Is Twain Mocking You? Mark Twain uses his novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, to explore and satirize many problems facing American society; as religion, civilization, and mob mentality: to prove a point and to try to change the reader's opinion about the subject. Twain attacks religion when Huck decides prays and decides that it is just a waste of time. He mocks the gullibility of "civilized people" when the Dauphin easily deceives the religious crowd. Lastly, he derides the hypocrisy of mobs when the mob attacks the Duke and Dauphin. During the time period in which The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is written, religion is an integral part of civilization.
Huck's guardian, Widow Douglas, preaches to him about Moses. Huck didn't think much of her lecture. He says, "Here she was a bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone you see" (Twain 3). Twain speaks, through Huck, declaring religion, at least as it was taught, to be irrelevant to the average person's life. Not much later Huck finds that prayer has never done him any good, and he can't see that it has helped many others either. Through Huck's eyes we see that Twain opposes the blind faith put in the church teachings.
He also finds that religion's supposed altruistic spirit clashes with the reality of our self-motivated human nature, as Huck clearly illustrates this through his constant remarks that he doesn't see what's in it (religion) for him. Twain uses Huck to exhibit his objection to the blind faith that civilized society places towards religion. During Huck and Jim's journey, they encounter two men who refer to themselves as the Duke and Dauphin. These two men make their living by stealing and cheating people out of their money. When they are eventually caught they pay for their sins by being "tarred and feathered." Huck expresses his thoughts on the subject by saying, "It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another" (Twain 294).
Through this event, Twain shows that crooks and criminals are not the only ones that can be cruel. The crowd that considers themselves to be civilized and opposing any such impudent and cruel acts, actually commits one themselves. They "tar and feather" the Duke and Dauphin, hurting and humiliating them in front of a large group of people. Twain illustrates how a society that views themselves as civilized can display such irresponsible conduct. This leads into mob mentality, which Twain also profoundly satirizes throughout the novel. Failure to use one's instinct, and following someone else's direction is one prospect that Twain pokes fun at.
"Take up a collection for him, take up a collection" (Twain 28), somebody sang out. Everyone fatuously accepted the statement as stated, not taking time to perceive the actual meaning. The Dauphin took advantage of the situation and their gullibility, making the people believe that he is a pirate. Nobody stopped to observe the ludicrousness in the speech given by the Dauphin.
He took advantage of the passiveness of people and got away with a significant amount of their money. Overall satire is a key defining feature of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Twain makes good use of it to poke fun at American society. Twain uses the characters in the novel to pass valuable messages, one of which is, being "don't judge a book by its cover." Mark Twain chose to satirize religion, civilization, and mob mentality to make his message clear. Through Twain's use of satire, we cannot only poke fun at American society, but we can also learn from its mistakes. Twain turned an ordinary adventure down a river into an exploration of the problems society faces.
Twain brilliantly intertwines satire in his novel. The lessons in The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn will be remembered forever.