Huck Finn As Social Criticism

Akshay Upadhyaya

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn criticized two main points of ante-bellum southern life: slavery and ignorance. Slavery was an institution of southern life, and it prompted the white people to think that they were better than blacks, whom they considered to be stupid and criminal. If there was a crime that could be pinned on a black man, it was done. For example, people at first thought the Huck’s father killed him, but when they discovered that Jim was missing, they immediately blamed him for Huck’s death.

In addition to relegating blacks to second-class status, slavery also broke apart their families. The slave family that the Wilks’ owned was broken up and sold off by the king and duke while Jim was also separated from his family. Twain showed the inhumanity of slavery through the breaking up of families as well as through blacks being used as scapegoats.

The book also attacked the ignorance of white people regarding black people. Whites thought of blacks as being mentally inferior to them, unable to think like them, and therefore were little above animals in the social order. Twain shows that blacks were just like whites through Jim. Jim wanted to see his family, which Huck thought was very much like a white man. Jim’s notion of friendship also strikes Huck as very white-like. Twain is criticizing white people for thinking that they are better than black people, when in fact, the only difference between the two is their skin color.