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Mark Twain is renowned for his witty criticism of society. Almost invariably his nonchalant quips, when pondered, tear deep into the (t)issues of religion, morality, and humanity. Other times, however, he takes a slower, less overt and less lively tack to make his points. One such instance occurs in his book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In this book, the main protagonist, a young Huckleberry Finn, journeys down the Mississippi River and into adulthood. Throughout his odyssey, Huck encounters many situations conducive for direct and humorous criticism, but woven into his trek as a whole is a more elaborate development of his person, specifically his conscience. Twain himself described Huckleberry Finn as “a book of [his] where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers a defeat” (qtd. in Levy 383). As he drifts, Huck is presented with opportunities that force him to choose between two competing consciences, his innate, visceral conscience and an intellectual conscience established by society and religion. As the book progresses, we see him deliberate between these two options before eventually surrendering to his gut. In doing so, Huck proves himself to be governed by markedly Lockean principles. Pap, on the other hand, contrasts with Huck by presenting himself as a product of Hobbes. By using the sociopolitical lenses of Locke and Hobbes to view the self-government of Twain’s characters, we can see a clearer image of how their consciences contrast with each other and society.


American Literature II