Religious Hypocrisy in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Religious Hypocrisy in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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Huckleberry Finn – Religious Hypocrisy



Every so often a piece of literature is written that can question the beliefs of millions of people with what they hold to be true. Nothing is held to be truer than the feeling of righteousness, being faithful, morally pure, and the idea of an exalted higher purpose- religion. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn questions this truth. Indirectly, Mark Twain argues and criticizes the great deal of religious hypocrisy the American culture faces. Through the masterful use of satire and anecdote, the author conveys his repulsion to the dishonest church goers and religious practices, often cloaked behind a veil of humor.

Mark Twain uses mountains of satirical imagery to help carry his theme. I took up, and held it in my hand. I was trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. As a runaway boy, Huck Finn has the painstaking choice of doing the right thing to write a letter to the owner of a runaway slave and tell where the slave was, or go to hell if he helps the slave Jim, his friend. Morally, Huck is taught to give Jim in, but he sacrifices himself to take up wickedness again and steal Jim out of slavery. Defying his religious teachings, ironically, Huck does the most Christ like thing.


Mark Twain creatively puts in incidents that the reader can infer to represent religion and the church followers who refuse to learn the teachings. Another time, when Huck talks to a skiff with two men in it with guns looking for runaway slaves, he lies to stop them from searching his raft and finding Jim. He tells them that his pap got smallpox, and he needed their help to move the raft. The guys who were so concerned to rave through the raft are making excuses not to. Now we're trying to do you a kindness; so you just put twenty miles between us. The men don't want the smallpox so they feel sorry for Huck and they give him a twenty-dollar gold piece each. The men symbolize the church followers who solve any problem they have by giving money to the church and believing that they solved the problem but in reality only ran away from it.

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When the author illustrates a comical event in the novel, sometimes there is a hidden message craving to be let out. He dressed Jim up in...a long curtain-calico gown, a white horsehair wig and whiskers; and...painted Jim's face and hands and ears and neck all over a dead, dull solid blue. The thieves, the king and duke, make a new disguise for Jim so nobody will see him as a slave and they wrote out a sign that read Sick Arab- but harmless when not out of his head. Jim had to fetch a howl or two like a wild beast to be kept alone. Twain put this in to show how the Christian church felt about people from a different country and religion, while preaching tolerance. Another incident showing the hypocrisy in a similar way is when Tom persists Jim to play a jew's harp to attract rats, and the snakes, and spiders. And they'll just fairly swarm over you, and have a noble good time. The audience can infer and symbolize that the Christian church preaches that snakes, the devil, will engulf anyone who tries to play the jew's harp, are Jewish.


The faithfulness of the church followers is questioned with the family feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons. On a Sunday morning, the two families attend a church sermon carrying guns. It was pretty ornery preaching- all about brotherly love, and such-like tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good sermon... and had such a powerful lot to say about faith. The two families prove to be all talk and no action because the "brotherly love" results in the death of the whole Grangerford clan by the Shepherdsons. This incident puts into question the thought of how people really live the gospel principals they are taught.


Mark Twain, in the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, brings to surface the religious hypocrisy in American culture. Satirically, the author questions the religious practices, traditions, and how followers bring the gospel into their homes. Religion should play a pivotal role in your life, but when finding the right one, you need to evaluate the positive as well as the negative teachings and make a decision based on them.

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