SheelAyachiMr.Wasylyk ENG2DE-04December22, 2017 “He never done nothing to me”: The Impact of External Forceson Independent Thought in The Adventuresof Huckleberry Finn People are shaped by the pressures placedon them from birth, as every lesson learned and every value acquired originatesfrom someone else. The nature of humans is to constantly express and shareopinions with others, which often leads to a clash of conflicting views. InMark Twain’s The Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn, the naivety of the title character and those heencounters reveals the susceptibility of the human mind to manipulation. Twaindemonstrates how exterior pressures that influence opinions lead to irrationaldecisions and behavioral changes, and how it is only through rational thoughtthat one can decide the most appropriate 1 actions for themselves. ThroughHuck’s struggle to establish an individual opinion in a complex world, theinfluence of society, authority, and peers become evident.Over the course of Huck’s journeydown the Mississippi, Twain eloquently sets up a microcosm of society at thetime, in which he demonstrates the impact of religious, racist, and traditionalteachings that alter behavior, and are the accepted way society functions.2 Firstly, the expectation for Huck isto treat slaves such as Jim poorly, as they are regarded as lower-classcitizens.
The world in which he resides forces him to believe that positivecharacteristics such as loyalty and a “level head” are “uncommon… for a nigger”(Twain 11) like Jim. On his adventures independent of exterior influence,Huck begins to consider the slave, and by extension his race as equal to himself. Ittakes Huck “fifteen minutes before he could humble himself to a nigger”because of the superiority of white men to black men that was taught to him,but “he done it and he wasn’t even sorry for it afterwards” (65). Him coming to an understanding thathe should not feel sorry for apologizing to a slave epitomizes his gradualtransition towards treating black men and white men equally. By coming to thisindependent realization, he dismisses societal expectations. Using this shiftin opinion, Twain explains how in the world Huck lives3 4 , beliefs are thrust upon everyoneto create a society assimilated in thought, but also that these values cannotapply to every unique individual. Society conditions Huck to think and act in away that he would otherwise not, when allowed escape and time for independentthought. Justas racist ideals do, religion plays a dominating role in the South.
Aftercommitting deeds that are condemned by religion, Huck is guilt-ridden. Hebelieves that if he sends a letter telling Miss Watson where Jim is, “Huckwould feel washed clean of sin for the first time”, (158) despite the factJim would get put back into slavery. The feeling of repentance and defying hisvalues simply to conform to religion is so influential that it tempts Huck tosacrifice Jim in order to have this contrition. In the end, Huck matures enough to overcome the religiousinfluence on his actions, accepting that “he will go to hell” and “tearingup” (159) the letter. Even aftermaking the morally correct choice, the influence of religion lingers, creatingSA5 hesitation to make the decisionsuited to his values, as he believes he would go to the bad place and suffereternal damnation. In Twain’s novel, religion is an omnipresent force thatinfluences most decisions and weighs on Huckleberry’s conscience until hisgrowth and rational thought overcome the pressures, leading to the eventualdecision to free Jim6 .TheGrangerfords and Shepherdsons are also influenced by societal pressures.
Unfortunately, unlike Huck, they rarely display rational thought, whichdemonstrates the potential consequences of societal manipulation. Focused on a feud that spans decadesback, the families are determined to destroy each other because of what theywere taught. Buck Grangerford admits “he wants to kill any Shepherdson” butwhen questioned as to why he confesses it is “only on account of the feud”(79). The expectations of these two families from generations ago to hate eachother gives them purpose. Of course, they are becoming tired of the fightingand the pointless casualties, which displays how they do not independently want to fight,but are expected to continue from their past teachings. They are so consumedwith hatred that even when they crave an end to the hostility, they cannotthink logically enough to accomplish SA7 it. Furthermore, the Grangerfordsand Shepherdsons keep their guns “against the wall” at the “ornery preaching –all about brotherly love” (81), providing a respite to the fighting.
However,if they truly despised each other, they would not let the church suspend theirconflict, reinforcing the growing weariness towards their feud. Their traditionalhatred originates from a quarrel in the past, and the new generations have noindependent will to continue the fighting. The rational decision would be tocease the conflict, but due to the influence passed down from generationsbefore, the families continue to suffer unnecessary grief and misery. Twainillustrates that when expected and taught to act in a certain way, one conformsto it, to the extent of making irrational and even personally unwanteddecisions. In summary,expectations from the past and world around oneself can lead to irrationalbehaviour. By influencing the way people are taught and expected to act, anynaive person can be forced to replicate certain values.
Such is the story ofthe families trapped in eternal feud, and Huck’s confusion regarding the valuesof race and religion. Society can only set broad expectations that do not applyto each person’s values. Therefore, the more restrictive type of influences arethose which are unique to each person.An individual in a position ofauthority can be more influential than societal pressures.
In theserelationships, the person with less power is expected to do as those in powerwish, without regard for what is best for them. Most persuasive in their control is ColonelSherburn.8 Sherburn belittles a mob attemptingto lynch him after his senseless murder of Boggs, who “never hurt nobody, drunknor sober” (102). By declaring that ” the idea of the mob lynching anybody!It’s amusing… they are cowards… now go home and crawl in a hole”, heinfluences the way the mob was going to act; eventually it “broke apart, andwent tearing off every which way” (107). Sherburn’s authority alters what themob aims to do, and as the group is in such a vulnerable position, they succumbto the pressure without second thought. This scenario demonstrates how thepower of authority functions; when the influence takes the form of a directorder it becomes hopeless to resist. The mob has a decided goal, but theinfluence of the Colonel leads to the mob acting irrationally.
All of themembers in the mob have less power than Colonel Sherburn and are therefore morevulnerable to being blinded by Sherburn’s authority and position. Thus, they doexactly what is demanded of them. From this illustration, Twain conveys howeasily an inferior can be influenced if they are not able to retaliate toorders.In a like manner, Miss Watson provesthe impact authority has on the actions of others. She demands that Huckleberry”does not put his feet up there… don’t scrunch up like that” and follows with”telling him all about the bad place” (3). By establishing a consequence, sheadds weight to her commands, further motivating Huck to follow her rules.However, this works adversely, causing Huck’s desire to rebel.
Consumed withhate, “He wishes he was in hell… all he wants was a change” (4).Twain displays how all the limitations placed on Huck make him crave anythingbut his current situation. He wants any possible alternative from Miss Watson’srestrictions, and while pledging to go to hell is irrational, it highlights theimpact the rules have on Huck. From these experiences, Huck develops a poorimpression of what civilization is at large. External pressure can negativelychange the way people act, and in this case, it elevates Huck’s longing forchange. Its lasting effects drive Huck to embark on his adventure, as well asprompt the rebellion that leads him to escape. When given time to thinkindependently and consider how civilization could be better than theuncertainty on the river, he regrets his actions. The experience withcivilization reveals the polarizing impact of authority on inferiors that cancreate resentment of their current situation and radical thoughts.
As a direct consequence of the hate forcivilization developed because of Miss Watson, 9 Huck escapes with his father, eventhough Pap is despicable and “lays drunk with the hogs in the tanyard” (12). H10 uck has changing views about school;”at first he hates the school, but by and by…he could stand it”, (11)which demonstrates his cautious acceptance of civilization11 . Then, Pap holds him hostage,”locking the door and puting the key under his head” (17). Pap 12 forces him to stay at the smallcottage and remain uncivilized.
However, Huck does not protest about revertingback to enjoying “lazy and jolly days, smoking and fishing, and no books norstudy” (17), even though this contradicts his previous views. Huck goes alongwith this because of Pap pressuring him to remain common and simple, and afterexcessive beatings, he has no other choice but to blindly follow. Huck makesthe irrational decision of putting up no resistance, simply because he couldnot consider any other alternative due to the dominating influence of hisfather. In a moment of logical thought, Huck breaks from the total control ofPap and can see how horrible his predicament is, leading to his subsequentescape. Twain illustrates how the total authority of Pap restricts Huck to theextent that he has no capacity for independent thought and cannot rebel. In arelationship where one holds complete control, the room for logical thought isnonexistent, and behavior is forcibly controlled by the dominant.
The power of an authoritative figure comesat different levels. Some have such authority that even with no preexistingrelationship, they can manipulate the way people act. Others have the fullpower to establish rules that can irritate the inferior and lead to unexpectedthoughts and actions. Lastly, the power of some is so significant, that theinferior cannot think for themselves and is obligated to follow along in everyrespect. While control is often associatedwith those with more authority, some at the same level of authority caninfluence the logical thoughts of others to such an extent as absolute asmanipulation.
Peer pressure or influence from an equal can make even the mostmature people give way to juvenile suggestions and is commonplace in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. First13 , the conclusion of Twain’s novelspeaks to how even if one equal has grown, they are still easily drawn backinto old troubles. Age does notdefine maturity; thus, people of the same age can be less sensible. This is whywhen Huck develops a simple plan to free Jim, Tom believes the plan is as “mildas goosemilk” and proposes a “plan… that was worth fifteen of Huck’s forstyle… that would make Jim just as free a man… and get them killed” (165).
Nonetheless, Huck goes along with the radical plan, which ends in disaster.Huck knows his own plan is the most rational to free Jim, but Tom pressures himto follow his strategy. Even though Huck has grown as a person from hisadventures and independently discovers the rational option in the situation, inmere minutes Tom can once again influence Huck’s actions. In this example,Twain conveys that Tom is still immature in contrast with Huck, but Huckremains naïve enough to follow thescheme without protest. Since Huck trusts and respects Tom, he stops thinkingfor himself and complies with Tom. A close friend can obstruct one’sindependent thought and lead to blind decision-making because one becomes afollower, fully depending on the other. Therefore, the insistence of a friendcan lead to decisions that are not logical, and restrict one’s independentchoices.
A second form peer pressure takes isoften not explicit, but rather a fear. Huck fears exclusion from Tom Sawyer’sgang at the beginning of the novel and as a result is influenced to make commitmentshe cannot keep. To be allowed entrance into the group Huck “offers the gangMiss Watson – they could kill her” (3); he is nervous when they question hisacceptance and makes a hasty decision. The rest of the group urges him to irrationallypledge to “murder, burgle, and ransom” (4). Even though at this point in thenovel Huck remains innocent, he makes decisions he would never otherwise considerbecause the opinions of his peers are extremely important to the naïve child.However, the gang remains harmless and fearful, 14 which is why even when the boyspledged to kill for Tom Sawyer, after they think about it independently,”Huck resigns. All the boys do” (9).
In the intimidating scenario, the groupis pressured by Tom and each other, and if Huck is the only one who does notcommit he is sure to be excluded. The need and craving for inclusion Huck feelsforces him to stop reasoning and blindly follow along, which in turn limits hiscapacity for independent thought, and leads to the inability to make the bestdecisions. In brief, when one person has trust in apeer or fears exclusion from their equals, they can make irrational decisionsthat do not match how they think when independent. Exclusion from a group whoseopinions are important to oneself can weigh on the pride of a trusting andinnocent person, and a juvenile suggestion from a respected peer can lead to anill-advised decision.
Overall,the decisions one makes are often based on the reactions, orders, andimpressions of others, as illustrated in Mark Twain’s The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn. The independence of thought thatcoincides with one’s gradual maturity is not foolproof and remains vulnerableto manipulation. Whether the influence is an expectation and teaching ofsociety, or alternatively a demand from a person in authority, both can be seenas total manipulation. Additionally, in a relationship of trust and acceptance with an equal,one can be influenced to make decisions out of fear of exclusion. SA15 In a world where everyone has polarizing opinions and cravesattention, it is crucial to develop individual beliefs by critically analyzingthe abundance of information.
Otherwise, one will be totally submissive andlack distinctive identity and unique character. Works Cited Twain, Mark. TheAdventures of Huckleberry Finn. Chatto & Windus / Charles L. WebsterAnd Company, 1884.Word ChoiceReview.How to make more formal?i don’t see anything wrong with this SA5synonymmaybe add a concluding sentence that talks about how difficult it wasto overcome the pressures SA7contradictionHow could I open differently?How to reword?How to make transition better?explainplot summaryInstead say…? SA15revisit