Conflicting Conscience

In the novel the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the author pins the notions of right and wrong against each other, while incorporating the wrongdoer’s intention and conscience. The main character, Huckleberry Finn, possesses a sound heart because he has respectable intentions, even though he does not always make the morally correct decision.His deformed conscience is a direct result of his cultural and societal upbringing. The author implements a theme of conscience by depicting a constant battle between right and wrong within Huck Finn, and the character’s sound heart ultimately defeats his deformed conscience.

Huckleberry Finn’s sound heart can be seen when he comments to Jim, “Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain’t a minute to lose. They’re after us” (62). In this passage, the townspeople are primarily concerned with Jim, a runaway slave. The fact that Huckleberry voluntarily involves himself with Jim’s escape, demonstrates his recognition of Jim as a person, as opposed to property. This act of benevolence shows that Huckleberry is willing to help a person in need, regardless of his slave status. Huckleberry’s regard for human equality, despite how society defines humanity, reveals his sound heart and decent intentions.

The author portrays Huckleberry’s deformed conscience as a result of cultural upbringing. Huckleberry initially believes that helping a runaway slave is wrong simply because society has taught him accordingly. For instance, when he drafts the letter to Miss Watson, he feels that she, a mainstream member of society, would disapprove of his aid to a runaway slave (190). The only reason Huck thinks helping Jim is immoral is because Miss Watson has told him so. While society’s racist effect on Huck should be considered, it does not take away from Huck’s deformed conscience. In other words, society’s immoralities do not justify Huck’s participation in those immoralities. In summation, Huckleberry has a deformed conscience due to the way society molds his views of right and wrong.
In the battle between Huckleberry Finn’s sound heart and deformed conscience, his sound heart ultimately wins. When Huck drafts the letter to Miss Watson, it is a prime example of his deformed conscience. Huckleberry’s sound heart takes over, however, when he eventually decides to rip up the letter and continue helping Jim (191). When he questions whether this act will send him to heaven or hell based on what society has taught him about the Christian afterlife, Huck finally declares, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” (191). This reveals that despite society’s opinions on the matter of helping runaway slaves, he does not actually feel the same way. Huckleberry defies society’s notions of morality, and makes a decision based on his own interpretation of morality. When pinned against one another, Huckleberry’s sound heart overthrows his deformed conscience.

Through his construction of a crisis of conscience within Huckleberry Finn, the author intends to create an overall theme of conscience. Huckleberry’s sound heart is revealed through his proper intentions. Huckleberry also possesses a deformed conscience, due to society’s teachings of right and wrong. Whenever Huckleberry’s sound heart is pinned up against his deformed conscience, his sound heart takes over. This indicates that, despite having a skewed outlook on certain aspects of life, Huckleberry Finn is ultimately a good person.

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