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The Effects Of Lies In Huckleberry Finn English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2263 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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As children grow, they learn their moral values, and develop their own identity, through different methods like lying, as shown by the character, Huckleberry Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. A lie, which is “a false statement or action, esp. one made with intent to deceive”, is a key point in the novel (Agnes 827). In the novel, Mark Twain has many different characters lie and deceive to show the causes and effects of lying. Many of the characters lie so often that they do not realize how their lying affects people. Some of them characters lie so often that they cannot distinguish the difference between reality and deception, and they start to lose their sense of self-respect (Ethics 878). Lying and deception, a motif that constantly occurs through the book, was shown by characters like Huckleberry Finn, the Duke, and the King that lie for many reasons. The Duke and King, who travel with Huckleberry Finn and Jim at one point, creates plans, and lies in order to gain profits by scamming people, and to trick them out of their money. These lies influence Huckleberry Finn, and cause him to realize the cause and effects of lying. Over his adventures, and through his experiences, he starts to find his true self, while running away with his slave friend and father-figure, Jim. He also learns about morality and where to draw the line between harmless and corrupt lying. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, lying causes the main character, Huckleberry Finn (Huck), to change and realize the moral effects of lying because of how he uses lies for white lies and jokes, protection, and manipulation.

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At the beginning of his adventures, Huckleberry Finn uses his ability of lying as a tool of fun and games in order to play pranks. Towards the beginning of the novel, he is about thirteen years old, and according to Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, he is starting to develop the issue of identity vs. role confusion, where he is trying to find his self (Blair-Broeker, Ernst 89). His best friend, Tom Sawyer, who often influences him, gets Huckleberry Finn to start

lying. At his age, he is starting to distance from what family he has, and starts to rely on his peers, like Tom Sawyer to find out what is normal for adolescents his age (Tomonari, Feiler 278). He starts with these lies when Tom Sawyer starts to influence him with the group of bandits. Later, when he starts out his adventure with Jim, his early motives for lying is for fun because he is still childish. Like other children his age, he uses lies because he wants attention, and he finds it exciting (Mitchell, Thompson, 288-89). First, in the adventure, Huck pulls a prank on Jim by placing a dead rattlesnake where Jim slept. Huck says himself, “I killed him, and curled him up on the foot of Jim’s blanket, ever so natural, thinking there’d be some fun when Jim found him there,” (Twain 63). The rattlesnake’s mate later comes, and it bites Jim on his foot, causing him a huge amount of pain. Even though he did not actually lie at this point, Huckleberry Finn does not tell Jim how the rattlesnake got there, and instead acts like he knows nothing about the matter. Like most children, his earliest lies are to escape punishment and to cover up what he did (Stouthamer-Loeber 269).

Later on, in another point on their adventure, he makes Jim worry about him, because he goes missing in the fog while traveling on the river. After they reunite, Jim asks him what happens, but Huck insists on lying to him, and telling him that it was all a dream, and that none of it happened. Jim becomes upset, and tells him, “When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin’ for you, en went to sleep, my hear wuz mos’ broke bekase you wuz los’, en I didn’t k’yer no mo’ what become er me en de raf’. En when I wake up en fine you back again’, all safe en soun’, de tears come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss’ yo’ foot I’s so thankful. En all you wuz thinking ’bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck dah is trash’ en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren’s en makes ’em ashamed,” (Twain 102). Because of Jim’s anger, he realizes that he should apologize because of the angst he caused for Jim. His own moral reasoning is changing from his own interests to other people’s interests, and he starts to treat Jim better after this experience (Developmental Psychology 144). Through this game of lies, he learns that lies do no always have a positive effect, and starts to see the different vies of lying (Mitchell, Thompson 288-89).

In addition to using lies for pranks and jokes, Huckleberry Finn also starts lying in order to protect others. He mostly protects Jim over their adventure, because he starts to develop strong bonds with Jim and because Jim is a runaway slave. Because of his protection over Jim, Huckleberry has conflicts with society. He starts to question and challenge the attitude and behavior of his own White ethnic identity, and decides to do things that most Whites would not do (Developmental Identity 142). Over the journey, Huck starts to question whether he should help Jim and do what is morally right, or follow the rules of society, and turn Jim in. He becomes afraid of what could happen if Jim does make it to freedom, and also becomes afraid of what would happen to him if people found out that he was helping Jim. The conflict affects him so badly, he tells the reader, “I got to feeling so mean and so miserable I most wished I was dead,” (Twain 104).

As they are traveling to Cairo, Jim becomes excited that he is almost to freedom, but Huck starts to feel even more guilty as they get closer to Cairo. “Every time he danced around and says, “Dah’s Cairo!” it went through me like a shot, and I thought if it was Cairo I reckoned I would die of miserableness,” (Twain 104-5). When Jim and Huck believe they are in Cairo, Huck takes the canoe to make sure that they are in the right place. As Huck starts to row, he encounters two white gentlemen, who are looking for runaways. They tell Huck, “Well, there’s five niggers run off tonight, up yonder above the head of the bend. Is your man white or black?” (Twain 106). Huck freezes, but answers, “He’s white,” in order to protect Jim (Twain 106). Later on down their journey, Jim gets captured and becomes no where to found. When he finds out Jim gets captured, Huck has a conflict with himself about whether he should tell Ms. Watson about her runaway slave in a letter, or try to solve the problem himself. He says, “It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself. All right, then, “I’ll go to hell”– and tore it up,” (Twain 249-50). He decides that he should find Jim and help him, and decides that rather do what is morally right than what is ethically right. According to Kohlberg’s moral reasoning, he shows that his moral reasoning level is becoming high. Huck starts breaking the rules, and starts following universal moral principles, and even faces breaking the law while being prepared for the consequences (Developmental Psychology 141).

Huck learns about doing what is morally right, he encounters the Duke and the King, and they show him how to scam and manipulate people by lying. Like the definition says, the Duke and the King “manage or control artfully or by shrewd use of influence, often in an unfair way,” (Agnes 874). They come up with elaborate plans to get innocent people to give them money, and they run off to go find other people to scam. When Huck first encounters the Duke and the King, they were running away from a town they just scammed and begged Huckleberry Finn to let them on the raft. As they get to know each other, the Duke and the King explain their situation, and tell Huck of their past. They both lie to him about their backgrounds, and tell him that they used to be loyalty from England, and Huck realizes that their identities as the Duke and the King are fabricated.

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In the first town they reach, the Duke and the King find out that the town is deserted, and that everyone has left to a religious meeting in the woods. While the King goes to the meeting, and claims that he is a former pirate, the Duke takes over the printing press in the town, and makes ten dollars. At the religious meeting, the King tells his fake story of being a former pirate, and says that he will go back to the ocean in order to become a missionary. The religious crowd becomes really ecstatic, and they give him eighty dollars, and the girls all give him kisses. In this event, Huck is experiencing these different manipulative lies for the first time. Before, he was used to the more simplistic lies, but he sees that these men are willing to lie to anyone, including religious people for money.Later the Duke, the King, and Huckleberry Finn end up in a town where a man named Peter Wilks has recently died. The Duke and the King pry information from a talkative local who is about to travel out of town, and they find out that the man wanted his two brothers from England to have all of his property. They also find out that the man, Peter Wilks, has not seen his brothers since childhood, and that their arrival is uncertain. The Duke and the King come up with a plan to pretend to be the two brothers, with the Duke pretending to be the brother called William, who is deaf and mute, and the King as the other brother called Harvey. The town becomes overjoyed when the “brothers” come into town and the townspeople come and assist them into the town and start sympathizing with them. At this site, Huck says “It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race,” (Twain 191).

This experience of them deceiving and pretending to be the brothers of a dead man utterly disgusts him and shows him how lying to manipulate is just wrong. When they get to the Wilks house, Peter’s daughters hand the Duke and the King the will and letter that was left for the real brothers, and they discover that Peter has left his brothers $3,000 and left his daughters another $3,000. A close family friend claims them as fraud, but the eldest daughter, Mary Jane dismisses his claim, and hands the Duke and the King all of the $6,000. At the site of the fake reunion and tears, again, Huck is appalled by the site, and says, “I never see anything so disgusting,” (Twain 193). The more time he spends with the Duke and the King, he becomes even more upset that they do whatever they can to steal money. However, this experience helps develop his identity, because he decides to do what he believes is right, and steal the money away from the Duke and the King, and get it back to the rightful owner of Mary Jane and her sisters. The Duke and the King question him, and asks, “Was you in there yesterday er last night?” and Huck lies to them and says, “Honor bright, your majesty, I’m telling you the truth. I hain’t been anery your room since /miss Mary Jane took you and the duke and showed it to you,” (Twain 215). The experience shows him that lying to deceive people purposely is wrong, but a lie to a criminal, or people like the Duke and the King could sometimes be necessary, (Ethics 878).

Over The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn develops his own identity and learns about how different types of lies can hurt and affect the people around him. He learns through pranks that no matter how funny the joke is, someone could get injured as seen with Jim and when he gets bitten by the rattlesnake. He learns to judge the intent and outcome of a lie like other children do, and learns the consequences of what could happen if he lied (Mitchell, Thompson 289). He also learns to start considering others, and even shows some quality of having a high moral reasoning level (Developmental Psychology 141). Through society and his experiences with Jim, he learns that some white lies can also protect people as long as it does not lead up to more lies that would cause more problems (Ethics 378). Unlike most people who either draw the line between lying is immoral or morally wrong, he draws the line between harmful and harmless lying. His motives for lying changes over time, and changes from lying to escape punishment to lying to cover up for Jim, just like how other children change their motives over time (Stouthamer-Loeber 269). Through the Duke and the King, he learns the difference between immoral and morally correct lying. He sees that lying to deceive people and scam them out of their money is utterly wrong, and that lying like them would lead to appropriate consequences. Huck develops the ability to separate lies from sin and responsibility, and learns the value of his society (Ethics 878, Tomonari, Feiler 278). Because of his adventure down the journey, he finds his own identity after trying out numerous roles and learns the moral causes and effects of white lies, lying for protection, and lying for manipulation (Blair-Broker, Ernst 89).


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