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In the first day of class discussion we talked about the contradictions that would occur throughout the text. We examined the contradictions of the prologue such as both european and african influences in jazz, the hate and love of a slave woman for her master, and the contradictory descriptions of lightness and darkness (pg 6, 10,12,). In the third chapter we also see these contradictions when IM brings Mr. Norton to the Golden Day. In fact, in our chapter 3 discussion we talked about Freud and his idea of the contradictory ideas of the id and superego and the intermediary ego. If we see Supercargo as a manifestation of the concept of superego (society's influence over us, or behavior that we have learned: our inhibitions) then the second half of the chapter when Supercargo fights with the primal and chaotic veteran-patients can be seen as the conflict between superego and id. Therein lies many of the contradictions of the chapter. One of these is Supercargo who debases himself with a hooker and then savagely fights the patients,"Supercargo…was nowhere to be seen…for when he was upstairs they had no absolutely no inhibitions,"(76) While conversely the representatives of the concept of id are former doctors and educators who seem to have commanded very sophisticated intellects at some point in their lives, "They were supposed to be members of the professions toward which at various times I vaguely aspired myself… they were really patients" (74). The backdrop of chapter 3 also serves as a contradiction. Halley tries to present his bar as a respectable and controlled establishment for Mr. Nortons benefit, while Norton is himself recovering from a sexually exciting experience of hearing about Trueblood rape his daughter. The moral compromise of Norton contradicts his elevated status as white, while IM is ashamed of the golden day and his fellow african americans despite the fact that he has done nothing wrong the whole day with Mr. Norton. Invisible Man has been characterized thus far by the dualities of strange contradictions. Chapter 3 contains many both explicitly and implicitly.

Discussion component:

Going off the last part of today's discussion, when we speculated why Twain would put such a large emphasis on the n-word, I believe that Twain's considerable use of it was to show the power that the institution of Souther slavery had on Southerners. Huck, who had previously denounced the vile institution, is quoted repeatedly using the n-word in his conversation with the Duke. Even Huck, who had decided to go to hell if it meant a slave's well being, is seduced by slavery's wide-spread power over the minds of Southerners as he works the n-word into his conversation.

The amount of influence that both Southern christianity and southern slavery had over the South was present in that Huck truly believes that he will go to hell because he tries to raise his fellow man from the horrible conditions of being enslaved. His sentiments of being 'clean' and 'washed' after creating the potential to re-enslave his friend by writing the letter are representative of the norms of the Southern mindset in terms of slavery. After Huck agrees that he will go to hell, he decides to free Jim; and if anything came up that would worsen his punishment, he would do that too.

Twain's language in presenting Huck's resolution to help his friend Jim makes his profuse use of the n-word on pg. 230 somewhat surprising. He is demonstrating how the institution of slavery could make someone who had resolved to rebel against the institution still give in to its pressures. Despite Huck's resolve, the Southern norms are still able to make him act in ways that do no reflect his morals and values.

Today we began class examining how Huck’s (and Twain’s) language in chapter 31 reveals his moral conflict. We discerned early on that this moral conflict he faces is in choosing between his own conscience or the opinions of society to help guide his decisions.

Huck’s language seems slightly out of character; in the past he rejects society and its institutions, yet in this chapter, he accepts the institution of slavery as a powerful authority that he feels inclined to succumb to. He begins to feel “shame[ful],” and his “conscience went to grind[ing] him” because of the conflict he is entrenched in (226). The remorse he feels is the exact quality that had been lacking in the previous chapters we read; the fact that he experiences these emotions suggests that Huck has acknowledge that the rapscallions, the duke and the king especially, are not proper role models and that he has rejected their lifestyles. Additionally, his remorse may serve as Twain’s commentary on the nation’s acceptance of slavery; the fact that Huck is uneasy with the decision to accept slavery suggests that it is in fact not an admirable institution.

Moreover, Huck directly connects the institution of slavery to morals and religion. In order to escape his guilt, Huck expresses his desire to feel “light as a feather…clean…[and] washed of sin” (227). He feels as if his mental turmoil produced by slavery can be justified and fixed through connection with religion. He suggests that his guilt is a result of religion as he exclaims that his “wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven” (226). After he writes the letter to Miss Watson, Huck is relieved for a time, but almost immediately reverts back to confusion once more. We discussed that perhaps Huck is discovering in this moment, that his morality and the version of Christianity he has been taught cannot and do not coincide.

We then transitioned to talking about Huck’s final decision to favor his relationship with Huck over that of society and slavery. The language of the moment seems especially important in this moment. Huck calls the decision he is facing a “close place,” very much in contrast with the ambiguous fog he experiences a few chapters before (228). The closed space offers him two options, choosing Jim or choosing slavery. In this moment, Huck recognizes that this decision is bigger than a decision about Jim’s fate; he realizes he is defining his position on slavery and therefore his morals and beliefs for the rest of his life. When he finally rejects slavery states that he’ll “go to hell,” Twain rejects Southern Christianity, which legitimized and promoted slavery (228). In this moment, Huck chooses his own morals over that of institutionalized religion, therefore suggesting that Christianity is flawed.

Circling back, we noted the emphasis on the n-word in chapter 31. Huck feels uncomfortable with the word early on, stating that it “made [him] squirm,” yet shortly thereafter when talking to the duke, he escalates his usage of the word nonetheless (220). We discussed how Huck feels as if it gives him power in conversation, and perhaps he is only using it as an act in the moment. Regardless, its usage demonstrates the extent to which the word is ingrained in American society. We did not, however, fully reconcile the fact that even in his own thoughts, Huck uses the word numerous times when surveying the decision he has to make.

Throughout the text, Twain has emphasized the discrepancy between Huck's moral instincts and the societal definition of right and wrong. However, Huck fails to comprehend the incongruity on a greater scale, regularly refusing to address the conflict and rather "always do(ing) what comes handiest at the time" (104). But when Jim is captured to be sold back into slavery, no easy option presents itself. Huck confronts the culmination of his moral struggles, faced with the decision between his own inclinations and society's directive, as described in the summary above. For the first time in the novel, Huck acknowledges that he is not what society wants him to be—-a realization that he feels condemning to the point that he says, "I made up my mind to…try and quit being the kind of boy I was, and be better" (217). Huck then briefly but desperately tries to conform to society as he prays to God, and writes a letter to Jim's owner, Miss Watson. But unable to ignore his emotional connection with Jim, Huck succumbs to his own moral compass, and destroys the letter. This scene is arguably one of the most important in the novel. Huck has been "playing double" for the majority of his story, plagued by constant ethical contradictions and unable to decide between them. (217). As a reader, I felt as though the entire novel was a journey towards Huck's choice between his own heart and society's influence.

Yesterday's discussion centered around analyzing deceptive characters influencing Huck and the public in overwhelmingly negative manners. The King and the Duke are players, fakers. They con and swindle the folks of each town they reach and come up with a combination of both wily and low-brow scams. They emerge as new role models for Huck, but their questionable morals and ineptitude at planning, in some circumstances, make them less-than-ideal examples for young Huck.

Next, we discussed Colonel Sherburn, a straight shooter who means what he says and keeps his word about killing Boggs. Huck has no trouble understanding Boggs; his character's archetype resembles that of Pap (the belligerent town drunk). Sherburn lectures the townspeople on their cowardice in failing to punish the wrongdoers justly and equally. In highlighting this corruption in society, Twain offers his opinions on society's horrifying lack of justice and favoring of chaotic lynch mobs.

Finally, we analyzed the effects of the circus upon Huck and the town. The circus plays a little trick on the audience, and Huck is "gobsmacked" by the circus's cleverness. We referred to this moment as an instance of "childish wonder," which reminded us of Huck's youth, and therefore, endeared us to him. The larger take-away behind the circus, however, is that the general public is easily swayed, and that various characters and concepts in chapters 20-24 took full advantage of peoples's gullibility. While swindling, cheating, and fraud abound, Twain seeks to tie these seemingly-unrelated anecdotes together by alluding to the greatest fraud of American History - slavery.

The real kicker of yesterday's discussion, however, was the moment at the end of 23 in which Huck insists that "kings is kings" and that just as commoners have to put up with royalty, blacks have to put up with whites. Jim, however, breaks down and expresses deep remorse and regret for the way he treated someone in his past. Out of all of the characters examined in chapters 20-24, it certainly is curious that the allegedly animalistic, subordinate, unfeeling slave is the only one expressing human emotions.

Class Discussion 1/8/13 by elibrescoelibresco, 10 Jan 2013 05:49

The overarching question that we wrestled with during today's class period was, "How does Twain's use of language in chapter 31 reveal Huck's moral conflict?". This question brought about a lively discussion of Huck's struggle to reconcile opposing views of slavery, religion, and to decide what action he will take in the future.

After Jim has been caught, Huck struggles to reconcile what is the right or moral thing for him to do. On page 193 (in my book) of chapter 31, a long paragraph filled with run on sentences that begin with conjunctions (so, but, and and) follow Huck's progression of thought as he considers what course of action he deems moral or correct. The structure of this paragraph reveals Huck's conflict and indecision as Huck continually changes his opinion. Before this paragraph Huck remarked that, "they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave again all his life… for forty dirty dollars" (193). This remark reveals that Huck fundamentally disagrees with the institution of slavery and understands that it is wrong, recognizing Jim as a human worth more than a small sum of "dirty dollars". This quote would suggest that Huck is ready to assert his position against slavery, however, in the long paragraph after this remark he uses the N word countless times to describe Jim. In class, we discussed how the use of the N word here could be considered an effort to distance himself from Jim. Huck is caught between the hegemonic values of society that urge him to support slavery and Jim, a man that he has a personal relationship with and has grown to appreciate as human. Huck is told by society that helping Jim is immoral and in some way wicked or disgraceful and he feels bad about as his, "conscience went to grinding [him]" (193).

In this moment, Huck also begins to recognize and interact with religion in a way that he has failed to do thus far in the text. Huck thinks about praying and states that there, "warn't no use to try and hide it from Him" (193). Huck's sudden recognition of God could be an effort to consult a third party, a way for Twain to raise the stakes on Huck's moral quandary, or a way for Huck to begin changing the way he exists in society. One of the most interesting points regarding religion that we discussed in class is the possibility that Twain references religion to suggest that Christianity does not support slavery. When Huck writes the letter he says that, "deep down in me I knowed it was a lie - He knowed it" (194). This remark suggests that God would disapprove of Jim being sent back to slavery. Thus, Twain presents Christianity as contradicting rather than legitimizing the institution of slavery.

After his paragraph of inner conflict, Huck decides to write a letter to Ms. Watson explaining what he has done. Writing this letter is the course of action that Huck believes is morally correct according to the values of society in which he lives. After writing the letter, he starts to reminisce about the memories he has shared with Jim, for example when Jim used to "call him honey…and do everything he could think of for me" (194). Huck starts to remember his personal connection with Jim and then says, "All right, then, I'll go to hell" and tears up the letter (195). In this moment, Huck decides to focus on his emotional relationship with Jim and go with what he knows in his heart is the right thing to do, even if society has deemed it "wicked" (195).

During todays discussion we mentioned how Huck is still a little kid and like all little kids he can easily be fooled. During the circus scene a drunk man walks out and tries to persuade the ring master to let him ride a horse. After multiple attempts to try to convince him, the ring master finally gives in letting the drunk man ride. While on the horse the "drunk" man does many tricks and by the end the entire crowed realizes that he was just an actor and was apart of the entire thing;however, Huck is amazed and believes that the actor was actually drunk. Huck believes that for a long time until finally he finds out; however, this childish behavior has me asking a lot of questions. If Huck can barely figure out that a man is a actor, who at the end makes it obvious, how do we know that most of the people we have meet are nothing but fake or have been miss interpreted by Huck. How do we know that Jim is not just a man using Huck because of the color of his skin, or Pap a man who actually cared about Huck but just shows it in a different way? I know this might sound stupid but its an important question. Huck can easily be miss leading us without even knowing it.

Re: Chapters 20-23 by 3AS3AS, 09 Jan 2013 05:50

In class today we examined the swindlers that Huck encounters in chapters 20 through 23 which include the King and the Duke, Sherburn, and the Circus. We first examined the King and the Duke who through their many exploits convince many a common man to give up their hard earned money. They do so through their well thought out schemes, from their play to their swindling of the printer, and conning the camp meeting. They are extremely clever and resourceful characters, but also not the brightest seeming like Shakespeare’s fools. However, these fools unlike Shakespeare’s fools, these fools are directing Huck’s journey now which might suggest something of their journey. These two characters become a role model for Huck, and not very good ones. Although Huck already has relatively loose morals, the King and the Duke have even looser morals and would loosen Huck's morals further. We explored these character’s “Americany” qualities. These characters are named after a concept that never has existed in America, but rather existed in the old world, Europe. Their vigilante scheming seems gypsy-esque, but at the same time their opportunistic fraudulent actions reflect the image of an American self made men. Next we discussed Sherburn who is a very conflicted character. He is a straight shooter, he tells Boggs he will shoot him if he keeps yelling about Sherburn cheating him past one, and follows through. Sherburn's actions seem justified because Boggs was given a clear ultimatum, and this action seems fair and just when juxtaposed to the sporadic lynch mob that had materialized. However, his actions are unjust because he has no authority to shoot someone. The last of the swindlers is the Circus, the Circus like the King and the Duke, completely controls its audience. Huck too is bought over by the Circus in childish wonder just like the common masses of the town. All three of these swindlers are opportunists who are able to control the masses through their fraud in their very American pursuits. Their frauds point to perhaps the biggest American fraud, Slavery. Americans enslaved Africans, and benefited at the cost of others. In all of these rapscallions as Huck would call them, not one shows remorse. The only person who shows any remorse is Jim when he tells of the one time he had lost his patience with his newly deaf child and beat the child. Throughout the various schemes and antics that Huck relates, Twain is consistently critical of the white people's behavior, and only when it comes to Jim does he give a sympathetic portrayal.

Today in class we focused on specific scenes and characters in chapters 20-23 in order to arrive at the common theme of cheating, swindling, and frauds. Through careful observation of the King and Duke's characteristics and actions, we came to the conclusion that they were con artists, vagrants, outsiders, and felons, but at the same time they were also very creative opportunists. Col. Sherburne also had some less than admirable traits. Through his abuse of power, he demonstrated his exceeding confidence when he belittled the lynch mob and killed Boggs despite his pleading surrender. Lastly, through carefully picking apart the circus scene, we discovered the more innocent kind of trickery. The acrobat tricked the audience into thinking he was drunk for their amusement and awe.

When we first looked at the the King and Duke, we discovered their lack of morality. Through their lies they present at the religious revival to their performance of "Royal Nonesuch", they demonstrate that they are willing to go to great lengths to get money, regardless of how unethical they may be. In a similar light, Huck compares them to Pap, concluding that they are powerful drunks and frauds, yet another set of immoral adults in his life. Despite their negative aspects, they are funny and witty, dressing Jim up and painting him blue in order to trick others.

When we observed the circus scene, we realized that Huck is still a young boy in some aspects. Despite his impressive knowledge of how to survive in the woods and on the run, he is still very naive and fooled easily. The clown episode revealed his "murky understanding of what's real and fake".

Through the observation of all these characters, we concluded that Jim is an antidote to Pap and the bad models that the King and Duke provide. His morality when it came to his daughter Lizabeth demonstrated how human he truly is, and provided irony in the sense that the black man is a better model for humanity than the white. This invited a new perspective on race and slavery.

Chapters 20-23 by ElenaRSElenaRS, 09 Jan 2013 02:24

Today, the primary focus of our discussion was about how Huck appears distraught in chapter 16, the various actions and scenes that make Huck uncomfortable and the greater culminating struggle of growing up that Huck wrestles with throughout. The first few things we came up with as specific parts in which Huck says he feels uncomfortable were Jim’s escape, how society views Jim, the fact that they don’t know exactly where they are, Jim’s desire to steal his children if he can’t save up enough money to buy them, Miss Watson’s fate, and Huck’s conscience that speaks up about bringing Jim to the free states. One of the recurring themes in this chapter was Huck’s continued problems with how he’s helping Jim. The first is that he revisits Jim’s escape and realizes his role in it. When they meet the two men looking for runaway slaves, Huck considers the fact that he wants to turn Jim in to them, feels obligated to turn Jim in to them, but is too weak to do so. Huck understands the laws surrounding runaway slaves but his connection with Jim makes him too weak to follow through, as he believes he should. That’s how societies view of Jim plays in. Jim’s plan to save up enough money as a free man and then buy his family, or steal them away if necessary troubles Huck because of the magnitude of the robbery and the obvious violation of what’s excepted in society. Although Huck as stolen things before, essentially kidnapping people upsets him. Smaller thoughts like Miss Watson’s fate and their ignorance to where exactly they are, crop up. We also discussed if Jim recognizes that Huck is considering turning him in when he thanks Huck profusely. We thought Jim was cunning and guilting Huck into making sure he remains a runaway. Overall, Huck is distraught because he is struggling to figure out his own morals while reconciling them with how he’s been brought up and what he’s been told is acceptable in society. The decisions Huck makes in this chapter speak more to his true character and beliefs than the events previously in the text.
The final aspect of chapter 16 we discussed were the two rather large problems that happen at the end of the chapter. They miss the town of Cairo, so they miss the Ohio river which will take them to the free states, and their raft is split in two by a steamboat, splitting Huck and Jim up. The metaphorical significance of a steamboat, the height of industrial prowess at the time, splitting Huck and Jim apart is almost tangible and connects back to one of the first paintings of the era that we were shown. The industrial, societal, norms are a pick that’s being driven through Huck and Jim’s relationship, both by Huck and outside forces.

Wiki Entry Summary Chp. 16 by Simon SwartSimon Swart, 19 Dec 2012 04:55

I think that during today’s discussion Huck’s moments of distraught were very interesting. Huck was put in a battle between law and morals, when dealing with turning in Jim. Huck is caught between hat is morally right and what is legally right. If Huck turns in Jim because he feels legally obligated he will morally let down Jim. Jim and Huck have created a certain friendship; Jim trusts Huck and calls Huck his only friend. Huck has also a lot of feelings for Jim; Huck has this sense that he sees Jim as a father figure because he has none. If Huck doesn’t turn in Jim he is upsetting the law but up keeping his morals. Huck has never been one to follow the law but he the thought of breaking it puts him in distraught. Huck is also caught in conflict with miss Watson. Huck feels bad about freeing Miss Watson’s property, but he soon resolves that realizing he never really cared about Miss Watson that much.
During the discussion I believe we figured out Huck’s real view of Jim. Huck loves Jim, which is something he is not accustomed to. Huck has never felt attached to someone and I believe Huck is distraught about it, which is why Huck does not know what to do in this situation; he tries to push Jim away by initially wanting to turn Jim in. Huck soon realizes when the party searching for runaway slaves arrives and makes up excuses as to why they can’t see Jim the white man.

by Matt StalloneMatt Stallone, 19 Dec 2012 04:42

Today in class, while discussing Chapters 16 and 17, we tried to analyze why Huck is distraught, mostly in Chapter 16. One of his main struggles was deciding between right and wrong. He asks himself “what’s the use you learning to do right,” explicitly displaying his internal conflict (104). His main source of worry is the situation he’s in with Jim; Huck often wonders about the morality of helping a fugitive slave, and thinks about the other people involved when he asks “What had poor Miss Watson done to you…?” (100). Jim also talks about wanting to buy his wife and steal his children (100-101), which makes Huck uneasy. Our discussion brought up the idea that since Huck hasn’t ever had a strong father figure, besides Jim recently, and since Huck’s father also ‘stole’ him away, Huck cannot see the good in Jim’s desire. In Chapter 16, it was brought up that there is an increase in the n-word when Huck speaks to Jim; while it reveals Huck’s state of mind, we also see him acknowledging Him’s freedom and humanity with other parts of the chapter. Chapter 16 allows the reader to see Huck’s realization of how much more is at stake with the situation with Jim; Huck feels “so mean and so miserable,” and “knowed very well [he] had done wrong” whenever he tries to decide between right and wrong (100, 103).

The influence of society on Huck is evident in all the above stories, and as we saw in class today, that influence often battles with his internal conscience. There is a legal risk of helping Jim, but even if he turns Jim in, he will still feel ‘unsafe’ in other ways. He’s built a relationship with Jim, protecting him from his previous loneliness, and this emotional attachment prevents him from seeing the ‘legally good’ decisions. Huck (as well as Jim) uses his past experience to understand the situations he’s put in during more recent parts of the book, which led to our next question of how Huck reconciles all his worry and internal conflict.

When Huck is first battling with the question of ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ Huck tentatively decides he’ll pick “whichever [decision] come handiest at the time” (104). He initially chooses to turn Jim in, but when the two men ask Huck if there are any black men with him, Huck says “he’s white,” and continues with an elaborate story so the men don’t double check (102). Whether coincidental or not, right before that, Jim praises Huck, saying he’s “de only fren’ ole Jim’s got now” (101). Our discussion led us to believe that the emotional connection Huck’s formed with Jim is too strong to allow Huck to break it. He splits the money with Jim, is always trying to find Cairo for him, and he “sung out for Jim about a dozen times” after the boat crash (107). The idea of Jim as a father figure to Jim, as well as a sense of safety for him seems the most probable reason for Huck sticking to his own moral compass, instead of the legal one set by society.

Chapter 16/17 Discussion by acsmithacsmith, 19 Dec 2012 01:14

Today in class we examined and discussed how Huck and Jim work through questions of truth and morality in chapters 13,14, and 15. We explored Huck and Jim’s different forms of naivety and their manifestations in relationship to questions of personal morals in these three chapters.  Twain uses language of death and ghostliness often in chapter 13 when Huck references his past life.  We though that this might be reflective of how he views his life before his fake death as a previous life, and perhaps how he now feels ghostly.  Huck also experiences a transition from his immature misconceptions about death as something that can be faked, or a means of escape, to a realization of the gravity of death. Because of this newfound realization Huck becomes very conflicted over his choice to turn in the “rapscallions.” On one hand he feels it’s the right thing to do according to the law, but on the other hand he has never felt compelled to conform to society before and he feels bad for these murderers.  We thought that this was a parallel to Huck’s moral dilemma about whether or not to turn in Jim. Again, Huck reveals his naïve understanding of the law as he himself has engaged in criminal activity but he doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of his actions, nor is he alarmed that the “rapscallions” are murderers. Rather he accepts this as simply their profession and his decision was influenced the fact that he might be a murderer one day too as if this is a plausible path for him to take. In chapter 14, we examined Jim’s naivety and subsequently his philosophical understanding of humanity.  When Jim misinterprets the Solomon story, Huck attempts to explain it to him by comparing a child to money.  This story alarms Jim because of the parallel to the auctioning of slave children on a plantation, and his experience of watching separation of slave children from their mothers by a white patriarchal figure. In this chapter we also see how Jim’s frustration with language, and his insistence that all humans should speak the same language. He thinks that if all humans are equal, all humans should be able to communicate. We concluded that this insistence stems from Jim’s definition of humanity by the ability to speak, and the use of other languages threatens his definition of himself as a human.  This is a very clear moment in the text where Twain makes an argument against slavery, and rebuts the argument that slaves are not full human beings. Finally, in chapter 15 Twain uses fog as a metaphor for uncertainty and a physical representation of the “moral fog” that Huck experiences throughout these chapters. When the fog clears, and Huck returns to Jim and tricks him, he has a very clear moment in which he sees right from wrong and acts upon it by apologizing to Jim. Although this may be an isolated occurrence, it is the beginning of Huck’s understanding of the consequences of his actions. 

Ch. 13-
A. Why does Twain use language of death and ghostliness? What does it tell us about Huck’s state of mind?
- Worries about being responsible for death of robbers
- “Murder” “death” “dead” “hanging”
- Huck fascinated by death - morbid fascination
B. What do you make of Twain’s references to legality and the law? What is Huck’s understanding of the law?
- Concerned with legal fate of the robbers
- Duality of Huck’s view of law —> it’s ok for Huck to steal, but these robbers must meet with justice —> survival vs. meaningless crimes
- Naiveté - doesn’t always connect consequences to actions
- Nice parallel to the band of boys

Ch. 14-
A. Why does Jim interpret the Solomon story the way he does?
- Jim thinks Solomon isn’t wise at all because he wants to cut a child in half
- Viewing child as money —> Jim’s perspective informing his understanding of biblical morality
- Parallel to slavery
B. What does Jim’s understanding of the French language suggest about his philosophical understanding of humanity?
- Jim doesn’t seem to understand the concept of language
- Quickly jumps to notion that it’s insulting

Ch. 15-
A. How is the fog a metaphor?
- A sea of whiteness - a place in which Jim can’t see his way
- Authority
- Fog come when they’re separated
- Moral fog
B. What does Huck’s trick and apology reveal about Huck’s understanding of right and wrong, as well as his understanding of Jim’s humanity?
- Huck’s naiveté/childishness

During class on Monday, the discussion revolved around Huck and Jim’s work to figure out truth and morality. Huck struggles to decide what is right and wrong while Jim’s comprehension of reality and humanity undergoes questioning.

The reintroduction of the concepts of death and criminals forces Huck to evaluate his morality. Twain’s language throughout Chapter 13 reveals the tense situation of death: “murderers” “hung” “dead silent” “dead still” (83, 86). The language also reveals Huck’s worry about responsibility seeing as he sympathizes with the criminals; “There ain’t no telling but I might come to be a murderer myself, yet, and then how would I like it?” (83). Huck not only questions his recent actions and their consequences concerning the lives of the robbers, but he also predicts his future conflict with right and wrong. Huck’s murky, unclear understanding of morality also manifests in his understanding of the law. We noted before that Huck justified stealing from the criminals by labeling it under survival needs. However, Huck believes that it is right to “get them out of their scrape, so they can be hung when their time comes” (83). The duality of his view of the law — that it is okay for Huck to steal, yet the robbers must meet with justice – simply brings his moral understanding into further question.

On the surface, Chapter 14 appears to prove Jim’s foolishness, however, the chapter gives keen insights into Jim’s understanding of humanity. With the story of King Solomon, Jim doesn’t understand the shrewdness of the tale. Solomon discerned whom the true mother was by making the two women decide between having half of the baby or giving it up to preserve its life. However, Jim believes Solomon “warn’t no wise man” because he thinks that it is within sanity for someone to murder a child in such a way (89). Jim interprets Solomon’s proposal as a stupid waste of money because of the perspective he comes to the story with is marred by slavery. He sees the children with monetary value for that is the way slaves were treated and Solomon is simply acting as another mean, powerful guy who is willing to devalue children. Jim’s background also informs his misunderstanding of the concept of language “dey ain’ no sense in it”(91). He believes all men should speak the same language because he believes in equality. Everyone should speak the same language so that everyone is on the same level.

Huck and Jim’s struggle for truth is represented by the fog in Chapter 15. As Huck and Jim cannot identify right and wrong as well as truth, the hazy, moral fog rolls in. The fog can also be perceived as a metaphor for social maneuverability as the fog “was solid white” (94). In the sea of whiteness, Jim was unable to find his way, and while Huck was troubled, Huck came out virtually unscathed whereas Jim’s raft came out worse for the wear. The authority of whites dominates the society and both Huck and Jim fight with the hegemony yet Jim definitely gets the worse end as an African-American slave. Nevertheless, there is a moment of closure as Huck finally has a moment where he finally knows what is right and what is wrong in an instance amidst so many questions about death, humanity, how to act, etc. Huck apologizes to Jim for his tricks and holds that he “wouldn’t done that one if I’d a knowed it would make him feel that way” (98). Although Huck and Jim have many questions surrounding truth and morality, they seem to be near formulating distinctions and will soon have concrete theories.

Chapters 13-15 Discussion by RyanLouieRyanLouie, 18 Dec 2012 05:26

Today's class was a discussion about how both knowledge and ignorance are present in chapters 10, 11, and 12. The ignorance that we found in each chapter seemed related to Jim's situation, and the lack of knowledge both he and Huck have on how the world beyond their island is perceiving Huck's murder. This includes Huck's discovery, thanks to Judith, of how people believe Jim killed him, and that he and Jim are no longer safe on their island. As for knowledge, there were similar trends to the types of knowledge present in each chapter, such as gender behavior, superstitious/folk tradition knowledge, and survival knowledge, which have more to do with race, gender, age, and experience. Examples of these types of knowledge are when Huck interacts with Judith Loftus, who pokes holes in Huck's disguise as a woman, teaching the reader about female tendencies and behavior. Jim is a great source of fold tradition knowledge, and is able to save himself from the rattlesnake bite because of it. Both Jim and Huck are able to continue surviving on the island, and then survive as they travel farther down the river, with their knowledge on staying low profile, finding food, and navigating the river. Other types of knowledge present include criminal knowledge, such as the robbers'/murderers' knowledge on how to kill Jim Turner without being blamed for it, and childish knowledge, as in the innocence and motivations of Huck to continue exploring the wrecked boat despite the danger. Mark Twain uses these types of knowledge to legitimize non-intellectual or non-traditional sources of knowledge, and the types of people who have it, such as slaves, children, women, and criminals.

Moments of Ignorance/ Knowledge in Chapter 10-12

Chapter 10:

  • Huck is ignorant when he does not listen to Jim's superstitions

-the snake skin, Jim gets bitten and never wants that to happen to him.

  • Jim has knowledge of the superstitions and knows what to do when he is bitten by the snake

-feeds himself the snake and wears the rattles of the rattle snake, knows the behavior of the snake and its mate
-Huck is learning about Jim's traditional knowledge
-Jim tells Huck how to act like a girl

Chapter 11:

  • Judith Loftus = observant

-saw fire on Island, suspected that Jim was hiding out on the island, she was right

  • Huck = ignorant to think he can trick Ms. Loftus

-she tricks him: sewing, closing legs, throwing at the rats
-tests his wilderness knowledge
-Ms. Loftu has knowledge from experience: women's role and what she has learned as a women

  • End of chapter, Huck creates a decoy fire while JIm stays silent while they try to escape

Chapter 12:

  • Huck gets his knowledge from the adults in his life

-receives contracting info- chooses his favorite side

  • Huck acted with ignorance, ignoring the possible danger on the steamboat

-also has the knowledge/curiosity to go on the boat

  • Taking on chicken- justified or survival an by giving them away of you have no need for the chicken

-criminal/outlaw knowledge

Broad forms of knowledge:

  • African American folklore


  • running away/ deceiving
  • outlaw

-all have characteristics of outsiders

Notes of Ch. 10-12 by Audrey HectorAudrey Hector, 12 Dec 2012 19:23

In Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck seems to posses the natural instincts to keep himself safe, while Twain emphasizes the knowledge Huck lacks by introducing other characters who posses those desirable traits. The combination of various areas of knowledge give Huck the instincts he needs to thrive in the wilderness, away from the structure, organization, and safety of society. Meanwhile, the knowledge he lacks remains ultimately harmless to him, despite several close encounters with death and his discovery.

Huck’s knowledge, while lacking in certain areas, is rich and full of valuable information, and it helps him in his escape from society. When Huck learns of Mrs. Loftus’s plan for her husband to search the island, Huck cleverly “start[s] a good fire there on a high and dry spot,” a spot that could logically be Jim’s campground (68*). This fire gives Huck and Jim a few hours to escape, a valuable commodity that is a result of Huck’s survival instincts. While he may not posses the intellectual capabilities of learned individuals, Huck’s knowledge allow him to lead a life of seclusion in the wilderness, which he prefers to the structured and controlled town life.

To emphasize and highlight the knowledge that Huck does not posses, Twain introduces characters who exemplify the specific types of knowledge Huck does not posses. When Huck returns to the mainland, he meets Mrs. Loftus, who quickly catches on to his disguise. She points out the obvious flaws in Huck’s assumed personality, as he “set out to thread a needle [he held] the thread still and fetch[ed] the needle up to it,” obviously unaware of the subtle differences between men and women (67*). Twain uses Mrs. Loftus like he does other characters, to point out Huck’s lack of knowledge. While Huck comes close to being discovered many times in this encounter, he avoids any threat, as he does skillfully in most situations.

Huck’s knowledge, however limited it may be, serves him as much as he requires, keeping him out of danger, and allowing him to live an enjoyable life. Twain’s use of mentoring characters to Huck call attention to the areas in which Huck’s knowledge lacks, and yet these areas never harm Huck drastically.

*I use a different version of the book. If someone happens to know where the quotes I used are in their book, it would be greatly appreciated if you comment with the page(s) of the quote(s).

Chapters 10-12 Discussion by BenKulliBenKulli, 12 Dec 2012 07:27

A topic we began to explore in class was Twain’s depiction of Jim and whether or not he is painted in a sympathetic light.

The class discovered that Huck’s perspective of Jim determined the way Twain portrayed his character, as Huck is the narrator of the novel. In the first few chapters, Jim is more of a foreign character to Huck and for that reason, Huck stereotypes Jim as a “big nigger” (5). Huck and Tom play a trick on Jim, and, because of his superstitions, Jim believes it was played by witches. Jim is portrayed as a fool, however, as Huck develops a closer relationship with him, he proves himself to be clever and amiable.

Huck goes to Jim for spiritual guidance, as he had a “fourth stomach of an ox” that “he used to do magic” (17). Jim says that “sometimes is won’t talk without money,” forcing Huck to give his only coin, a counterfeit at that, to Jim as payment (17). Huck begins to admire Jim, as he knows how to make a counterfeit coin look real with a potato, a fact Huck was unaware of, saying “I knowed a potato would do that before, but I had forgot it,” covering for his ignorance (17). Jim tricks Huck into paying for his session and delivers a nonspecific but convincing fortune to Huck; “You gwyne to have considerable trouble in yo’ life, en considerable joy” (18).

However, Huck truly sympathizes with Jim after they each escape their oppressors and encounter each other in the woods. Huck helps Jim get food and Jim saves Huck from a flooding river, as he determines it will rain and moves their campsite to a cave (42)(45). Jim and Huck share a mutual trust that the other will not tell anyone about their escape and because of this relationship, Huck portrays Jim as a human-being instead of a slave (43).

Unlike in the earlier chapters, Huck rarely uses “nigger” to describe Jim. Huck begins to recognize that Jim is not his stereotype, thereby revealing Twain’s true sentiment. As Jim’s character and his relationship with Huck develop, Twain paints him in an increasingly sympathetic light.

During our class on Thursday, we focused on comparing the escapes of both Huck and Jim. We had previously noted the similarities between Huck’s stay in the cabin and the quintessential slave narrative of enslavement, which helped prompt this discussion. The comparisons both in escape and character between Huck, a white boy with a father that beats him, and Jim, an adult slave that faces auction, prove to be substantial.

Both escape in order to preserve themselves and their physical safety, after having put up with oppressive conditions. Huck was kidnapped by his drunken and often abrasive father, and whisked away to a remote cabin where he was often locked up and forced to do manual labor. Jim was employed by Miss Watson but threatened by auction in New Orleans, a slave depot further south and undoubtedly more oppressive. Seeking new fates, separate from their original paths, prompts both characters to break their respective bonds and escape.

Jim and Huck also have similar views of the world. In a world that is very religiously and industrially inclined, they constitute a minority of Missourians who are both superstitious and have an innate connection with nature. In the words of Dr. Witt, civilization is “dangerous” and wilderness is “safety”. This partially explains why both independently decided to escape to Jackson’s Island, a nature refuge with no other human inhabitants.

However, for their similarities, the two also faced some differences. Huck was luckier from the beginning – coming across a canoe and saw, as well as being able to steal food from the cabin. Jim, on the other hand, waited all day to steal a boat but “dey wuz somebody roun’ all de time” and he never had the opportunity (54). Huck also had more of an opportunity to develop a plan and was afforded the time to execute it. Jim had a smaller window to escape and had to make a rather in-the-moment decision.

The act of escape proved that both characters were trying to find their own identity. Huck was never completely happy in either circumstance he was in, Pap’s cabin or Miss Watson’s house, but once on the island finds that he “wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here” (59). He views himself as “boss of [the island], it all belong[s] to [him],” a newfound independence that he can govern his own life (49). Jim kindles a similar spirit, albeit with a reconciliation to racist ideas of monetary value, that he is worth 800 dollars and is thus a rich man.

We also discussed that Huck and Jim build a mutual trust while on the island. Jim takes on a mentor-like role to Huck, teaching him about superstition and the spiritual signs that signal rain and other natural events.

Chapters 7-9 by PierceFPierceF, 09 Dec 2012 05:50
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