In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the theme of deception is clearly portrayed by Mark Twain throughout the entire novel. The motives for this deception are different depending on the situation and also on the character. The book starts off with deception right away when Huck sneaks out the window of the Widow’s house at night and then sneaks back in later, pretending nothing happened, and the deception continues steadily throughout the novel until the last few pages when the truth seems to finally come out.
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Huckleberry also seems to be struggling through an identity crisis throughout the novel, and the characters he meets show him in very extreme levels who he wants to be and who he doesnt want to be. His upbringing may have played a part in Huckleberry being so deceitful. For starters, his dad would steal things and call it borrowing. His mother seems to have died when he was young and his dad abused him and still abuses him, partly because he is most often found drunk. In the book there are countless examples of deception, both big and small, so much that I could never fit it all in an essay or else wed be here all day, so Ive decided to focus some of the bigger acts of deception.
On page 51 of the book and continuing through the 7th chapter, Mark Twain presents the first big act of deception where Huckleberry fakes his own death. His dad would come home drunk every night and either beat him or just go crazy, and Huck would always tolerate it, but a few nights prior his dad had came close to killing him in his drunken state. Huckleberry didnt feel safe where he was, but he didnt want to go back to living a civil life with the Widow, so he decided to run away. But he wanted to run away without anyone going after him, so he decided to fake his murder, and he created a pretty good case. He killed a pig and dragged its blood everywhere, and also took many belongings from the cabin he lived in with his dad in the woods, making it look like someone had murdered him and looted the house. He also made tracks going the opposite way he was planning on going. He had recently found a canoe floating down the river at high tide, so he packed this with some belongings and sailed off down the river. I believe in this case, deception by Huck was used for good, because he was running away from a bad situation that no child should have to endure.
When Huck meets Jim on the island he first stays on, he doesnt turn Jim in as a runaway slave, but instead decides to travel with him. During their travels, Jim was often thought to be a runaway slave, so they had to come up with many different stories to keep him safe. The hiding of Jim was deceptive, because they werent letting anyone know his true identity. But this kind of deception was to protect Jim, and to keep him safe and out of the bonds of slavery, so I would argue that it was a good kind of deception. Huck thought that for sure he would go to hell because he helped Jim, and many times considered not helping him at all and turning him in, but in the end he stuck with him. Jim had a good soul, and it turns out in the end of the book that he actually was a free man all along because the Widow set him free in her will.
Much later in the book on page 192, near the end of chapter 19, Huck and Jim meet two men who claim to be kings and dukes but actually werent. They just wish to be treated well and loved and respected, probably because because they had never gotten that. They in themselves were deceiving, but they also came up with plans of deception to trick people out of their money. They did phony shows that werent legitimate, but they made lots of money because people came thinking it would be great. They pretended to be people they werent, just so that they could get donations and then use that money to become rich. They even tried to pretend to be the heirs of someone wealthy who had just died, and it became a huge scandal that they just barely escaped. They used deception in a bad way to gain wealth for themselves at the expense of others. Huck didnt want to be like these men and he also didnt want to have anything to do with them. He was tired of their deceptive ways. Eventually the men got what they deserved, and Huck became free of them, though afterward he also pitied them.
Deception can be used in so many different ways, and I believe this book does a great job at highlighting all the different ways that deception is used. It is used to protect Jim from being taken into slavery again. It is used to cheat people out of their money by pretending to be something they arent. It is used to protect Huck from his abusive father and also to set him free to a lifestyle of adventure instead of being cooped up. It is used to hide the characters identities and also to create new identities for them. And those I just mentioned were only a few out of many others. This book has shown me even more clearly how deception can be used in both good and bad ways, and also that deception is never completely good or bad.
Additionally, I kept record of the deception I recognized throughout the book, and here are the page numbers I recorded: pg. 48, 51, 92, 116, 141, 156, 192, 204, 214, 222, 250, and 317. Now I obviously didnt write down all the page numbers of deception, for there would have been far too many. And I didnt include page numbers from the end of the book where Huck and Tom set free Jim in the most dangerous and extravagant way possible even though Jim is already a free man by law. I just wanted to include these numbers for future reference.
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