Monday, November 1, 2021

Huck's Shakespearean Soliloquy

 As is well known, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn chronicles the peripatetic journey of the boy Huck and his friend, the runaway slave Jim, as they make their way mostly by raft down the Mississippi River. At one point in the tale, Huck, brought up according to a white supremacist ideology that sanctions slavery as part of the natural order, must decide whether to betray Jim to his former owner, as his conscience bids him, or to continue assisting Jim's pursuit of freedom, as some deeper, contrary instinct tells him to do. Corrupted by church and Southern culture's belief that to assist a slave's escape is thievery, and that anyone who does so "goes to everlasting fire," Huck tries to pray "to quit being the kind of boy that I was" -- that low-down type who would help a slave escape -- "and be better."

      "So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't