Word Count: 535The conflict between society and the individual is a theme portrayed throughout Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Huck was not raised in accord with the accepted ways of civilization. He practically raises himself, relying on instinct to guide him through life. As portrayed several times in the novel, Huck chooses to follow his innate sense of right, yet he does not realize that his own instincts are more moral than those of society.
From the very beginning of Huck’s story, Huck clearly states that he did not want to conform to society; “The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would civilize me . . . I got into my old rags and my sugar hogshead again, and was free and satisfied.”
When Pap returns for Huck, and the matter of custody is brought before the court, the reader is forced to see the corruption of society. The judge rules that Huck belongs to Pap, and forces him to obey an obviously evil and unfit man. One who drinks profusely and beats his son. Later, when Huck makes it look as though he has been killed, we see how civilization is more concerned over finding Huck’s dead body than rescuing his live one from Pap. This is a society that is more concerned about a dead body than it is in the welfare of living people.
The theme becomes even more evident once Huck and Jim set out, down the Mississippi. Huck enjoys his adventures on the raft. He prefers the freedom of the wilderness to the restrictions of society. Also, Huck’s acceptance of Jim is a total defiance of society. Ironically, Huck believes he is committing a sin by going against society and protecting Jim. He does not realize that his own instincts are more morally correct than those of society’.
In chapter sixteen, we see, perhaps, the most inhumane action of society. Huck meets some men looking for runaway slaves, and so he fabricates a story about his father on the raft with smallpox. The men fear catching this disease and instead of rescuing him, they give him money and advise him not to let it be known of his father’s sickness when seeking help. These men are not hesitant to hunt slaves, yet they refuse to help a sick man. This is contrasted to Huck’s guilt felt for protecting Jim when he actually did a morally just action.
Huck’s acceptance of his love for Jim is shown in chapter thirty-one. Huck writes a letter to Miss Watson to return Jim, yet he ends up ripping the letter and wishes to free Jim. ” ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’- and he tore it up.” Here, we see that Huck concludes that he is evil, and that society has been right all along.
The ending is perhaps most disappointing because it seems as though through all the situations that it seemed he was growing up and accepting his innate ideas of right, he hasn’t grown at all. When he is reunited with Tom, he once again thinks of Jim as property. Huck functions as a much nobler person when he is not confined by the hypocrisies of civilization.