“All Right, Then, I’ll Go To Hell!”: The Evolution Of Huckleberry Finn’s Morality

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Huckleberry Finn, as all teenage boys, is lost between the realm of right and wrong. He is essentially perplexed by the contradicting ideas that are presented to him by the society-conforming and non-conforming people that he comes in contact with. As he floats his way to freedom along the Mississippi River, he unknowingly develops his own personal morals and character from the influences that surround him along his journey.

Growing up with a deceased mother and a father who was regularly drunk, Huck had lived the majority of his young life following his own customary way of life. Although most of his character develops during the adventures upon the Mississippi, his traits and individuality are already being developed as "the Widow Douglas took" Huck "for her son, and allowed she would sivilize" him. Even though he considers the window "dismal regular and decent in all her ways" and thought it "rough living in the house," he continued to hold her beliefs in his soul throughout his adventures.

Huck originally joins Tom Sawyer's game because he believes that they are going to have true adventure, but in disappointment and finding "no profit in it," he quits the group because it is no more than a normal child's game of fairy-tales. His major character flaw at this point is that he foolishly assumes that Tom Sawyer is superior to himself because Tom has a more accepted lifestyle, family life, and is more educated through literature.

A major point to Huckleberry's development is in his father and his escaping to Jackson Island. Pap's ignorance drives him to a desire to erase the teachings that the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson have instilled within Huck. From the beginning, Huck is confronted with the conflicting personalities of the civilized Widow Douglas and Miss Watson who "was going to live so as to go to the good place" to that of an uneducated, money-hungry, drunkard Pap who taught Huck of a "wonderful govment." As Huck comes upon Jackson Island, he comes in contact with the person that will ultimately bring the most change in his character, Jim. Huck is so gracious for Jim's presence and the fact that he "warn't lonesome now," that he promised he would not tell of Jim's running away even though "people would call" him " a low-down abolitionist and despise" him "for keeping mum." Even though Huck agrees to be an "honest injun," Huck still does not respect Jim as an equal to himself as a white. He shows this by disrespected Jim's superstitious believes and putting a rattlesnake upon Jim.

There are two major characterization situations upon the river. Perhaps Huck's first transformation in character is after he discovers the men's plot aboard the Walter Scott to kill Jim Turner. Huck instinctively thought of Jim Turner's well-being and decided to steal the boat so that the killers had no chance of escaping from the scene. At this point, Huck's conscience comes into play. Huck "begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix." He goes for a steamboat watchman and convince him that it his family upon the ship, not murderers. It may appear that this is an error upon Huck's part, but it is not. It is not his desire to hurt anybody, but instead he tries to understand them and hope that there is something better that lies within them.

During the course of the journey down the Mississippi, Huck and Jim get separated in the fog. Up to now, Huck had seen Jim as an inferior black man, and as a result, tried to convince Jim that the whole incident that occurred in the fog was a vivid dream. As Jim realizes that is was not a dream, but was what had really happened, Jim tells Huck his "heart wuz mos' broke bekase" he "wuz los." At this, Huck begins to realize that Jim does have feelings contrary to what he had been taught during his life. "It was fifteen minutes before" he "could work" himself "up to go and humble" himself "to a nigger; but" he "done it, and" he "warn't ever sorry for it afterward, neither." Huck has come to develop a certain love for Jim and gives reason to why he would be willing to risk everything to help Jim in the future.

The Grangerfords, the Duke, and the King all add to the transformation of Huck's nature. The feud that exists between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons shows Huck the downfalls of southern society and adds to his despising nature of conformity and society. Although, the duke and king's desires are purely based on greed, Huck agrees to take them and help them, even though he knows of their falsity. Huck is given another experience at how corrupt society and people can be when the duke and king decide to steal money from Peter Wilks' daughters. At first, Huck does not involve himself with the matter, but after he begins to converse with Mary Jane, he realizes that he is doing wrong by letting the duke and king get away with their theft. He "felt so ornery and low down and mean that" he "says to" himself ",my mind's made up; I'll hive that money for them or bust." Huck has developed a compassion and sympathy for people in despair and just humans in general.

"All right, then, I'll go to hell!" This is the most impacting moment of Huck's life. He decides to reject all of the corrupt society and free a slave. This is partly do to his immense love for Jim as a friend, but also his good-natured heart. Although all of his life he has been taught that this is a wrong and evil doing, Huck has come to the point where he can finally make his own decisions and decipher the difference between right and wrong in his own heart, instead of the values of the southern world. Jim had taught him what it was to feel, to live, and to have freedom and a true friendship. These basic instincts drove Huck to ultimately do the right thing although he felt as though he had condemned himself to hell.

Huck's final alteration in character development comes at the presence of Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas. Huck feels that they are good people, but for an un-apparent reason, he does not see that they possess slaves like others. When he does realize it, he still does not hold it against them. Hucks' flaw once again shows in the rescue of Jim. Because he admires Tom, he risks the loss of Jim's freedom because of the complications that are constantly flowing from the mind of Tom. As Huck realizes that Jim is already a free man, he is thankful for the companionship that he has gained and for the protection that was provided.

Huckleberry was able to overcome the corrupt views of society and discover his own traits and knowledge of right and wrong. From the beginning, he has completely reversed the role he had originally played, a puppet of adult teachings, to a young man of unyielding force and determination for right. Although he is left to become "sivilized" by Aunt Sally, he will never conform to society but will always remember the freedom of the Mississippi as taught by perhaps the most moral person in the story, Jim.