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Religious Satire In Huckleberry Finn
Why did Twain make fun of Christianity?
In the 1800's, especially in America, many people took their Christian views seriously. In THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Mark Twain pokes fun at these people and how they would be religious and holy yet would own slaves and feud with their neighbors. Mark Twain was a Christian himself, so he wasn't doing this out of disrespect, but out of finding the lighter side of what people took way too seriously. I guess the moral of all this would be that if you are going to be religious (Christian or another religion) than practice what you preach. Don't do it for show, but from the heart.
In the book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses humor and satire of religion to show how amusing, hypocritical, and absurd the views of society were in the late 1800s.
In the first chapter, he introduces religious satire when Huck tells how he couldn't start eating at the table until the widow bows her head and "grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them." Huck may not have realized what the widow was doing, but the rest of us know she was saying her mealtime prayers. Afterward, she got out her bible and told him about Moses. Huck was interested until he found out that Moses was dead. According to Huck, he "don't take no stock in dead people." Another example of satire is when Huck tells how the slaves came inside the home for their evening prayers. This is hypocritical because slavery goes against the moral character of Christianity and yet the widow and Miss Watson do a righteous act by bringing them in for prayer.
In chapter three, Huck tells how Miss Watson took him in the "closet and prayed, but nothing come of it." She told him to pray daily and whatever he asked for he would get it. He prayed and prayed, but he didn't get what he wanted. Twain uses this to poke fun at Christians. All true Christians pray and there are times we've all prayed for something frivolous, something we wanted but not necessarily needed. The author also brings out the different views of Heaven in this chapter. Miss Watson calls Heaven "the good place." There everyone plays the harp and sings. Huck finds this boring and says he wished he was in "the bad place." Widow Douglas' view of Heaven is different. "Providence" was a place Huck wouldn't mind going to. He says the widow would talk about it in a way "to make a boy's mouth water." He finally came to the conclusion that there were two "providences." I believe the purpose of this scenario was to say that it is okay to have your own views about Heaven and that everyone's idea of a perfect afterlife is different.
In chapter 18, the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons are another example of satire. The feud between the two families had been going on for nearly thirty years and by this time no one remembers what the feud was about. It is obvious the families hate each other but every Sunday, they all attend the same church. The men would take their guns and keep them between their knees. On a particular Sunday, Huck mentions the sermon was about brotherly love. The irony is that the family thought it was an excellent sermon and talked about faith and good works on the way home. The next day ended up being the deadliest of the feud; many members of both families were killed.
In chapter 20, Huck tells of the "king" conning the crowd at the camp meeting. The "king" claims to be a pirate and becomes a born-again Christian from listening to the preacher. The crowd then takes up a collection, so he can go back to the Indian Ocean to try "to turn the pirates into the true path." Here Twain points out that Christians are quick to help others and at times are naïve and too trusting of other people's motives.
Throughout the novel, there are several more examples of religious satire. Mark Twain, a Christian, finds humor in his religion. At the time the book was written, society was strict and committed to their religious beliefs. Even though spirituality and religion are a serious matter, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn allowed them to sit back, analyze their ways of thinking and hopefully lighten up a bit.