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Huckleberry Finn

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Huckleberry Finn is a young orphan at odds with his “sivilized” world of adults. This symbolizes the tension between the natural world and the civilized world. Speaking through Huck’s raw vernacular, Twain voices his critique of various authorities of society. He exposes the hypocrisies of organized religion with Huck’s perspicacious observations of the church and religion. Twain shows how religion had become a mere outward show without any inward realities.

Huck is first exposed to religion by the Widow Douglas. Religion appears to him as a meaningless ritual. Prayer meant to “tuck down [one’s] head and grumble a little over the victuals” (109). He never knew what it meant or why it was done. One of Twain’s critiques of organized religion is that it is preoccupied with dry facts and out-dated notions instead of seeking how to impact and improve the present society. Huck describes how the Widow Douglas attempted to “learn [him] about Moses and the Bulrushers” (109). But when he found out that “Moses had been dead a considerable long time”, he “didn’t care no more about him” (109). Huck does not find any benefit in studying about dead people.

Furthermore, religion tends to focus more on doctrines and dogmas rather than practical living. During Huck’s stay at the Grangerfords, he attends church with them. Huck describes the preaching as “pretty ornery”; it was “all about brotherly love, and such-like tiresomeness” (183). The other members of the congregation felt that the sermon “had such a powerful lot to say about faith, and good works, and free grace, and preforeordestination” (183). Twain demonstrates how sermons were no longer effective at converting sinners or motivating saints; instead they had been reduced to a series of...

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...ned those who helped slaves achieve freedom. Huck rejects the salvation offered to him by the religion of his society, and instead chooses to “go to hell” (246).

Huck rightly observes that “you can’t pray a lie” (246). This was the state of religion in Huck’s society. It was a meaningless fraud and a lie. The pastors preached about “brotherly love” (183), yet their lives were filled with prejudice. Sermons did not address current social issues, but only took “stock in dead people” (109) and dry doctrine. Religion was working no authentic inward change in people; it cared more about making altar calls instead of true conversions. Yet, people held on to their hypocritical religion because of its rituals or emotional sway. For Twain, true religion is one that rejects the lies and hypocrisies of society and holds on the practical truths which promote sincerity and love.
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