Superstitions in Huckleberry Finn

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Mark Twain is one of America’s best-known authors. In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, addresses a variety of ideas that create conflict with each other. He does this through the character of Huck Finn. Huck experiences all these conflicting ideas throughout the novel, all the while he attempts to find his own idea of freedom in, at the time and currently, a conflicted nation. The thematic thread that holds all of the text together is superstition.

Superstition is defined as a “belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of a causation.” Superstitions have been around since the beginning of time and are still around today. They control people’s mindset for the future and they influence their decisions. In the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the author uses superstition to mock human fear and ignorance, and to offer humor to the story. He does this in serious situations in order to humor the audience and lighten the mood. The superstitions Twain presented in the novel relate to modern-day superstitions because similar meanings lie behind them.

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“Pretty soon a spider went crawling up my shoulder, and I flipped it off and it lit the candle; and before I could budge it was all shriveled up. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck, so I was scared and most shook the clothes off of me. I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep witches away” (Twain 3). This relates to the theme due to the beginning of the story when Twain addressed the superstitions of the characters due to how they were raised and their culture. It was believed that if your ancestors fear something, then you will too.

Another example is when Twain states “And he said: ‘Ef you’s got hairy arms en a hairy breas’. It’s a sign dat you’s agwyne to be rich’” (Twain 54). In this quote, it proves how superstitions can serve as a sign for the future due to the fact people in deep poverty or slaves can use these superstitions as signs of hope. Twain makes this comment due to the fact slaves have an unclear future. The majority lack education and this leads them to believe odd superstitions in order to have hope, for something, for anything.

Let’s discuss a more modern superstition that is followed today. Throwing salt over your shoulder. In the article, “Why Do People Throw Salt Over Their Shoulders?” by Debra Ronca, the author explains that people throw salt over their shoulders because of an assumption that it is associated with disloyalty and lying. In Leonardo Di Vinci’s painting The Last Supper, you can see that Judas from the Bible has knocked down the salt with his elbow. Since Judas is a symbol of disloyalty and lying because of his betrayal to Jesus Christ, people started to associate spilled salt with bad luck. This superstition is relevant to those seen in the novel because you see the recurring theme of influence of religion and the theme of superstition is commonly hand in hand with that. In Chapter 4, Huck himself makes a reference to the throwing salt over his left shoulder to keep off bad luck. Religion based superstitions are seen in both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and in modern day life.

In my culture, there are so many superstitions. Such as black cats are bad luck, the Evil Eye, or Mal de Ojo, or breaking a mirror, or eating 12 grapes right before the New Year, or wearing red underwear on New Year’s which will bring you good luck, and maybe, if you’re that luck, finding your soulmate. Superstitions make up Hispanic/Latino culture, I don’t believe half of them. No one believes all of them.

Throughout Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the continuous use of superstition not only helps the story progress, but allowed the manifest of the easily persuaded mindset of people in the 1830s-1840s. By using superstitions, it is easy to differentiate organized religion to believing in one’s own values and how having the impression of either one has the power to determine the outcome of your future. Huck and Jim allow the power of holding their faith within superstition to dictate their actions throughout their multiple adventures. In doing so, every action gone wrong or right, is explained none other than by superstitious beliefs. These notions acquire the capability to reveal the level of willpower they both possess. Huck’s level of willpower ostensibly being, not very strong in consideration of their reliance on a theory that isn’t truly authentic. Twain’s use of superstition helps put into perspective the true identity of Huckleberry Finn in the novel, whether that is being dependent upon a false belief or strong enough to cope with a rugged past.

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