Huck Finn: Twain's Cynic Point of View


Throughout the Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens) novel, The
Adventures of HuckleBerry Finn, a plain and striking point of view
is expressed by the author. His point of view is that of a cynic;
he looks upon civilized man as a merciless, cowardly, hypocritical
savage, without want of change, nor ability to effect such change.
Thus, one of Mark Twain's main purposes in producing this work
seems clear: he wishes to bring to attention some of man's often
concealed shortcomings.
While the examples of Mark Twain's cynic commentaries on human
nature can be found in great frequency all through the novel,
several examples seem to lend themselves well to a discussion of
this sarcastic view. In the beginning of the novel, it would seem
that both Huck Finn and Jim are trapped in some way and wishing to
escape. For Huck, it is the violence and tyranny of his drunken
father. Kept in a veritable prison, Huck wishes desperately to
escape. Jim feels the need to escape after hearing that his owner,
Miss Watson, wishes to sell him down the river-a change in owners
that could only be for the worse. As they escape separately and
rejoin by chance at an island along the river, they find themselves
drawn to get as far as possible from their home. Their journey down
the river sets the stage for most of Mark Twain's comments about
man and society. It is when they stop off at various towns along
the river that various human character flaws always seem to come out.
Examples of this would include the happenings after the bringing
on of the Duke and King. These two con artists would execute the
most preposterous of schemes to relieve unsuspecting townspeople of
their cash. The game of the King pretending to be a reformed
marauder-turned-missionary at the tent meeting showed that people
are gullible and often easily led, particularly when in groups and
subjected to peer pressure. The execution of the Royal Nonesuch
showed another instance of people in society being subject to
manipulation. The fact that, after being taken by a poor show they
sent rave reviews of it to their friends to avoid admitting they
had been conned showed that people in groups are ever afraid of
losing status, and will do nearly anything to protect such. Both
the King and the Duke, also, showed such a ridiculous degree of
corruptness that it is difficult to believe that all humans aren't
at least somewhat evil.
Another point made by the author is that of most men being
basically cowards. A good example of this was when Col. Sherburn
shot the drunk Boggs and the townsfolk came after Sherburn to lynch
him. After Sherburn, one man with only a shotgun, held off the
immense mob and made them disperse, it was obvious that no
individual really had the courage to go through with the lynching.
The idea that people are basically savages, confined for the
moment by society, is shown in more than one instance, such as when
the group was preparing to hang Huck and the King over their plot
to defraud the daughters, or, more obvious, in the war between the
Shephardsons and the Grangerfords.
The aspect of people being basically hypocrites is seen at the
beginning when Miss Watson displays a degree of hypocriticality on
insisting that Huck follow the Widow and become civilized, while at
the same time deciding to sell Jim into a hard life down the
river.
A final point seems to be that Man is continually fleeing from
something. At the end, Jim and Huck found themselves at the end of
their journey, neither having anything left to run from as Huck's
father was dead and Jim was a free man. It would seem, then that
Huck and Jim had run a thousand miles down the river and ended up
where they had started from.
From the above examples, one can see some of the author's point
in producing 'Huck Finn.' It is apparent that Mark Twain wishes
society to realize its shortcomings and the limitations imposed by
human nature. He realizes that people will not change, but feels
that they should be aware of who they are, of what comes with this
thing we call humanity. That is Mark twain's main purpose in
writing this novel.