Two people taking a trip down a river, is rarely thought of as anything more than just an adventure. Mark Twain, however, uses his novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, to explore and makes fun of many problems facing American society. Huck, the main character, is considered a boy who is under pressure to conform to the aspects of society. Jim, who comes along with Huck, is a runaway slave seeking freedom from the world that has been denied it to him for so long. Throughout the entire novel Twain uses satire to show problems with society.
Early in the novel, Huck scampers away with his good friend Tom and his other buddies. The boys form a gang and then decide one of their tasks in the gang will be to kidnap people and, hold them for ransom. The problem with their plan to kidnap people and hold them for ransom is their misunderstanding of the word “ransom“. Tom has a relative idea what the word means, "But per'aps if we keep them till they're ransomed, it means that we keep them till they're dead."(12) All of the boys go along with Tom‘s meaning because he is the leader. In this part of the novel, Twain uses satire to show that even though something may be truly wrong, if society adopts it to be true, then it is known to be true. Throughout the book Twain‘s issue is with slavery, in this instance of satire.
During the time period in which The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written, religion was as much an integral part of civilization, as was an education. Religion is one of the key victims of Twain's satire throughout the novel. This satire is no more apparent then when Huck's guardian, the Widow Douglas, preaches to him about Moses. Huck didn't think very much of her lecture; "Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see..."(3) Twain uses Huck to exhibit his objection to the blind faith that "civilized" society places towards religion.
During Huck and Jim's journey, they encounter two men who refer to themselves as the Duke and the King. Theses characters make their living swindling people out of their money. When they are eventually caught, they pay for their sins by being tarred and feathered. Huck expresses his thoughts on the subject by saying, "It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another."(294) Through this event, Twain shows that crooks and criminals aren't the only ones that can be cruel. The crowd which considers themselves to be civilized and opposing any such imprudent and cruel acts, actually commits one themselves. Twain illustrates how a society that views themselves as civilized can display such irresponsible conduct.
Twain uses a boy and a runaway slave in, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, to not only tell a story, but to express what he thinks are the problems of civilized society. Satire is the key tool in which he uses to demonstrate these problems. Through Twain's use of satire, we can not only poke fun at American society, but we can learn from its mistakes. Twain turned an ordinary adventure down a river into an exploration of the problems society, especially civilized society, faces. Because of the brilliant way in which Twain intertwines satire into his novel, the lessons in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, will be remembered forever.