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The Moral Development of Huckleberry Finn Essays

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Huck Finn, a narcissistic and unreliable young boy, slowly morphs into a courteous figure of respect and selflessness. After Pap abducts the young and civilized Huck, Huck descends into his old habits of lies and half-truths. However, upon helping a runaway slave escape, Huck regains morality and a sense of purpose. Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Huck lies to characters, casting the authenticity of the story into doubt but illustrating Huck’s gradual rejection of lying for himself and a shift towards lying for others.
Huck rejects lying early in the novel, a testament to his successful training bestowed upon him by the Widow Douglass and other townspeople. Huck begins the story by lecturing the reader that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer contained lies about him, and that everyone has lied in his or her lives (11). Huck’s admittance of the lies contained in the previous book about him demonstrates his early dedication to truth in the novel. Later, Tom forces Huck to return to the Widow Douglass where he continues learning how to be “sivilized” (11). When Huck returns, the Widow Douglass teaches him the time when lying is appropriate, improving Huck’s sometimes unreliable moral directions. After Huck spends enough time with the Widow Douglass and her sister, Miss Watson, Huck begins enjoying the routine of his new life (26). Huck, a coarse character prior to the beginning of the novel, enjoys his education more and more, and displays promise for a cultured future. Prior to the arrival of Pap, Huck sells his money to Judge Thatcher avoiding telling his father a lie (27). Even though his father is an appalling man and an alcoholic, Huck respects him and avoids lying to him by selling Ju...


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...e to Miss Watson (224). Huck’s own morals replace the belief society gave him and convince him that turning in Jim would be wrong. As a result, he resolves that he will set Jim free again, and continues helping him.
While Huck’s constant lies while narrating the novel makes the authenticity of certain events doubtful, it serves a much greater purpose of allowing the reader to indirectly see the continued improvements and declines of Huck’s moral judgment. At some points, he serves only himself; at other key events in the story, he creates elaborate lies that help others. The moral development of Huck makes itself apparent in the changing lies of Huck, allowing readers to observe the events taking place within Huck’s mind with ease.

Work Cited

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Ed. Guy Cardell. New York: Penguin
Classics, 2002. Print.


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