The Importance of Nonconformity The proposals presented in both Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" depict similar positions and ideas on the moral and ethical inferences for both the individual and society. In "Civil Disobedience," Thoreau presented many radical and distinct suggestions on what the government, democracy, and society should ethically instill upon individuals. Mark Twain also explored this idea of contrary morals and ethics through the adventures of his rebellious character, Huckleberry Finn. Henry David Thoreau and Mark Twain share many similar concepts reflecting on the morals and ethics that are classified between the individual and society. Both writers stress the importance of the individual's personal beliefs and perseverance for freedom, as Thoreau discusses the implications of government, and Twain describes the adventures taken against slavery and society. One of the most important themes throughout Thoreau's work is the notion of individualism.
Thoreau held a negative stance on the existing democratic government system that was un parallel to mainstream society. He believed democracy to be corrupt and immoral since it valued the majority's opinion, rather than the intellectual or honorable views of individuals. He rejected the idea that a person must adapt his own values out of loyalty to his own government. He thought that democracy was ultimately about compromise when he asked "can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?" (135).
Thoreau recognized that people accept the decision of the majority and tend to conform to the judgments of others. In his extreme perception, Thoreau asks people to remove themselves from the government when they believe they are being asked to do something wrong. In fact, he suggests in his work "Civil Disobedience,"that government is best which governs least" (134). Thoreau knew that not everybody was going to follow his individualistic values, therefore he stated, "I ask for, not at once no government but at once a better Alevizos 2 government" (135).
Thoreau believed that a person is ultimately responsible for himself alone and can and should see himself as independent of his society and government. Comparable to the ideals of Henry Thoreau was that of Mark Twain, author of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." The themes of individualism and independence are woven throughout Twain's entire novel. The character of Huckleberry Finn was portrayed as a defiant and disobedient young boy courageous and fearless of society's regulations and expectations. Twain proficiently describes Huckleberry's values and attitudes toward society by illustrating his journey with the slave Jim and his continuous reluctance to return to "sivilized society." Huck expressed his negative outlook on conventional civilization as he wanted to "light out for the Territory ahead of the rest because Aunt Sally's going to adopt [him] and sivilize [him] and [he] can't stand it" (338).
Despite immense pressure from the majority (or society) imposed on Huck, he still pursued his own morals and ambitions. His self-sufficient views on slavery were conveyed when Huck said to Jim, "people would call me a low down Abolitionist and despite me for keeping my mum- but... I ain't agoing to tell, and I ain't agoing back there anyways" (51). Here, Huck decides to keep his word to Jim in spite of the dictates of society. This acceptance of Jim also foreshadows Huck's later set of values when he defies society for the sake of his friendship with Jim. The concept of individual versus society is explicitly represented as Huck expressed his personal morals and beliefs unconcerned with the acceptable principles of conservative society.
Of the many themes which ran throughout the novel, the most predominant is the conflict between society and the individual. Both Thoreau and Twain examine the distinctions between individual's personal beliefs, as opposed to societies accepted values. This concept receives its dramatic climax in Twain's novel when Huck ultimately tells society to "go to hell." Huckleberry Finn carried out the same actions that Thoreau stressed in his writing. Thoreau argued that government should be based on conscience and citizens should stop associating with the majority's principles, especially if they " re unlike those of individual's personal beliefs. Thus, Henry David Thoreau shared the same ideals on the individual and personal freedom as Mark Twain did.