Major Decisions of Huck in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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      Huck - Seemingly Incapable of Making Decisions: At the beginning of the novel, Huck Finn seems to be an immature lad who, on the face of it, is incapable of making his own decisions. He is ostensibly dominated by Tom Sawyer and is obsessed with the latter's life and heroic contemplations.

      In chapter 2, we are introduced to Tom and his decision to start a band of robbers. Huck Finn doesn't like to conform to society's regulations of acceptable and refined demeanor. The only way that he can be part of Tom Sawyer's gang is by going back to Widow Douglas' house and Conforming to these social guidelines of society. Despite the fact that he loathes it, the prospect of being associated with Tom is good enough to drive him towards it.

      Huck consents to sign the gory oath that is part and parcel of membership to the gang. According to the oath, he pledges Miss Watson's life as penitence in case he decides to turn traitor and abandon the gang. This is also an immoral act but the fact that it comes from a young fourteen - year old adolescent, lessens the wickedness. Such innocent and boyish slip-ups are what Huck Finn seems to be capable of, as the novel opens. It is not until we go further, along with Huck on his moral journey, that we realize what the little boy is actually capable of.

      In fact, his deranged upbringing is the root cause behind his disturbing childhood. He has been brought up in a motherless home with nothing more than a cruel and abusive father, in the name of family. On one hand, he is taught to obey the rules of God, as disobedience would result in a place in the "bad place". He learns about the Bible, the Moses, and Bullrushers, and also about abstract concepts like those of "spiritual gifts". On the other hand, he has Pap's negative ideas and notions confronting him. Having been brought up as a social outcast and with such unhealthy nurture and the confusing atmosphere around him, it is quite natural for him to feel baffled.

      Naturally, he thinks that Tom, who has had all the privileges of a healthy childhood, is better than him. He idolizes him in every way. When he fakes his murder in (Chapter 7) he longs for Tom's presence so that the latter could add his "fancy touches" to the entire scheme of things. Even during the Walter Scott incident in chapter 12, he longs to go inside the shipwreck and witness it because his inherent fondness for adventure beckons him. Tom Sawyer has always been Huck's role model. The latter would go to any lengths to emulate Tom. Tom Sawyer would "land on that wreck if it was his last act" and would "throw style into it....... Why, you'd think it was Christopher Columbus discovering Kingdom-Come. I wish Tom Sawyer was here". Equating Tom to Christopher Columbus, Huck reveals how strongly he idealizes his friend. During the wrecked steamboat episode, Huck refuses to go with Jim because "Tom Sawyer wouldn't back out now, and so I won't either..." Little does he realize that, despite a lack of formal education, he is far more intelligent than Tom Sawyer is.

      Regardless of the hard life that he has gone through so far, Huck makes a few story-altering decisions in the novel. There are many small decisions that he makes and a few major ones that become extremely significant in the scheme of things within the story.

DECISION TO HELP THE ROBBERS ON BOARD THE WALTER SCOTT

      In chapter 12, Huck and Jim come across a gang of three robbers two of whom plan to get rid of and dump their third comrade. On realizing their intentions, Huck decides to cut the ropes that secure the robber's skiff to the steamboat, and escape. On reaching the shore, Huck goes through self-introspection and starts empathizing with the robbers' plight. He is overcome with his sense of guilt and he imagines what a dreadful situation they are in. "I reckon I hadn't timed to before. I have begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, o be in such a fix. I say to myself, there ain't no telling but I might come to be a murderer myself yet, and then how would I like it"?

      So shaken up he is that he even contemplates going back to them in an attempt to rescue them. His sense of guilt forces him to seek help and make an attempt to rescue the two men. Though the men are murderers, nevertheless, Huck takes help from a ferry watchman. Telling him a cock and bull story of his family that is trapped inside the wrecked boat, Huck pleads with him to rescue them. Of course, by the time Huck finds help, it is too late as the two men have already drowned. Nonetheless this act, on Huck's part, serves to highlight his knack for making his own decisions without any outside coercion.

LYING TO THE SLAVE HUNTERS

      In the novel, Huck makes decisions about how he wants to live his life. He has been taught by Miss Watson that, by doing "wrong", he would be punished and sent to the "bad place". Huck makes his moral scruples. He decides for himself how he wants to view the world; he decides who is a friend and who is a foe.

      In chapter 16, Huck and Jim expect to be in Cairo at any moment. Suddenly, two armed men in a skiff, who are looking for runaway slaves, summon Huck. They demand whether the other man with him is "white" or "black". Huck's social conditioning makes him painfully aware of his wrongdoing. His conscience pricks him thus - "What had poor Miss Watson done to you that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you that you could treat her so mean? Why, she tried to learn you your book, she tried to learn you your manners, she tried to be good to you every way she knew how. THAT'S what she has done".

      Despite this momentary, yet strong mental tussle, Huck cooks up a, story and makes them believe that the man in the raft is his father who is suffering from smallpox. The men give him two twenty-dollar gold pieces and move on. This decision of Huck is another significant step towards his moral progression.

HUCK'S RESOLVE TO HELP THE THREE WILKS' SISTERS

      We are introduced to Peter Wilks' family in Chapter 24 of the novel. This episode is a significant step towards Huck's moral development. He has, so far, been a mute spectator to the entire game of pretense that has been played by the two conmen. His compassion for the "poor innocent lambs", who have lost their uncle, steers him towards deeper moral grief that moves him terribly. He cannot see these innocent girls being swindled thus. They have, after all, been extremely kind towards him and kindness is something he values more than anything else. Beyond his unsophisticated exterior, Huck reveals the fact that he is, in fact, more "Christian" than the older lot.

      When Mary Jane and Susan overhear their younger sister, Joanna, interrogate Huck, they admonish her. Discerning their concern for him Huck feels extremely remorseful for letting the "uncles" dupe these girls. He thinks, "I say to myself, this is another one that I'm letting him rob her of her money. And when she got through they all jest laid themselves it to make me feel at home and know I 'was amongst friends. I felt so ornery and low down and mean that I say to myself, my mind's made up; I'll hive that money for them or bust". Huck's next major decision comes when he decides to go directly to Mary Jane and expose the reality of the frauds to her.

      This decision symbolizes a step further in Huck's emotional maturity. No doubt, initially, he joins hands with the two frauds but he draws a line when the question is that of family integrity. He is, now, able to break away from the code of morality propounded by society. His decision to help the Wilks' sisters is not attributable to what society calls "right". It is due to his scruples and a sense of right and wrong. Conscience stirs him thus, "I reckon a body that ups and tells the truth when he is in a tight place is taking considerable many risks, though I ain't had no experience, and can't say for certain; but it looks so to me, anyway; and yet here's a case where I'm blest if it doesn't look to me like the truth is better and safer than a lie". This thought cogently points towards his moral development.

TEARING THE LETTER TO MISS WATSON

      In Chapter 31, Huck, Jim, the "King" and the "Duke" disembark in a village named Pikesville. After some time, Huck finds Jim missing Later, he learns that Jim has been sold by the two con-men to the owners of the Phelps farm, for a measly sum of forty dollars. As his next plan of action, Huck contemplates telling Miss Watson all about Jim's whereabouts. He drafts a letter to her in which he explains everything about Jim's whereabouts. But soon, he decides against it because he is apprehensive of the ill-treatment that would be meted out to Jim for his rascality and ungratefulness". Besides this, he is perceptive enough to foresee his sense of disgrace for having done a dishonorable deed. After struggling with his conscience for a long time and despite the threat of going to Hell, he decides that he would submit to the "everlasting fire" and do everything he can, to save Jim. He doesn't want to be mean to an old lady who had done him no harm. But his conscience doesn't allow him to be mean to a fellow human being who has done him no harm, either. Moreover, Huck's initial decision, of telling Miss Watson about Jim's whereas out through the letter, is primarily to save Jim - that's Hack's real intention. It is, after all, better for Jim to be in Miss Watson's house than being a slave to unknown people.

      Despite the conflict between the "wisdom of society" and Huck's inner voice prevails and he can make his decision. His decision to help Jim doesn't come easily. He experiences "Providence slapping him and is torn apart by conventional good judgment and his independence of thought. He'd rather go to hell and confront God than betray Jim who is much more than merely a companion; he is the only family that Huck has in the world. His final decision "All right, then, I'll go to hell" - is the culmination of his journey towards emotional maturity and leads to an evolution of his conscience.

      He has developed the ability to take his decision himself rather than being a puppet in the hands of "society". He realizes that if his heart "wasn't right" and the "wasn't square", he simply couldn't "pray a lie". The scene, in which he writes a letter to Miss Watson, is one of the most powerful scenes in Literature.

CONCLUSION

      His decisions guide him towards his moral progression. They direct him to listen to the voice of his "sound heart" as against the dictates of society.

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