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“He never done nothing to me”: The impact of external forces on independent thought in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn People are shaped by the pressures placed on them from birth, as every lesson learned and every value acquired originates from someone else. The nature of humans is to aggressively express opinions and share them with others, often leading to a clash of conflicting views. Exterior pressures that influence opinions lead to irrational decisions and behavioral changes; it is only through rational thought that one will learn the most appropriate actions for themselves. In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the innocence of the title character and others reveal the susceptibility of the human mind to manipulation. Through Huck’s struggle to ascertain an individual opinion, the influence of society, authority, and peers are exposed. These are all pieces of the opinionated and dominating influence of a complex world that lead to the forced replication of exterior values, even if those values are not morally just.       Following Huck’s journey down the Mississippi,  Twain eloquently sets up a microcosm of society at the time, in which he demonstrates the influences that alter behavior.

In the novel, religious and racist ideals become not only one person’s, but the universally accepted way society functions.First, the expectation for Huck is to treat slaves such as Jim poorly, as they are regarded as lower-class citizens. The world in which he resides forces him to believe that positive characteristics such as loyalty and a “level head” are “uncommon… for a nigger” (Twain 4) like Jim. On his independent adventures with Jim, Huck begins to consider the slave—and by extension his race— and himself as equals. It takes Huck “fifteen minutes before he could humble himself to a nigger” because of what he was taught about his superiority to the black man, but “he done it and he wasn’t even sorry for it afterwards” (x).

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Him coming to an understanding that he should not feel sorry for apologizing to a slave leads him to believe that black men and white men are equal. By coming to this independent realization, he strays away from how society expects him to act. Using this shift in opinion, Twain explains how in the world Huck lives in beliefs are thrust upon everyone to create a society assimilated in thought, but also that these values cannot be universal. Society conditions Huck to think and act in a way that he would never independently do, which he discovers after he escapes and is allowed space for independent thought.

        Just as racist ideals do, religion plays a dominating role in the South. Potential sinners regularly choose not to do certain activities because they consider them “wicked to do …

on Sunday” (2). This demonstrates how religion alters behaviors and dictates the way people live. After committing deeds that are preached against by religion, Huck is restricted and guilt-ridden.

He believes that if he sends a letter telling Miss Watson where Jim is, which would surely get Jim put back in slavery, “Huck would feel washed clean of sin for the first time” (31). The feeling of repentance and going against his own values simply to conform to religion almost makes Huck give Jim up.  In the end, Huck matures enough to overcome the religious influence on his actions, accepting that “he will go to hell” and “tearing up” (31) the letter. Even after making the morally correct choice, the influence of religion lingers, making him hesitant to make the most suitable decision for himself, believing he would go to the bad place and suffer eternal damnation. In Twain’s novel, religion is an omnipresent force that influences most decisions and weighs on Huckleberry’s conscience until his growth and rational thought overcome the pressures, leading to the eventual decision to free Jim.The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons are also influenced by societal pressures. Unfortunately, unlike Huck, they never display rational thought, which demonstrates the potential consequences of societal manipulation.

Focused on a feud that spans decades back, the families are determined to destroy each other. A Grangerford admits “he wanted to kill Buck Shepherdson,” but when questioned as to why, he confesses it is “only on account of the feud” (18). The expectations of these two families from generations ago to hate each other is a part of their reason to live and gives them purpose. Of course, they are becoming tired of the fighting and the pointless casualties, which displays how they are not independently wanting to fight, but they are are blinded by the hate for each other and expected to continue . They are so consumed with hatred that even when they crave an end to the fighting, they cannot think logically enough to accomplish it. Furthermore, the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons keep their guns “against the wall” at the “ornery preaching – all about brotherly love” (18), providing a respite to the fighting.

However, if they truly despised each other, they would not let the church prevent them from fighting, reinforcing the growing weariness towards their feud. This tradition originates from a quarrel in the past, and the new generations have no independent will to continue the fighting. The rational decision would be to cease the conflict, but because of the influence passed down from generations before, the families continue to suffer unnecessary grief and misery.Twain illustrates that when expected and taught to act in a certain way, one conforms to it, to the extent of making irrational and even personally unwanted decisions.

        In sum, expectations from the past and world around oneself can lead to irrational behavior. By influencing the way people are taught to act, and leaving no time for independent thought, any naïve person can be forced to act in a certain way. Such is the story of the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons trapped in eternal feud, and Huckleberry confused with how to make the right decisions by the values of race and religion. This illustrates society’s inability to focus on each person individually, setting broad expectations. From this, it can be concluded that individual restrictions unique to each person are often more effective in controlling how one acts. A person in a position of authority can be more influential  than societal pressures. In these relationships, the person with less power is expected to do as the dominant wishes, no regard for what is actually best for them.         Most persuasive in their control is Colonel Sherburn.

Sherburn belittles a mob attempting to lynch him after his senseless murder of Boggs, who “never hurt nobody, drunk nor sober” (21). In saying, ” the idea of the mob lynching anybody! It’s amusing… they are cowards… now go home and crawl in a hole”, he changes the way the mob was going to act; eventually it “broke apart, and went tearing off every which way” (21). Sherburn’s authority alters what the mob aims to do, and as the group was in such a weak position, they succumb to the pressure without second thought. This scenario demonstrates how the power of authority works; when the influence takes the form of a direct order it becomes hard to resist.

The mob has a decided goal, but the influence of the Colonel leads to the mob acting irrationally. All of the members in the mob have less power than Colonel Sherburn and are therefore more vulnerable to being blinded by Sherburn’s authority. Therefore, they do exactly what is demanded of them. From this display, Twain conveys how easily an inferior can be influenced if they are not in a position of authority and cannot retaliate to orders.In a like manner, the authority of Miss Watson proves, as well, the influence authority has on actions.

She demands that Huckleberry “does not put his feet up there… don’t scrunch up like that” and follows with “telling him all about the bad place” (1). By establishing a consequence, she adds weight to her commands, further motivating Huck to follow her rules. However, this works in an adverse way, causing Huck’s wish to rebel.

Consumed with hate, “He wished he was in hell… all he wanted was a change” (1). Twain displays how all the limitations placed on Huck make him crave anything but his current situation. He wants any possible alternative from her restrictions, and while pledging to go to hell is irrational, it highlights the impact the rules have on Huck.

From these experiences, Huck develops a poor impression of what civilization is at large. External pressure can change the way people act, and in this case creates a longing for change in Huck. Its staying effects drive Huck to embark on his adventure,  as well as prompt the rebellion that leads him to escape. When given time to think independently and consider how civilization could be better than the uncertainty on the river, he regrets some of his decisions. The experience with civilization reveals the polarizing impact of authority on inferiors that can create deep hate of their current situation and radical thoughts.         As a direct consequence of the hate for civilization developed because of Miss Watson, Huck escapes with his father, even though Pap is despicable and “lays drunk with the hogs in the tanyard” (4). Huck has changing views about school; “at first he hated the school, but by and by..

.he could stand it”, (4) which demonstrates his growing acceptance of civilization. Then, Pap holds him hostage, “locking the door and puting the key under his head” (6). Pap forces him to stay at the small cottage and remain uncivilized.

Huck does not protest about reverting back to enjoying “lazy and jolly days, smoking and fishing, and no books nor study” (6), even though this contradicts his previous views. Huck goes along with this because of Pap pressuring him to remain common and simple, and after excessive beatings, he has no other choice than to blindly follow this. He makes the irrational decision of putting up no resistance, simply because he could not consider any other alternative due to the dominating influence of his father manipulating any rational thought. At one point, Huck breaks from this total control and Pap’s great influence where he can see how horrible this situation is. In this moment of logical thought he escapes his situation. Twain illustrates how the full authority of Pap restricts Huck to the extent that he has no room for independent thought and cannot rebel, having no power to counter Pap. In a relationship where one holds complete power, the place for logical thought is nonexistent, and behavior is forcibly controlled by the dominant.         The power a dominant figure has in their control comes at different levels.

Some have such an aura of authority that even with no preexisting relationship, they can manipulate the way people act. Others have the full power to establish rules that can provoke the inferior and lead to unexpected thoughts and actions, as they are consumed by hate. Lastly, the power of some is so significant, that the inferior cannot think for themselves and is obligated to follow along in every respect. While control is often associated with those with more authority, some at the same level of authority can influence the logical thoughts of others to such an extent as absolute as manipulation.         Peer pressure or influence from an equal can make even the most mature people give way to juvenile suggestions, and is commonplace in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.         First, the culmination of Twain’s novel speaks to how even if one equal has grown, they are still easily drawn back into old troubles.

Age does not define maturity; thus, people of the same age can be less developed. This is why when Huck comes up with a simple plan to free Jim, Tom believes the plan is as “mild as goosemilk” and proposes a “plan… that was worth fifteen of Huck’s for style… that would make Jim just as free a man… and get them killed” (32). Nonetheless, Huck goes along with the plan, which ends in disaster. Huck knows his own plan is the most rational to free Jim, but Tom pressures him to follow his. Even though Huck has grown as a person from his adventures and independently discovers what the rational thing to do is in the situation, in mere minutes Tom can undo all the independent thought and once again influence Huck’s actions. In this example, Twain conveys that Tom is still immature in contrast with Huck, but Huck remains naïve enough to follow the scheme without protest.

The influence of a close friend holds a certain sway, and Huck is powerless to ignore the power of Tom. Since Huck trusts and respects Tom, he stops thinking for himself and goes along with Tom. A close friend that someone has faith in can shut down their own independent thought and lead to blind decision-making because one becomes a follower, and fully depends on the other. Therefore, the insistence of a friend can lead to decisions that are not logical, and restrict one’s independent decision making.A second form pressure from peers takes is often not explicit, but rather a fear. Huck fears exclusion from Tom Sawyer’s gang at the beginning of the novel and as a result is influenced into making commitments he cannot keep. To be allowed entrance into the group, Huck “offered them Miss Watson – they could kill her” (2); he is nervous when they question his acceptance and makes a hasty decision.

He also pledges to “murder, burgle, and ransom” (2), even though at this point in the novel he is still innocent and makes decisions he would otherwise never consider. The rest of the group urges him to make irrational decisions and he goes along, because the opinions of his peers are extremely important to the naïve child. However, they are still innocent at heart and that is why even when they pledged to kill for Tom Sawyer, after they think about it independently, “he resigned.

All the boys did.” (3). In the timed scenario, all the boys do one thing and if Huck is the only one who does not he is sure to be excluded. The nerves and craving for inclusion he feels force him to stop thinking rationally and do what everyone else is doing, which in turn limits his capacity for independent thought, and leads to the inability to make the best decisions.         In brief, when one person has trust in a peer or fears exclusion from their equals, they can make irrational decisions that do not suit how they think when independent.

Exclusion from a group whose opinions are important to oneself can weigh on the conscience of a naïve and innocent person, and as maturity is not dependent on age, a juvenile suggestion from a trusted peer can lead to an ill-advised decision.         Overall, the decisions one makes are often based on the reaction, orders, and impressions of other people, as illustrated in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The independence of thought that develops as a result of one’s gradual maturity is not foolproof, and one’s emotions and decision-making is always open to suggestion from others. Societal pressures are often not commands, but expectations from others that one has to meet.

Alternatively, when a person in a position of authority has a demand, it can be seen as a rule or a complete manipulation of an inferior, where restrictions are total on another person’s thought. Lastly, an equal is a relationship of trust and acceptance; one does what an equal wishes because they want to be recognized by an equal. In a world where everyone has polarizing opinions and is dying to be heard, it is crucial to develop individual beliefs by taking a step back and critically analyzing information. Otherwise, one will only be conforming to the orders and expectations of others, and would lack unique identity and character.


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