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Morality In Children Literature

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Create a thesis and an outline on Morality In Children Literature. Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide. An abstract is required. Morality In Children Literature How does one define morality? Is it the standards set by society or is it something that goes deeper than mere social customs to define one’s individual behavior? What happens to the individual who determines for himself whether to adhere to the social custom or the deeper internal sense when these things come into conflict? These are some of the important questions Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) addresses in his popular novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn while serving to entertain children which is why the book should not be banned. As he travels down the river and in each situation he finds himself in, Huck faces a number of crises of decision. In each case, he must decide to do what he’s been taught is right by civilized society or to do what he feels in his heart is the right thing to do. As he floats on his raft, he reflects on the choice he made and the reasons he made them. In doing this, he develops his own sense of morality that is free and different from what he’s been taught. From Huck’s introduction as a crude and uncivilized boy in sore need of ‘proper’ upbringing through to his final decision to head west in order to avoid that civilizing influence, Twain demonstrates the gross discrepancies within actual social behavior. Yet, this is not the reason the book is frequently considered for banning. From the opening words, Huckleberry Finn, understood to be highly uneducated and uncivilized, presents the reader with his understanding of the world around him. The first sentence gives this impression as Huck introduces himself: “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter” (1). While Huck prefers his “old rags and my sugar-hogshead” (2), admitting that he is “so ignorant and so kind of low-down and ornery” (17), the older ladies who care for him insist upon him being dressed decently and gaining some book learning. The way that he is seen to embrace the wild life and reject the rules of his society is often considered dangerously influential upon young minds. However, as he begins to settle into town life, Huck begins to feel more at home with it, “I liked the old ways best, but I was getting so I liked the new ones too, a little bit. The widow said I was coming along slow but sure and doing very satisfactory. She said she warn’t ashamed of me” (23). Huck has gone from an ignorant, abused and neglected child of the wilderness to the beginnings of an educated, well-dressed and protected child of the town. At the same time, though, Huck discovers a contradictory morality at work in society. He realizes that his black friend, Jim, continues to try to protect Huck and yet he is considered dangerous and evil simply because he feared being sold down the river where slaves are treated harshly. As a result of his more natural morality developed on the river and based largely upon the measure of the Golden Rule, Huck reaches the conclusion that owning slaves is not moral at all, and goes through a number of adventures as a means of protecting Jim from being sold by the scoundrels, actively making himself into the abolitionist he’d previously felt was a bad word to be applied to a person. Throughout the story, Mark Twain illustrates again and again how society’s morals are twisted out of place to the point where they have become meaningless mannerisms rather than acted upon beliefs. While they teach that all people deserve to be treated decently and with honor, they treat black human beings like animals and refuse to give them the dignity they demand for themselves. During the trip down the river, Huck is forced to question the ideals he’s been taught in society and compare this with his concepts of right and wrong based on a more natural and sincere response to the individual character of the human being. In the process, he teaches his readers how to live a more honest and honorable life.

Works Cited

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Norwalk, CT: The Easton Press, 1994.


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