Huck and Jim: Foils to Twains Trip Through the Southern Economy Essay
Throughout Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the reader is given glimpses of Southern society along the banks of the Mississippi. Huck’s experiences of Southern life vary greatly depending on his trip ashore, but one theme that is apparent is desperation and poverty contrasted with the aristocracy of rich plantation owners. Huck witnesses violent murder multiple times, both from the poor and destitute and the rich. Twain seems to poke humor at the fact that the aristocratic Sheperdsons and Grangerfords kill each other over a forgotten rude while the more poor characters use violence to try and increase their rank in life.Twain uses Jim and Huck’s flight from their own enslavers as a backdrop to discuss poverty throughout the South. The marxist critiques of Southern life become apparent in Twain’s writing due to both Huck and Jim fleeing a product of capitalism, issues of violence and desperation involving poverty and the rich, and the way Huck’s conscience is molded by religion and society to keep Jim enslaved in the chains of a capitalist society.
Both Huck and Jim are forced to flee for freedoms from oppressions caused by capitalistic society. Jim’s situation is by far the most obvious.Slavery was the product of the most extremist version of capitalism and free market trading. The markets being so free that Jim, a human being has a possibility of being sold at any moment as if he was any other type of product. When Jim hears word that he may be sold down river he is forced into flight. In the free market economy without regulations that was predominate in the South Jim is left with no freedom.
Huck’s forced flight is from the oppression of his drunk and impoverished father. While Pap might seem a gruff and evil man, his unsavory characteristics are the product of lifelong poverty as a result of capitalism.Pap was illiterate and unschooled as a boy and grew up poor. When he grew older his wife died after giving birth to Huck. In no stretch of the imagination has Pap had an easy life. In an economic sense capitalism gives rise to the goals of economic freedoms and efficiency over equality.
It is arguable that Pap was a creation of the system that he was born into and that Huck is now in fleeing from. During Huck and Jim’s flight down the Mississippi they come across many characters both poor and rich which Twain uses to criticize Southern society y demonstrating the suffering of many poor citizens and the foolishness of the rich, white, plantation owners. One of the earliest examples of poverty on the trip down the river is when Jim and Huck find a sunken steamboat in the river with murders inside. It is clear that the murders are poor and desperate. Poverty has clearly driven all three men to murder and robbery. When Huck steals their boats and essentially leaves them to die he goes a shore to try and get help to save their lives. Incase one day he should be a criminal too.Huck shows compassion towards the men because Twain is trying to show how it is not their fault that they are in the situation they are in.
Huck recognizes the fact that since he is also poor and currently has to “borrow” food he could quite possibly be forced into a life of crime as well. When Huck stays with the Grangerfords he unknowingly enters an old family feud. During the fighting 14 year old Buck is killed as long as members of the other family. Both families had money, power and slaves. Huck, who represents Twain, seems confused at their actions.
Twain uses the Grangerfords and Sheperdsons to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the rich and how they waste precious resources. During the flight down river Huck is constantly faced with the ethical dilemma that he is helping and escaped slave reach freedom. As Marx said “religion is the opium of the people. ” Huck comes close on many occasions of ratting out Jim because of his religious beliefs installed by the Southern society to justify slavery.
The hypocrisy of Huck’s moral dilemma becomes very evident as he sees it fit to “borrow” food when he needs it but it is somehow wrong to help Jim steal himself from his owner.Twain uses Huck’s morals to show how religion employed by the society tries to force Huck into conforming and enslaving Jim. Throughout the book Twain uses marxist ideology to criticize Southern society and to demonstrate the economic extremes of the South. Huck sees exorbitance and luxury and then days later murder. Twain further demonstrates poverty and desperation when he introduces the characters the Duke and Dauphin.
Both are clearly down on their luck and try many ploys to further their economic means.But Southern society casts them out and tries to hide the monsters they created by tarring and feathering them. If the Duke or Dauphin had been born as the men they claimed to be, it is evident that they would not need to con people because they would already have all they need to survive and then some. Twain ends the book with the freedom of Jim, granting him a better chance at equality, as well as bailing Huck out of poverty with the death of Pap.
The ending shows how Twain suggests that life and society would be better with equality set as the main economic goal.