Huckleberry Finn
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The Battle Between Heart and Conscience
In Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the question of what is moral often comes up. Huck Finn is torn between what he believes is “the right thing to do” and what society expects him to do. He is unsure whether the basis of morality comes from family, church, the community, or from mere instinct. There are several instances where Huck has to make difficult decisions and questions his choices. He knows what is expected, what the rest of society would most likely do, but has mixed feelings about whether or not their actions and principles are truly moral and righteous. Huck tries to maintain a balance and please others as best he can, but is obligated to choose between his heart and his conscience.

Even though Huck has grown in a society where racial discrimination is prominent, even expected, he has always had a different view on blacks, even with his young age. He is much more sympathetic and kind to blacks, even though this behavior is not the norm. The first instance where Huck shows his compassion and the equality he feels between himself and Jim is when they are both on the island outside of town on the verge of escape. Huck has just gone into town disguised as a girl, (his masquerade is soon discovered), and discovers that a few townsfolk are sailing to the island that night to look for Jim, who has runaway from Ms. Watson. When Huck reaches Jim on the island, he exclaims, “Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain’t a minute to lose. They’re after us!” (38). The key word in this quotation is “us”. Even though the men are searching for Jim, and only Jim, Huck chooses not to say “you” but instead “us”. This statement means that Huck sees himself and Jim as team, and even friends. Considering the time and setting, it is extremely unusual for a white person to befriend a black person. When Huck says this, he does not even think twice about it; it is instinct for him. Saying this does not seem unnatural or wrong to him. In this situation, Huck’s heart takes over, not his conscience. If it were his conscience he were acting on, he would not warn Jim or run away with him.

An occasion where Huck consciously debates whether or not to turn Jim in is when they are floating down the river and the slave catchers stop their raft. Huck sees this coming and starts thinking about his options. He goes back and forth in his mind, debating what is right: whether to hand Jim into the men or lie and try to protect him. Huck is not sure whether he has been doing the right thing by hiding Jim and starts questioning himself. When the men ask Huck whether the person on the raft is white or black, Huck thinks, “I didn’t answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn’t come. I tried, for a second or two, to brace up and out with it, but I warn’t man enough — hadn’t the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was weakening; so I just give up trying, and up and says — “He’s white”

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Huck Finn And White Person. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from