In Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, satire and irony are frequently used as a medium to portray his emotions towards issues related to society in that time period. Throughout the novel Twain ridicules multiple aspects of society, including the prevailing outlooks on religious hypocrisy and societal stereotypes to represent the social problems of the present time.
Twain’s most prominent use of satire was with religion. Throughout the novel, he uses numerous scenarios to mock the beliefs of religion. Twain used the dispute between Shepherdsons and Grangerfords to blatantly satirize religion and expose the hypocrisy. Twain wrote, “Next Sunday we all went to church about three mile, everyone a-horseback. The men took their gun and kept them between their knees or stood them handy against the wall”(Twain 108). In Twain’s perspective, this feud is ridiculous and against moral common sense. The dispute was so long that the men forget why they started to bicker in the first place. Eventually, the men arrive to church and begin to pray to their God and soon after, they go to kill each other. This portrays that going to church to pray shows that it is more of a reputational aspect rather than a religious one that the men are worried about. Twain also uses Huck’s experiences with Miss Watson to interpret satire within religion. Huck says, “…Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it”(Twain 15). Twain presents this to mock beliefs in Christianity. After not receiving what he wants when praying, Huck concludes that there is no reason behind praying to a God if nothing is received from it.
When irony is depicted in the novel, it is most evident when Huck is stuck between to codes of ethics that conflict against each other: following the law and turning in Jim or sneaking behind it and saving him. Huck claims, “I felt easy and happy and light as a feather right off. All my troubles was gone. I went to looking out sharp for a light, and sort of singing to myself”(Twain 91). This line expresses how it would be much easier to obey the law and betray Jim by turning him in, but his loyalty to Jim creates a message to the reader reminding us that what is easy might not always be morally correct. Huck’s sacrifice illustrates to the reader how he struggles with moral and identity dilemmas but in the end becomes stronger and mature through apologizing and making the most moral decision.
The frivolous nature of the humor caused by the irony and satire fades and open the eyes of the reader as they are forced to encounter the urgent need for societal changes. The author’s voice is portrayed especially when critiquing hypocrisies and major flaws that apply to society, social institutions, and individuals. Twain’s voice and search for identity helps the reader to deeply understand the message of choosing what is morally correct over what is easier. Huck’s presentation as a character was the most dominant in the novel but when he truly reveals what he wants for himself in society, it is evident that he developed and matured wrapping up his wisdom learned through situations he conquered even when he tried to escape them.