning socially acceptable from not. Huckleberry’s conscience, therefore, is

Related Documents