“All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn,” according to Ernest Hemingway. Along with Ernest, many others believe that Huckleberry Finn is a great book, but is the novel subversive? Since this question is frequently asked, people have begun to look deeper into the question to see if this novel is acceptable for students in schools to read.
First off subversive means something is trying to overthrow or destroy something established or to corrupt (as in morals). According to Lionel Trilling, ” No one who reads thoughtfully the dialectic of Huck’s great moral crisis will ever again be wholly able to accept without some question and some irony the assumptions of the respectable morality by which he lives, or will ever again be certain that what he considers the clear dictates of moral reason are not merely the engrained customary beliefs of his time and place.” Trilling feels that Huck Finn is such a subversive character that this will not make people believe in something totally again, because they will fear being wrong like the society in Huckleberry Finn was. I believe this and I think the subversion in the novel is established when Mark Twain begins to question the acceptable morality of society. Twain uses humor and effective writing to make Huckleberry Finn a subversive novel about society in the 19th century.
Huck Finn, a boy referred to as “white trash,” is a boy that has grown up believing totally what society as taught him. This passage shows an example of how society teaches him. “…And keep them till they’re ransomed.” “Ransomed? What’s that?” “I don’t know. But that’s what they do. I’ve seen it in the books, and so of course that’s what we’ve got to do.” “Well how can we do it if we don’t know what it is?” “Why, blame it all, we’ve got to do it.
Don’t I tell you it’s in the books? Do you want to go to doing different from what’s in the books, and get things all muddled up?” (8-9) This is a conversation between Tom Sawyer and his gang of robbers. This shows how the boys are influenced by society and believe they most follow exactly what is in the books, because that is the right way to do things. In today’s society, ransoming someone is a huge crime and is totally unacceptable. In this book, Twain makes ransoming a humorous issue. In fact, throughout the novel Twain makes violence a humorous issue and does not act upon it as a serious issue. This goes with the whole theme of the novel that there is no moral. The way Huck has been raised, he has no clue that what Tom’s gang wants to do is ludacrist, and should be totally unacceptable.
Twain uses this conversation also to show the beginning of questioning throughout the novel. This will show a pattern of how Huck questions things to learn. Whatever Hucks hears, he believes is the right and acceptable answer.
Tom’s Gang of Robbers was a part of humorous violence in the novel, but Huck would run into real violence as well. Huck faked his death, and headed down the river, and he decides to go ashore and stays with a stranger family named the GrangerfordsBibliography: