Monday, January 20, 2014

Does Twain know us?

     On our first day of class we spoke about Huck's perspective as a young boy and how his narrative might affect the way in which we, as readers, understand the world Twain creates. One of the more prominent aspects of Huck's point of view is his questioning of the customs and structures of society around him. He tells of feeling trapped and cramped in the widow's house and cannot see eye-to-eye with her or Miss Watson in terms of religion or any other part of that lifestyle which was thought of as "decent" by the rest of the community. Huck begins to appear more and more as a sort of devil's advocate which allows for some of Twain's own criticisms of society to leak through, causing a reader (hopefully) to think twice about his/her own assumptions about life and social structure.
     This criticism of society, though evident in Huck's narrative, becomes even more apparent through the speech given by Sherburn on his porch roof about the cowardice of man. He calls out the town on their feigned bravery in calling for his lynching. According to Sherburn "the average man's a coward," because "he don't like trouble and danger" (162). This sort of blind obedience or compliance, then, makes man a coward. Not only does this speech reinforce Huck as a hero in his questioning of social mores and refusal to comply with the various lifestyles he is forced into, but it calls out society as a whole, asking people to reevaluate themselves and their place in their own world. 
    Last class we were asked to think about how dangerous it is to question one's world in such a public way as Twain does in his writing and I would say it is one of the more dangerous things a person can do. It is for exactly this sort of questioning that Socrates was killed. It is clear that people do not like the the basic and assumed tenets of their lives to be doubted or reconsidered and it becomes extremely threatening, but here, Twain says we should keep reevaluating. "The average man don't like trouble and danger" (162), says Sherburn and that is exactly why a book like this would be banned. Humans prefer security and the thought that they are reaching for a greater good even if these ideas are under false or assumed pretenses, but Twain, through Huck and Sherburn, suggests that by doing this, we are simply fooling ourselves and not achieving our true potential or really making any efforts toward a better world. 

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