Huck Finn Moral Dilemma Essay

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Altschuler (1989, p.31) notes that Huck’s early experiences are the reason why he cannot accept Widow Douglas as a substitute mother figure at this stage.

Altschuler (1989, p.31) observes that his moral development would likely have been stunted during early childhood, as “motherless children…

His response is dictated by the possibility of punishment or gain, rather than by a moral sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ (Kohlberg, 1981, cited in Gibbs, 2003, pp.57-76).

This is also demonstrated by Huck’s adherence to superstitious behaviour and beliefs, such as his worry that burning a spider will bring him bad luck, his use of horseshoes to frighten bad spirits, and the binding of his hair to ward off witches (Twain, 2006a, p.10).

However, Huck experiences a change of heart when he paddles away from Jim intending to turn him in, and Jim calls out that Huck is “de bes’ fren’ Jim’s ever had, en…

de only fren’ ole Jim’s got now” (Twain, 2006a, p.81).Huck loses his nerve, and lies to the authorities when asked the skin colour of his companion (Twain, 2006a, p.82).It is important to note here that some critics would argue that this does not constitute a sufficient moral shift, as Huck’s change of heart is not initiated by a realisation of the inhumanity of slavery, but rather his reluctance to betray a friend in his time of need – thus, the black struggle is reduced to a motif no more powerful than Huck’s imprisonment at the hands of his father which, although awful, cannot compare to the horror that was enslavement (Lester, 1999, p.201).have great difficulty developing into moral human beings”.Viewed in regard to child attachment theory (Bowlby, 1988, cited in Waters et al, 2005, pp.80-84), Huck’s comments regarding the non-importance of moral lessons given by those who are “[long] gone” (Twain, 2006a, p.9) and his subsequent trust issues are particularly pertinent, as they suggest Huck’s ability to form paternal attachments has become disorientated (Ainsworth et al., 1978, p.282).At the opening of the novel, the reader finds Huck feeling restricted after being placed in the guardianship of Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson.This occurs after he has come into possession of a large sum of money as a result of his earlier adventures with friend, Tom Sawyer – who, of course, features alongside Huck in Twain’s earlier text, (2006b, pp.1-375) – and is placed under the widow’s guardianship by a judge who hopes she can “sivilize” him (Twain, 2006a, p.7) by teaching him the Christian faith.The story is narrated by the protagonist, Huck, and follows his journey wherein he is faced with a number of moral choices, which subsequently lead him to question the morality and supposedly ‘civilised’ nature of society, outgrowing his own instincts of self-preservation and moral deviancy in the process.Using Kohlberg’s theory of moral development (1981, cited in Gibbs, 2003, pp.57-76), this essay will analyse how and why Huck begins to take responsibility for his own moral choices, rejecting the prescribed morality of some of the authority figures in his life and accepting that of others, thus demonstrating how life experiences of kindness and cruelty can affect the development of an individual’s mortality.According to Bennett (1974, p.127), this is a typical example of ‘bad’ morality, meaning the principles upon which a moral code is based have become somewhat skewed and require re-examination.One of the ways this can occur is when emphasis is placed in an individual’s mind upon what is legally, rather than morally, right (Kohlberg, 1981, cited in Gibbs, 2003, pp.57-76).


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