Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Magic, Religion, Superstition, and Belief (Discussion Topic)

Do you have ideas or insights regarding the presence or meaning of magic, religion, superstition, and/or belief in the novel? If so, please share them in a comment. Remember to read the other comments before posting your own so that you can engage with the ideas already put forth. Also, remember to use specific examples from the novel and quotations (with page numbers, of course!) whenever possible.

Here are some questions to get you thinking:

There are many references to magic, religion, the supernatural, and witchcraft in Huckleberry Finn. How do these issues help to shape the story? What kinds of conflicts do they represent? (Conflicts such as truth vs. falsehood, sacred vs. profane, good vs. evil, superstition vs. knowledge) How do these conflicts shape the meaning of the text? How does Jim profit from his claim to supernatural knowledge? What can we say about Huck’s view of each of these conflicts?

52 comments:

  1. One of the most clearly represented dynamics thus far, is the dynamic between superstition and knowledge. In Jim’s case, Twain presents us with a man who seems to have superstitious knowledge beyond the means of most, lending him a larger than life character. Jim creates and stretches a story about being controlled by witches (8) in order to exert influence over and command respect from his fellow slaves. Jim also gains credibility from his superstitious predictions that he shares with Huck. When Huck unknowingly handles a snake-skin, bringing bad luck upon Jim and him, and Jim is bit by a snake three days later, Huck trusts Jim that the bite was the result of superstitious bad luck, and not a chance occurrence. Jim gains influence and trust through his presentation of chance occurrences as supernaturally pre-destined events.

    A portrayal of the dynamic between superstition and knowledge is found in the fortune-telling from Jim’s hair-ball. When Huck is unable to pay a dollar to the hair-ball as to have his fortune read, he asks as to whether he can substitute a fake coin. Jim uses this opportunity to demonstrate his magic knowledge, by telling Huck how he can remove grease from the surface of the coin. Huck recalls that he knew the method once too, but does not seem to attribute it to magic. Jim’s ability to hear the fortunes told by his hair-ball are also heavy examples of theimportance placed on superstition in the novel. Jim tells a vague fortune, one which would seem applicable to anybody. Jim says “…you is all right. You is gwyne to have considable trouble in yo’ life, en considable joy.” (22) Most of us know that we all have considerable trouble and considerable joy in our lives. It’s reasonable to suspect that Huck does not take much stock in Jim’s fortune, seeing as when he escapes from Pap he takes to the river, disregarding Jim’s warning to “keep ‘way fum de water as much as you (Huck) kin…” (22) When Jim and Huck start traveling and hiding out together, neither of them mentions Jim’s hairball’s words of warning.

    Huck has not yet formed or ingrained deep beliefs in all of Jim’s superstitions, or others’ religion. Huck questions both systems, finding both doubts and what he views as points of validity. For example, when Huck finds a loaf of bread in the river he says “…I reckon the widow or the parson or somebody prayed that this bread would find me, and here it has gone and done it. So there ain’t no doubt but there is something in that thing. That is, there’s something in it when a body like the widow or the parson prays, but it don’t work for me and I reckon it don’t work for only just the right kind.” (47) Huck, having been earlier frustrated with what he views as the futility of prayer, is now moved to believe that praying can influence events in ones life. Huck is lonely on Jackson’s island, and his connection of others’ prayer to this chance occurrence demonstrates his longing to be in the company of other people.

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  2. I think that superstation is part of what makes these characters so interesting. They all share the same culture, and have the same belief system. Both of the main characters, who are good people, are very superstitious. The number of things which could give you bad luck was astounding; I mean touching a dead snake was one of the worst.(55) Compare them to the dad who had the cross in is boot to ward off the devil, even though he was an awful man he still had the same fears.

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  3. I find the conflict between superstation and knowledge in the book to be especially interesting. The way that Mark Twain presents the two makes the boundaries that separate them slowly dissolve before the reader. Tom Sawyer for example is presented as being quite knowledgeable, asserting his own intelligence several times over Huck while he and Huck are playing robbers, "Shucks, it ain't no use to talk to you, Huck Finn. You don't seem to know anything, somehow-perfect sap-head"(17). However, Huck doesn't believe Tom, feeling that Tom doesn't know what's "real", "I reckoned he believed in the A-rabs and the elephants, but as for me I think different"(17). This shows that all the characters have a healthy mix of superstition and skepticism in them. Tom is portrayed as being smart and not accepting superstitions or things he doesn't believe to be true, shown by him braving the ghost ridden night to visit Huck, yet he believes in anything he reads about in a book(genes, magicians, etc.). Huck on the other hand is portrayed as being extremely superstitious, believing in witches, and hexes, but is critical of Tom's superstition when it is presented.

    Continuing the idea of the blend, religion is portrayed as the absolute truth by the Widow and Miss Watson. But, its complex rituals and absolute beliefs can easily compared to the superstition of Jim and Huck, both are systems that if one believes enough in, they work. The Widow and Miss Watson are portrayed as being paragons of reason and knowledge and abhor superstition, however, being deeply religious people, they too show themselves to be a blend of both superstition and knowledge.

    Huck's view on the conflict between knowledge and superstition is simple. The society which Huck belongs to functions entirely on hearsay. Miss Watson and the Widow religious views come from "hearsay" from the preacher, while Jim's magic is based on hearsay from stories the like. Huck since he has been exposed to both views thinks of knowledge as how much you know, therefore, to Huck both Jim and Miss Watson are figures of knowledge. One is very knowledgeable about magic and superstition, the other about religion. But Huck views them as they are, people who know a lot about two very different things.

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  4. Superstitious beliefs overshadow Huck and Jim's journey. Huck and Jim, both being extremely superstitious people, let their fear get the best of them on many occasions.

    Huck seems to have the basic superstitious beliefs of time such as, throwing salt over ones shoulder or the belief that bad luck will come if you look at the moon over your left shoulder. Yet Jim has much stronger beliefs in superstition to the point where it affects his life. Huck has doubts about the extremities of Jim's superstition. For example, page 55 reads: “Ef you’s got hairy arms en a hairy breas’, it’s a sighn dat you’s agawyne to be rich. Well, dey’s some use in a sighn like dat, ‘kase it’s so fur ahead. You see, maybe you’s got to po’ a long time fust, en so you might git discourage’ en kill yo’sef ‘f you didn’ know by de sign dat you gwyne to be rich bymeby.” “Have you got hairy arms and a hairy breast, Jim?” “What’s de use to ax dat question? Don’ you see I has?” “Well; are you rich?” In this passage Huck is challenging Jim’s beliefs dismissing them as overly superstitious and ridiculous/ unrealistic.

    I feel as though this book characterizes African Americans as more superstitious then whites. For example all the slaves come to hear Jim’s story about how he was taken by which’s. This characterizes African Americans as gullible and is one possible example of mark twains controversial and possibly racist remarks in this novel.

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  5. Throughout the beginning of Huckleberry Finn, the idea of magic is quite relevant, be it through religion or witchcraft. However, some characters are more attuned to it than others. For instance, Jim, while not learned in the more general areas of knowledge, is what many of his fellow slaves consider an expert on superstition. Jim uses this ‘expertise’ for various means, including making money (21,22). Jim also uses his knowledge of the superstitious to try and help those that he considers friends. While with Huck on the island, Jim correctly foresees incoming rain, simply by looking at a flock of birds (59). Jim’s superstitious powers help forge a bond between him and Huck.

    Huck, unlike Jim, is a more practical person. While going through school, religion is constantly forced upon him. When told that he could receive anything he asks for if he prays, Huck tries to get himself some fishing line and hooks, but only comes up with the line. One could argue that Huck is naïve, but one could also argue that Huck, being practical, tried to pray for something he could actually use, rather than favor with God. Later on, while the town is searching for Huck in the river, he captures some “baker’s bread” floating down the river. While eating it, Huck realizes that, possibly, prayer does work, and perhaps he just isn’t able to do it. These changes to the way Huck views things, along with Jim’s superstitiousness, help direct how the characters progress through challenges, making their way down the river.

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  6. I find it quite interesting how everyone has hinted at Huck’s overall naivety and lack of commitment to a certain belief systems, but I believe that a major reason that this is so is a reflection of Mark Twain’s own life.
    Although Mark Twain grew up as a Presbyterian he was known to question organized belief systems such as Christianity and his own religion and he said things like, “faith is believing what you know ain’t so” (reference 1) therefore implying that faith is only needed if you do not have a good reason to believe in it and its not needed when you know you believe in it. Mark Twain seems to be mocking faith, but his actions contradict his words because he also attended services and religious discussions. His wavering consistency with his beliefs seems to reflect in Huck Finn’s unsettled feelings about what to believe in and who to believe in general. Huck first doubts an organized belief when he doubts the reliability of praying. Huck comments about Ms. Watson’s statement about prayer, “She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn’t so. I tried it” (13). Huck doubts Ms. Watson’s statement on account of lack of evidence, but this also reflects on Mark Twain’s life because he did not have his prayers answered when three of his siblings died. Huck, ultimately, tends to half heartedly believe Jim’s supernatural/superstitious beliefs, and I believe this is because it is practically the opposite of an organized belief system. Huck doubts Jim’s references on several accounts, but he seems to get proof of Jim’s beliefs when the birds flew and a storm came just as Jim had predicted it (54). The unsettled feelings about religion, that is evident in Huck’s life, most likely reflects a major part of Mark Twain’s life too.
    (reference 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twain)

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  7. The use of magic and superstition is best represented by Jim. The novel introduces the idea of superstition early in the novel when he awakens and realizes that his hat is off of his head, when it was on his head when he was asleep (in Chapter 2). Jim assumes that the work was done by witches (although it was really Tom Sawyer) and he invents a story in his mind and shares it with the other slaves. His ideas and knowledge of witchcraft intrigue and set him apart from the other slaves, who begin to admire Jim and listen to all of his stories surrounding the issue. “Niggers would come from all around there and give Jim anything they had, just for a sight if that five-center piece…Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got so stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches” (8). Although the story Jim imagines is false, the people believe that he has experience in the area and the slaves ask him for favors concerning themselves. Jim gains popularity among the slaves with his five-center piece, which he claims was given to him by the devil, allowing him to cure anyone he wanted by saying something to it. Huck also listens to what Jim has to say and takes his power seriously, proven when he asks him and his hair-ball about his father.

    Commenting on Zoe’s previous post, I agree that Mark Twain’s personal perceptions of religion could have been transferred to Huck’s beliefs in the novel. Mark Twain’s tragic loss shows that a prayer did not help him or his siblings in their time of need. In the beginning of the novel, Huck is willing to pray as well, but he soon finds it ineffective because nothing happened. I believe that Huck, if anything, wanted the prayer to help him escape the life that he felt trapped in and find freedom. However, he listens to Jim and what his hair-ball says when his father comes to town because of the anxiety he feels to know what his relationship with his father will be. This action shows that Huck wants to find some contact among unworldly spirit (regardless if it involves religion or superstition) to give him some sort of guidance, but he would only take it into account if it could benefit his life.

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  8. It seems to me that most of the superstition in the novel is displayed by the slaves and lower class. I agree with Brian that a lot of superstition is displayed by Jim, but not so much religion. As far as I could discern the slaves do not go to church though all the white people do. Much religion is displayed by the Widow Douglas and her sister who tell Huck about heaven and hell (the good place and the bad place) and tell him to pray (which he finds doesn't work). Some of the superstition is considered silly for example when Huck starts to take salt to throw over his shoulder after spilling it. There are also the witches- a belief displayed only by the slaves. There seems to always be a way to stave these things off for example the slave Nat at the Phelps's has his "wool" tied back in little bundles with string.

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  9. I would just like to add a quick comment about religion (regarding heaven and hell). In some parts of the novel, Huck really tries to turn himself around, for example when he is writing the letter to the Widow to tell her where Jim is (after he is found and brought to Phelp's) he feels much better about himself, simply because it seems as though he is doing the right thing. Twain writes this after Huck writes his letter: "I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking..." (269). This section also relates to what Emiko was saying about prayer. Anways, he goes on to saying this (now regarding heaven vs. hell): I studied it a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: 'All right, then, I'll go to hell" (271). He ultimately choses friendship over prayer and religion. Just something to think about

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  10. Superstition makes an early first appearance in Huckleberry Finn. In the second chapter, when Huck and Tom are sneaking out from the Widow’s house, Jim, who is also outside, hears Huck trip on a root. He knows someone is there, and so he sits on the ground and waits for them to make their presence known again. However, Huck and Tom stay so still for so long that Jim falls asleep after a while. Tom, always the jokester, decides to do something with Jim to mess with him, and, after deciding against tying him to a tree, hangs Jim’s hat on a branch. Jim, who never saw anybody there, becomes convinced that it must have been the work of witches (7).

    A similar event occurs much later in the novel, at the Phelps’ farm. After Huck and later Tom find out that Jim has been captured and is being held in the shed on the farm, they go to see him using the help of the slave who has been feeding him, whose name later turns out to be Nat. Upon seeing Tom and Huck (masquerading as Sid and Tom Sawyer, respectively), Jim cries out their real names. However, in order to hide their true intentions, Tom and Huck pretend that nothing happened, with Jim playing along. Tom then asks Nat if something’s wrong with him, to which Nat responds, “O, it’s de dad-blame’ witches, sah, en I wisht I was dead, I do. Dey’s awluz at it, sah, en dey do mos’ kill me, dey sk’yers me so” (296). Nat, as a slave, has grown up being taught to never question the word of white men, so, when what he originally thinks happened is directly contradicted by the word of a white man, “Sid”, he assumes that Sid is right, and that what he really heard was just a trick played on him by “witches”. This event not only serves as a good example of superstition, but also shows a direct connection between slavery (and the ignorance that slaves are kept in) and superstition.

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  11. The practice of superstition is first introduced in Chapter One with Hucks reaction to a spider falling in a flame. Generally, both Huck and Jim are very rational characters, yet when they encounter anything slightly superstitious, their mindset tuned to folklore and magic takes over. The power superstition holds over the two can sometimes be viewed as them holding notions that are child-like to many people despite their apparent maturity. In defense of their superstition, though, it ends up foreshadowing the plot at several key junctions. In that way, it helps to propel their adventure forward. Because of Jim’s advice from the hairball, Huck learned to stay on the good side of his father. “De bes’ way is to res’ easy en let de ole man take his own way ... But you is all right. You gwyne to have considerable trouble in yo life, en considerable joy. Sometimes you gwyne to get hurt, an sometimes you gwyne to get sick; but every time you’s gwyne to get well agin.” (22). Despite the irrationality posed by the good/bad luck paradoxes that the characters keep getting tangled up with in their thoughts, much of it goes along with their strong sense of good vs. evil. They express their morals in their folklore primarily because they have no other way of expressing them.

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  12. It seems to be that superstition was very heavy on the blacks. The lacking of proper education might have something to do with this. Jim being a great storyteller is an interesting point in this, in Africa the storytellers were always the shamans and the leaders of the tribes. This leadership was also very important because what the leader said was what happened. This sort of belief was also passed on through other ways.

    When Huck was engaged in the family feud scenario Jim was hiding in a nearby swamp.
    "early in de mawnin' some er de niggers come along, gwyne to de fields, en dey tuck me en showed me dis place, whah de dogs can't track me on accounts o' de water, en dey brings me truck to eat every night, en tells me how you's a gitt'n along."(150) Many religions have a basic belief that you should be kind to your fellow man. Here these slaves are doing it even when it isn't what their masters want them to be doing.

    Superstition and belief are both very intertwined in the black community. The slaves who are only taught anything by either each other or the bible have a limited range of knowledge to draw upon. near the ending of the book we come across a poor slave who believes he is infested with witches. These witches are haunting him constantly and wearing him down a great deal. When Tom Sawyer gives him a "witch pie" almost instantly the black is back to normal and isn't worried about witches any more.

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  13. The slaves brought a lot of animistic religions over to the United States from Africa, and many of those include what we call magic and superstition. Many Africans believed in a multiple group of powers, nature and magical spirits, whereas the rest believed in one supreme being who gave and took life. The white Americans thought much of it was unholy, even like Satan-worshipping, but close-minded people see anyone else’s religion as superstition. For the slaves, their religion was just as holy as going to Christian church was for their masters. In many cases, slaves were either indoctrinated into or willingly incorporated into the religion of their owners.
    We see many examples of magic and superstition connected with religions and just simple superstitions. For example, some people might see Jim’s “Hairball prophet” as disgusting, but to him it is a way of worship and something that he believes in. Huck is surprisingly composed and calm when he hears about the hairball that can tell you your fortune. Huck tells us: “Jim put the quarter under the hair-ball and got down and listened again. This time he said the hair-ball was all right. He said it would tell my whole fortune if I wanted it to. I says, go on. So the hair-ball talked to Jim, and Jim told it to me”.[27] This quote shows us that he really isn’t all that surprised by, but more fascinated about Jim’s superstitions. When Huck really starts believing in Jim’s superstitions, however, is when he takes the dead rattlesnake and its mate comes and curls around it, and ends up biting Jim. Huck vows never to touch a snake skin again.

    Many times throughout the novel, both white people and slaves throw around superstitions casually. The slaves are seen as childish in their superstitions, but the white people see to forget that they have so many of their own.

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  14. The author creates a few characters that have some sort of belief system that involves the supernatural. That might be ghost, witch, or some type of superstition he, Mark Twain, then goes to play with those beliefs. He shapes the story so it leads to a setup for other characters to also play with. Characters like Huck and Tom see the setup and then go to work on it. They might trick another character into believing they are hearing things or that the ghost are up to something which really hides what they have done. In other cases this belief exalts the character that had some knowledge. This then lets the have some leeway for them to play with allowing them to get one over others. Jim is one that he belief helps him greatly in the eyes of Huck. Jim said one thing in the very beginning of the novel and when it comes back around in the end it leaves Huck in a stupor. This is not the only time that Huck is involved with some type superstition the time before Huck is on the other side of the coin. He uses someones else superstition against them he the superstition it to hide his and Toms relationship with Jim.

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  15. @gabriel: it's true that all sorts of people throw around religion in the book, but I noticed that one person who really disapproves of superstitions ( apart from her own, religious ones) is Miss Watson. (last paragraph page 19). She won't even let Huck throw salt over his shoulder...

    and here is my main entry:
    Huck has a rather playful relationship with religion. He’s ignorant to the methods of and takes the rules and suggestions literally. Miss Watson told him that if he prayed every day, he would get whatever he asked for. When Huck tries this, it doesn’t work: “ I tried for the hooks three or four times, but somehow I couldn’t make it work”(13). Clemens pokes fun at the promises of the religion by making Huck ignorant to many concepts accepted by believers so that he only understands things literally. Huck finds a loaf of bread that he thinks was prayed over by the widow to ensure that it reached him. The fact that the loaf has reached him is proves to Huck that the claim about things that one prays for coming true: “There’s something in it when a body like the widow or the parson prays, but it don’t work for me, and I reckon it don’t work for only just the right kind”(47). Having reconsidered, Huck now believes that things asked of the divine can come true, but not for him and his trivial wants. He considers that the widow and parson are both good people, have more religious experience, and are more pious than himself.

    On the topic of Huck’s impiety, Clemens writes: “Pray for me! I reckoned if she knowed me she’d take a job that was more nearer her size” Huck is surprised that Mary Jane would offer to pray for him because he recognizes his impiousness and multitude of sins, and decides that praying for him would be a difficult task. Huck finds that praying for himself is even harder. Trying one day to save himself, Huck tries to reform. He feels bad for helping Jim escape and thus hurting Miss Watson but He can’t think of the words to beg the forgiveness of the deity and shares with the reader that: “ you can’t pray a lie-I found that out”(269).Huck realizes that forgiveness is not really what he wants and that it is too late to save himself; having to make the choice that he is certain will be permanent, Huck says: “ ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’” (271). This decision marks the end of Huck meddling with and trying accept religion.

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  16. One aspect of Huck Finn that I found interesting was the theme of the flaws of organized religion. There are a few instances that make organized religion seem empty and false. For instance, Both Huck and Jim are religious, and they do pray, but their prayers seem to be unanswered. After being reprimanded by Miss Watson, Huck said ”Miss Watson… took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn’t so. I tried it. Once I got a fish line, but no hooks. I tried for the hooks three or four times, but some how I couldn’t make it work.”(13) This passage makes it seem like the one true way to communicate with a higher power is simply a plea for one’s desires and hopes to go unheard. In another event, Jim describes that he gave his money away to a man named Balum to which Jim explained that “he wuz in church he hear de preacher say dat whoever give da po’ len’ to da Lor, en boun’ to git his money back a hund’d times.”(57)This is obviously a ploy, but Balum definitely is believing this to be true, and so is Jim.

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  17. In Huckleberry Finn I find it interesting that superstition is shown as a similarity between white and slave cultures. Over the course of the book you see how this common ground is what starts Huck and Jim’s friendship. When they first meet and are in the forest together you can see that they both have the same superstitions; when Huck throws away the dead snakes so that Jim does not see it (82). Huck did this because they share the belief that if you leave a dead snake its mate will come and circle around it.
    I find it interesting that while the science of the day was trying to prove that Africans were less than whites, superstition was bringing them closer together. This is visible from the amount of superstition that as African roots. I feel that this is a direct example of superstition vs. knowledge. Knowledge was trying to pull them a part but superstition was pulling them closer together.
    I disagree with Michael when he says that “Superstition and belief are both very intertwined in the black community. The slaves who are only taught anything by either each other or the bible have a limited range of knowledge to draw upon.”. Superstition in the slave community came from their cultures brought from Africa. It was their interpretation of the unknown. It later became intertwined with the white culture’s “superstition”, their interpretation of the unknown, religion.

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  18. Superstition and Faith v. Practicality

    Near the end of chapter 8 Jim starts to tell Huck about his superstition, and certain signs and omens that indicate good or bad luck. Some of these signs are short term: birds flying by signal rain, while others are more long term: hairy arms and chest signify inevitable wealth. Huck is aware of only some of these signs, and takes little stock in them, while Jim believes in them unconditionally. Though Jim has hairy arms and a hairy chest, he is not rich. Huck points this out, and Jim retorts that he was once rich and will be again. Despite having had poor luck with several investments in the past (a cow who died, a banking scheme), which intervened to stifle his perceived destiny, Jim remains hopeful, even sure, that it will be fulfilled. After these initial investments, and down on his luck, he invested remaining money in Balum, another slave, who was known for being lucky, and who promised to raise the value of the money through further investment. Balum's preacher told him that if he donated the money to the poor he would be paid back a hundred times over, and, trusting in his faith, Balum agreed to donate the money. Jim never sees a cent, and from then on is weary of investment. Only after having been repeatedly disappointed by optomistic faith did Jim become more skeptical of promises, and learn to handle his money more practically.
    Signs point Jim toward inevitabilities, in which he trusts wholeheartedly, until repeated intervention sours his optomism. Having had his destiny held slightly out of reach by his own naivety, Jim learns to employ a more practical philosophy (at least regarding money), and seeks tangible security in his investments rather than a belief in security. Jim is used to promises and ideas but not always to having them fulfilled. He is accustomed to living without the physical riches he feels will inevitably come to him. His expectations have been lowered considerably, though he remains hopeful for inevitable repayment. Now that he is free, he feels satisfied and rich in a spiritual sense, though admits that he could use the tangible money, and doesn't necessarily feel his destiny has been completely fulfilled. He must balance physical and metaphysical desires. His faith is not shaken, though he has learned to balance it with caution and practicality. He still waits for his luck to turn...

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  19. Huck has difficulty distinguishing religion from the rest of culture, namely morality and the law. While associating religion and morality is understandable, Huck assumes that the law (even when racist) is attached to religion and morality. When considering whether or not to turn Jim in (269), he states that if he had attended Sunday school more often he would have been taught that (essentially) slave sympathizers go to hell. He is considering the legal issue of slavery but cannot separate it from religion.

    Beyond religion, Huck seems to be one of the few whites with any superstition. He believes what Jim tells him, and it turns out to be at least partly right in every case. When Huck is listening on the long raft, on the other hand, nobody takes the ghost story seriously.

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  20. Both Huck and Jim have very different ideas about spirituality, magic and the supernatural. At first, Huck is oblivious to the idea of there being such a concept. Jim on the other hand, uses these concepts to get through everyday obstacles. Jim often explains to Huck the power of luck and tries to teach him the signs of bad luck. Huck explains, “And Jim said you mustn’t count the things you are going to cook for dinner, because that would bring bad luck. The same if you shook the table-cloth after sundown” (54). Huck trusts and believes what Jim tells him. But where is this knowledge coming from? Shouldn’t the supernatural be a personal belief? This shows Huck’s vulnerability and innocence and how easily he can be influenced.

    Jim uses his knowledge about the supernatural to help guide himself and Huck through their journey. The supernatural can often be a safe place for many people to turn to when things are difficult. Whether Huck believes it or not, Jims thoughts on the supernatural help both of them stay strong when things are uncertain. Huck eventually starts to understand the supernatural, and his understanding leads to him and Jim creating a stronger relationship.

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  21. In these times, many people, especially in Huck’s community, are superstitious. Tom and Huck, and their friends, are superstitious because of what they’ve read in books and what they’ve been raised to believe. Jim and his family and following are superstitious, highly superstitious, because belief in magic has been handed down to them generation by generation, originating perhaps in Africa. Jim claims to be magical to hold a higher status among the slaves.
    As for religion, well—everyone in this community are also highly religious, including Huck himself. Huck isn’t too sure what he feels about this religion, but he does believe in God, as seen on page 269, when he resolves to sit down and pray. He ultimately decides that he would rather have Jim as a friend and in his life rather than go to Heaven, even if it means Hell for him, values friendship over what is considered ‘right’ in his time period and community. This throws morals and what is right versus what is correct into effect: Huck is technically doing the wrong thing when he decides to save Jim, however in his eye, and in our eye, he is doing the right thing: forgoing religion to save his friend from slavery.

    -Mari

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  22. I’ve noticed throughout the book that nearly everyone has some belief in magic and is at least somewhat superstitious. As many others have said before, this is a conflict between knowledge and superstition. It is apparent that it is mostly undereducated people that are drawn to these beliefs, and I think it is because when someone has no explanation for the things that occur around them, it is in there nature to find ways to explain it to themselves. Due to the general lack of education in the public during this time period, people are drawn into dramatic stories of witchcraft and luck. These beliefs seem to often be regarded as common fact, for instance when Jim matter-of-factly explains to Huck that it is bad luck to touch a snakeskin. The manner in which he explains it shows that he does not regard this as just a myth, but as the truth. It also becomes apparent that an understanding, however false it may be, of magic is considered to be knowledge. This plays an important part in the book because even though Huck views Jim as a lower class person than him, almost as non-human, he still believes and listens to everything that Jim says about magic because Jim seems to understand everything that has to do with magic.

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  23. Jim lives in a world dominated by magic and supersition. He makes decisions in his life based on what he dreams, Fir examoke, he has a dream that tells him to give his money to another slave named Balum. The dream tells him that Balum will invest the money and make more for him. In reality Balum is not successful. But Jim still believes that his dream will come true, in fact he believes it has come true already and says, “Yes- en I’s rich now, come to look at it.” (57) Jim also believes he has the power to make predictions about what is going to happen in the future. For example, he has a “magic” hairball that he got from the stomach of an ox. Jim has faith in the power of the hairball to make predictions just like the faith he had in the spiritual strength of his dream. The hairball’s prediction does not have a lot of weight to it, no more than the dream did. The way Jim explains his ritual with the hairball to Huck makes it seem more spiritual and more calid than perhaps it really is. Huck’s reaction to Jim’s superstions seems skeptical and yet Jim seems so passionate that Huck comes to believe that what Jim is saying could be true. While Huck may have doubted the hairball’s validity, when Pap shows up, it pushes Huck towards believing that the prediction is true.

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  24. I agree with what Zoe said about Mark Twain mocking Christianity and I also noticed that he targets the Christian characters in the book. They are often tricked and sometimes even killed. Twain seems to have something against them. For example the Shepherdsons and Grangerfords consider themselves to be good Christian people. They go to church and read the bible but at the same time they are killing each other. They even bring their guns to church with them. Huck says, “Next Sunday we all went to church, about three mile, everybody a-horseback. The men took their guns along, so did Buck, and kept them between their knees or stood them handy against the wall”(147). In the end the majority of both of those families wound up dead. Twain is showing that even good Christians have flaws and praying doesn’t automatically make you good. Another example of the author’s dislike for Christians is when the king tricks the people at the camp meeting into taking up a collection for him. Twain portrays these people as easy prey for the king. He pretends to be a reformed pirate and that is all it takes for this group of Christians to be at his feet trying to help him. Twain writes, “the king went all through the crowd with his hat, swabbing at his eyes, and blessing the people and praising them and thanking them for being so good to the poor pirates”(173). The people were robbed and they didn’t even think twice about the king’s story because they only relied on their Christian principles. Twain shows how people rely on their beliefs too much in life and no good comes from it.

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  25. Erica's comment about Twain making fun of religion is interesting. I feel that Twain uses religion as a symbol for innocence. Religion comes up in Huck's story many times and Huck's views of prayer are very practical as Ryan stated above. In the beginning of the book Miss Watson teaches Huck how to use prayer and he tries to pray for fishing line and a hook. This is a very innocent mistake to make because if you are told that you can pray for anything that you want and you can get it, of course you might pray for something material, and Huck very innocently prays for a useful item. Early on in the story a loaf of bread floats down the river to Huck and while he is enjoying it he thinks, “I reckon the widow or the parson or somebody prayed that this bread would find me, and here it has gone and done it” (47). Here Huck shows that he has some belief in religion or at least a weak understanding of it. When The King lies to get the town people to donate money (173) to him and pray for him it shows how he is doing wrong to innocent people. Later on the King plays the role of a preacher and the town he is lying to finds him innocent at first and trusts him. This shows how religion is used to show innocence in a character. One of the most significant female roles to Huck, Mary Jane, greatly effects Huck by saying she would pray for him, “I've though of... her saying she would pray for me; and if ever I'd a thought it would do any good for me to pray for her, blamed if I wouldn't a done it or bust” (244). This shows how even though Huck doesn't quite understand religion he is still utterly pleased to hear that Mary Jane would be praying for him, and this shows how Mary Jane is represented as a good and innocent girl that Huck wants to help and protect. Many times throughout the book Huck compares his actions and morals with religion and what he learned in Sunday school (268). Many other innocent characters like Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas are very religious and take care of Jim even though he is a runaway slave. I believe that Mark Twain uses religion to symbolize innocence in Huck and many other characters.

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  26. Jim is a superstitious and spiritual person. Through out the novel Jim brings up superstition, and he truly seems to believe what he says. Although in the beginning of the novel Jim almost seems to shape his use of magic and knowledge of spirits to his own personal gain. “Niggers would come from all around there and give Jim anything they had, just for a sight of that five-center piece; but wouldn’t touch it because it had the devils hands on it (8)”. Jim seems to use his powers to gain wealth and almost trick people to give him money and objects for something that lets him loose nothing. When Huck Finn comes to Jim later on to ask to see his hair ball, he wants to be admitted with a fake coin, Jim sees through this and says that the magic can detect a real coin verses a fake one. Also Jim’s spirituality gained himself an easy life as a slave. Huck said “Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got so stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches. Jim became lazy as a slave according to Huck Finn. Jim gained prestige in the slave community as well, he was gone to as a healer and a doctor, and was well respected in the slave community.

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  27. Superstitions and beliefs play a strange roll with Huck. In the begging Huck seems to have a hard time believing in god, the god that the widow is trying to teach him about. The widow teaches Huck that god answers peoples prayers and that he’s there to help people, but when Huck prays to god and doesn’t get what he wants he stats not to believe in him. Huck reasons that because he didn’t get what he prayed for then god doesn’t exist.

    Huck doesn’t believe in god but from the begging we learn that he believes in superstitions and wild stories. When Huck spills the salt the first thing he does is try to throw some over his shoulder. His belief in bad luck stems from not knowing who or what to blame when bad things happen, he spills the salt and then when his father comes back he can blame it on that. Blaming things Huck doesn’t understand on bad luck continues, when he touches the snake skin and Jim tells him that that’s extremely bad luck he takes it too heart and after that we find him blaming almost all bad things on that snake skin. Huck also believes that Jim can talk to the hairball on the ground and honestly thinks that if he pays it the fake quarter he can find out his fortune.

    Huck believes in superstitions but not in god and he has good reasons. He was told that if he prayed to god he would get what he wanted and he didn’t. He was taught that spilling salt was bad luck and after he spilled salt his father appeared.

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  28. Pap drinks his whiskey, and is attacked by imaginary snakes. (35)
    Huck touches a snake skin.
    The two find the floating house with what is later revealed to be Pap's corpse. Jim remarks that "a man that warn't buried was more likely to go a ha'anting". (63) He doesn't tell Huck who the dead body was, and allows the house to be looted.
    Huck kills a snake and puts it in Jim's bed.
    Jim is bitten by a snake and saved (?) by Pap's whiskey. (64)

    It seems that Jim would be one to protest looting the house, with it's unburied occupant, especially considering the deceased's identity. Is he deliberately weathering the bad luck to shield Huck? Certainly the way things turn out looks like a curse. The snake that bites Jim bites him in revenge. Pap's whiskey is involved in both events, and Pap had recently hallucinated a snake attack.

    It could also be a subtle cue that Jim has replaced Pap as a father figure to Huck.

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  29. It's interesting how Hucks views on both religion and superstition change depending on whether he needs them to give him justification or an explanation of something, or if it is someone else that has created them to account for something. In the novel both are used to explain events, like in the beginning Jim explains the prank Huck and Tom pull on him with witches, because there is no other logical explanation for him. When Jim is sold away by the King Huck sees this as Gods punishment for him helping a slave, which he then starts to view as a sin. His reaction is very different, however, when he sees how the slave Nat believes himself to be haunted by witches. He seems to know this is not true, or not care if it is or not, and immediately uses the slaves superstition to take advantage of him when rescuing Jim. Tom says to Nat:

    Well, I tell you what I think. What makes them come here at this runaway nigger's breakfast time? It's because they're hungry; that's the reason. You make them a witch pie; that's the thing you need to do (330)

    Here he is clearly leading Nat on so that he can have his fun sneaking stuff in to Jim in a “witch pie”, and if he had believed strongly in witches he would probably have been terrified of them and not dared create a lie based around them. Even though it is Tom, not Huck, who says this, they are both in it together and have a common plan. This shows how both religion and superstition are used merely as explanations when none other can be found, at least for Huck and Tom, whereas in the slave culture the people are very uneducated and therefor really more heavily on such explanations, making them a more solid part of their culture.

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  30. Those in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn who are highly religious or superstitious are also easily fooled. Superstition and religion, though slightly different at their bases, both carry messages to the characters that believe, telling them how to act. These characters are then in a vulnerable position in the presence of those who understand how they will react to certain suggestions or situations, because their predictability makes them easy victims. The King is a perfect example of someone who capitalizes on the innocence of religion when he goes before the camp-meeting and tells the congregation “he was a pirate,” (172) but he is “a changed man now. . . all [because of] them dear people in Pokeville camp meeting” (172-3). He also mentions in this speech that he will do his best to turn other pirates straight, although this endeavor will take a long time without money. At this point, the people of Pokeville take up a collection for him, raising a grand total of “eighty-seven dollars and seventy-five cents” (174) for his phony cause. Under regular circumstances it is unlikely that the townspeople would fall for so obvious a ploy, but amid the atmosphere of trust and confessions, his story seemed plausible and was accepted without a second thought. In a similar sense, Tom Sawyer is able to trick the slave Nat into believing that the unusual occurrences surrounding the runaway slave are the result of witches, after Nat innocently told Tom that he was having a witch problem. When Jim shouts out the names of Huck and Tom the first time they come to visit him, Nat is told that nobody said anything, at which point he concludes that “it’s de dad-blame’ witches” (296). He never considers they might be lying because his superstition has already given him a reasonable explanation for the incident. Religion and superstition remove suspicion from people’s mindset, making them trouble-free prey for those with impure motives.

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  31. Superstition , magic, religion, and belief create a less two dimensional world for the boys. A major theme in the story is the struggle between bad and good, what defines the two and weather they are totally separate. Huck is constantly referencing this, and his struggle with the separation is visible. When he is stopped by men on a river bank asking if Jim is on his raft the internal struggle that Huck faces comes up when deciding weather or not to give up Jim. He says that his conscience “got to troubling me so I couldn't rest, I couldn't stay still in one place...it stayed with me, and scotched me more and more”(Twain, 123) Huck is uneasy with the fact that he is helping Jim escape because although he knows Jim is a person, he is still and has been raised in a society that does not acknowledge that. After he has lied to the slave hunters he thinks to himself “s'pose you'd a done right and give Jim up; would you felt better than what you do now? No, says I, I'd feel bad – I'd feel just the same way I do now."(Twain, 127) Jim's beliefs about good an bad are constantly being changed and manipulated, with every lie he tells for the betterment of the future he is shaping his beliefs about the fluidity of good and bad and the ways in which they can morph and be misunderstood.

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  32. Superstitions and demonic spirits have been shown many times in the novel and show that people can be very easily manipulated by them. Tom, Huck and Jim play on that witches have haunted Nat: "'What do you reckon's the matter with you, anyway? What made you think somebody sung out?' 'O, it's de dad-blame' witches, sah, en I wisht I was dead, I do. Dey's awluz at it.'" (296) They use Nat's belief in devilish spirits to convince him that nothing wrong had happened. Manipulation of the characters in the book provide a great scapegoat for anyone who believes in spirits or witchcraft.

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  33. In Huck’s time, people were more superstitious. This is a common understanding that in the past, when we could not explain things, we chalked up these phenomena to magic or witches. It is understandable, but I was still somewhat surprised at the level of superstition present in the book. A good example is Huck’s faked murder. Every person who knew him before, thinks he is a ghost, come back to haunt them when they first see him again. Jim says: “Doan hurt me – Don’t! I hain’t ever done no harm to a ghos’. I awluz liked dead people, en done all I could for ‘em.” (51) and Tom Sawyer does as well: “I hain’t ever done you no harm. You know that. So then, what you want to come back and ha’nt me, for?” (283) Rather than consider that something must be up, they immediately reach for their superstitions. Rather than think “well they were stupid back then” I realized that that was the way that they had been taught by others. Tom was a clever boy, and Jim was no fool, but they were under the impression that when you see a “dead” person walking around, they must be a ghost.
    The other superstition present in the book is witches. The phenomena that are assumed to be witch’s work are more explainable, and we see that Tom Sawyer often uses the “witches did it” excuse when he is up to no good. “Tom said he slipped Jim’s hat off his head and hung it on a limb right over him… …Afterwards Jim said the witches bewitched him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over the State, and then set him under the trees again and hung his hat on a limb to show who done it.” (7) This is a case that is tricky to explain. Is Jim really convinced that witches done it? Or did he just invent the story to get attention. I don’t know, but that fact that people believed him, the fact that they didn’t reject him outright, shows how superstitious they were. I am however inclined to believe that maybe Jim thought witches had moved his hat, but he might have be a bit overzealous in the details. This is another line between Lying and Storytelling.

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  34. I agree with Emiko, that superstition seems to be mostly shown by slaves. Although religion and belief is shown in other characters from the beginning, like Miss Watson, superstition and belief in magic is not really shown by anyone other that slaves. Therefore, since Huck has never been exposed to it before, I think superstition and belief is the one example in the novel where Huck really looks up to Jim. Usually, Huck will try to teach Jim things and seems to feel superior and smarter: "it warn't no use wasting words-you can't learn a nigger to argue," (98). However when Jim brings up his beliefs and superstitions he has, Huck grows to believe him and possibly take on those same superstitions. After Jim tells Huck touching snake skin with your hands is bad luck, he initially does not believe him, but after Jim, in turn, gets bit by a snake, Huck changes his mind. “I made up my mind I wouldn’t ever take aholt of a snake-skin again with my hands, not that I see what had come of it,”(65). Jim’s irrational superstitions—in my opinion—have a great deal of influence over Huck on a few different occasions, and teach him to look up to and believe Jim more than he did before, seeing him more as another person and friend, rather than just another slave.

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  35. In the beginning of the novel Miss Watson tries to make Huck believe in God and tells him that if he will receive “spiritual gifts” if he prays every day. Huck starts to question if there is a god or not so he talks to Miss Watson. “One day, I asked Miss Watson to try for me, but she said I was a fool. She never told me why, and I couldn’t make it out no way” (13). This shows how Huck doesn’t understand how religion works, and he thinks more logically. Although he thinks religion is silly and doesn’t make sense, he still believes in God which comes up later in the story as he contemplates whether or not he is doing the right thing. “It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was, and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come” (269). This shows how Huck is starting to wonder whether or not his lies were the right thing to do. It shows how believing that God is always watching your mistakes can lead you to fear your decisions.

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  36. Superstition is a major theme in Mark Twain’s novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but I don’t think that it plays major roll in the overall plot. However there were major incidents that involved superstition, such as when Huck blames the snake skin for causing the bad luck of Jim getting bit. Jim says “handling a snake skin was such awful bad luck that maybe [they] hadn’t come to the end of it yet.” (65). In the story there are many ways to get bad luck but Huck wonders if there are any god signs. Jim tells him that “Ef yous got hairy arms en a hairy breas’, it’s a sign dat you’s agwyne to be rich.” (55). This is the only superstition that may play a roll in the outcome of the story. When Jim receives forty dollars from Tom Sawyer, Jim believes that his hairy breast and arms are the reason that he is rich again, but the book states that “Tom give Jim forty dollars for being prisoner for [them].” (360) This statement disproves the validity of superstitious beliefs and happenings. Despite this disproving of superstition Huck believes in most of the superstitions besides when “Jim said bees wouldn’t sting idiots.” Huck doesn’t believe this because he “tried them lots of time” and was apparently not stung because he wouldn’t admit to being an idiot.

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  37. One of Huck’s most notable characteristics is his intense practicality. Because he is so very practical his views on religion and superstition bend to fit the situation in which they are applied. In the beginning of the book Huck speaks about what the widow has taught him from the bible, and about how, upon learning that everyone in the bible is dead he seems to reject it: “I don’t take no stock in the dead.” This is a very practical view. When confronted with Jim’s talk of superstion however, Huck is quick to listen, because the threat of bad luck seems much more real. When Jim and Huck experience bad luck, Jim is quick to blame it on the snakeskin Huck touched. Huck is open to superstition because it seems far more real to him, “Some young birds come along, flying a yard or two at a time and lighting. Jim said it was going to rain. He said it was a sign when young chickens flew that way, and so he reckoned it was the same way when young birds done it. I was going to catch some of them, but Jim wouldn’t let me. He said it was death.” Huck seems to reject ideas that are distant and foreign. He speaks of the characters in Tom Sawyer’s books that be believes to be imaginary: “ I reckoned he believed in the A-rabs and the elephants, but as for me I think different.” And finally when Huck begins to question his actions surrounding Jim, he contemplates hell. After some thought Huck decides he will go if it means saving Jim.

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  38. This subject seemed to be a subject that Huck was not really going for . Huck does tend to go along with what people tell him but it looked like Huck wasn't really very superstitious. For instance Huck never believed Jim's attempts at magic like his fortune telling hairball and whatnot, but when miss Watson told Huck about Heaven and Hell Huck took that in just going along with it. Huck even decided he was okay with going to Hell if that meant Tom Sawyer was there and he could help Jim.

    When Tom Sawyer plays pretend Huck didn't believe in the game because it was not real for him, meaning it was foreign and not accesible to Huck. I think that Huck only believed in what was happening to him and what was current for himself. Like when he didn't believe the snakeskin would bring him bad luck because it hadn't happened to him but once he got some bad luck he reconsidered his beliefs. I think that magic/religion/superstition just proves Huck's survival disposition in this novel. I also thinks it helps to show what kind of people were around Huck, for instance Jim's superstition defines him. All the people around Huck have different beliefs that they are almost imposing on Huck making him more resistant to it all.

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  39. I think it's interesting that Huck takes different views on different beliefs. In the beginning of the novel, he says that "There's something in it when a body like the widow or the parson prays, but it don't work for me, and I recon it don't work for only just the right kind" (47). Huck seems to believe in some notion of a god, but he realizes that the same belief system doesn't work for everyone. He acknowledges that there is some merit to the kind of praying the widow or the parson do, but he also admits that it doesn't work for him. However, a little later in the novel, he talks about superstitions, which he seems to generally believe in. He says, "Looking at the new moon over your left shoulder is one o the carelessest and foolishest things a body can do," and he also says "I made up my mind I wouldn't ever take aholt of a snake-skin again now that I see what had come of it" (65). Huck seems to believe in superstition more than almost any other character, except for Jim. I also think it's interesting that religion is associated with Sunday school and studying for Huck, and he therefore finds religion boring. I think maybe Huck is so superstitious because he finds religion so boring, while superstition deals with magic is generally more exciting.

    I also think it's interesting that superstition is generally more present among children and black people. Because of this, it is presented as more immature than religion throughout most of the novel. Throughout the novel in general, white children and black people share much more in common that white children and adults, superstition being one of those. Jim ends up teaching Huck much of what he knows about superstition.

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  40. Huck seems to be much more susceptible to the commands/beliefs of superstition rather than those of religion. In truth, Huck has never done well with rules of any kind, yet on the raft with Jim, one of the most superstitious characters written in the novel, he appears to be taken in by Jim's vast knowledge of the subject. This contrasts with his reaction to Miss Watson's religious upbringing. Huck mentions, "She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn't so. I tried it" (13). Here, Huck is shown taking the ideas of praying and receiving very literally, and even comments later on how he prayed for a new hook for his fishing line and never was rewarded with one. This contrasts with how Huck views the ideas of superstition. At one point on the raft, Jim notices birds flying along and predicts that it is going to rain. Later that night "it darkened up and begun to thunder and lighten; so the birds was right about it," and more importantly, Jim was right about it (59). Because many of Jim's superstitions revolve around physical occurrences, with physical retributions, I believe they are easier for Huck to grasp on to, and therefore respect. Furthermore, I think Huck took a better liking to superstition because Jim, a man Huck admires, was the one instilling it in him, and Huck is always eager to gain more knowledge of the world. With religion, Huck felt as though he was wasting his time praying to someone whom he had never met, nor could see, and with no direct physical gain. Huck clearly struggles with authority, and Miss Watson was very controlling when dealing with the religious aspect of raising Huck. Jim, although very intense about his superstitions, is not coming from a place of control, but rather appears to simply teach Huck about his superstitions, therefore rendering a much greater affect on Huck.

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  41. I think that Huck has some pessimism regarding religion because in his eyes, religion embodies a deeply rooted moral deficiency in society that antagonizes his most basic and human impulses. The fact that Huck believes that he cannot be an abolitionist without going to hell shows how religion contradicts his own moral instincts which, unbeknownst to him, are correct. When the duke pretends to be a preacher (177) he is also seeing how religion can be easily lied about and turned into a mockery. Huck is also a child, who will only believe in what he can touch and see, what seems the most relevant to him. When Huck is being lectured on heaven and hell, he is scolded for saying, “All I wanted was to go somewhere; all I wanted was a change, I warn’t particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn’t say it for the whole world, she was going to live so as to go to the good place.” (11) This view doesn’t seem rational or pragmatic to Huck because while he lives for the present and for adventure, she is living for something that is far more distant.
    The magic in the slave communities, however, are an otherworldly belief that suits him much better. In Huck’s first brush with religion, it seems to me that his strongest aversion is due to the fact that there is no instant gratification (page 19), whereas superstition is more concerned with the present. Magic and superstition also puts order in the chaos and uncontrollable aspects of life, and because its effects are immediate turns it into a survival tool.

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  42. Throughout this book, Huck Finn is exposed to many different kinds of beliefs. The Widow was religious, and was raising Huckleberry to believe what she did and Jim was always talking about luck, magic, and such. He believed somethings he was told and not others. Sometimes it seemed he didn’t know what to believe, and sometimes it was very clear that he believed what jim was saying about luck. Like the snakeskin, “Jim was laid up for four days and nights. Then the swelling was all gone and he was around again. I made up my mind I wouldn’t ever take aholt of a snake-skin with my hands, now that I see what had come of it.”(pg. 65) He really believed that touching that snake skin was bad luck, without a doubt. Maybe it made more sense to believe in luck, or maybe it was just more exciting than religion. It seemed that Huck just believed whatever he wanted to, whether or not it conformed to society’s beliefs.

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  43. Right when I see the heading for this discussion, I automatically think of the character Jim because right from the beginning of the book he perfectly emulates all these characteristics through all his rituals. For example, when Jim notices his hat is off his head he quickly establishes that it was done by the witches; when it was actually done by Huck. Jim shares his story to all the slaves who believe him and make him popular because of his seemingly believable knowledge about witchcraft. On page 8 it explains how “Niggers would come from all around there and give Jim anything they had, just for a sight if that five-center piece…Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got so stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches”, which indicate that Jim wasn’t an ordinary slave; almost in a sense the he was the slave to be. To me personally I see Jim as a good storyteller, but I also did some background research about magic, religion, etc. in the south and found out that superstition was very strong in the south and remains strong till this day.
    After reading some of the passages by other students I noticed that people included Miss Watson, which I never really took into account! I really liked how people touched on the principle of prayer, which brought out one of the reasons why Huck was so passive about religion. Yet I still find it intriguing how Jim’s superstitions and rituals seemed to have an impact on Huck’s beliefs, but its probably because Jim’s foretelling about Huck’s dad and the birds as a sign of rains came true.

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  44. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, witchcraft is said to be haunting and is associated with bad luck. However, when Jim is captive in the Phelps’ home, witchcraft is presented as the factor that keeps Nat clueless about Huck, Tom, and Jim. When Jim accidentally calls out Huck and Tom, he covers it up by saying that he was possessed by witches: “’O, it’s de dad-blame’ witches, sah, en I wisht I was dead, I do. Dey’s awluz at it, sah, en dey do mos’ kill me, dey sk’yers me so’” (296).

    So when presented with this imitation of being possessed with witchcraft, we begin to think whether witchcraft is good or not. It keeps people thinking you’re crazy, which can be useful if you need to deceive someone, like Jim did with Nat. Although Jim faked being possessed by spirits, it was useful in the same way that Huck lies to protect himself. And since it was an imitation, we can’t say for sure that actually being possessed by witches is a good thing, because we have no situation of that to examine. Nevertheless, from this, witchcraft is questioned as being good or evil.

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  45. Prayer and who can properly do it is a prominent issue in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Women can pray effectively because they are portrayed as being proper moral and religious beings, but Huck cannot pray consistently. Near the beginning of the novel, Huck says of prayer, “Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray everyday, and whatever I asked for I would get. But it warn’t so…. No, says I to myself, there ain’t nothing in it” (14). Indeed, there is only one time in the book when Huck feels able to successfully pray, and that is right after he writes a letter about Jim’s location to his owner. Huck says, “I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life and I knowed I could pray now” (194). Although Huck later changes his mind about his feelings that turning in Jim is what he should do, he still stays firm in his belief that turning in Jim is the moral thing to do. Thus, when Huck feels he did something moral, he feels more on par with the women and more able to pray.

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  46. It seems to me that Twain uses superstition as a sideways way of criticizing religion.
    As I have said, the skill of a storyteller is a mark of status. As shown through Jim’s “witch” stories, this applies as well to superstitious stories as to stories with realistic bases. Jim earns an almost ridiculous fame and respect because of the stories he tells about witches that fly him all around the world (p7), or a coin given to him by the devil (p8). Descriptions of Jim’s notoriety seem comical, but how different is the idea of “witches” from that of “angels”? And how different is asking advice of a “magic” hairball from asking God for fishing hooks in prayer (or from any kind of prayer)? Jim could parallel a priest: a man who is seen to have a higher knowledge of God and the Bible because he is a gifted storyteller. As Nathan says, both Huck and Jim are generally very rational characters, but when they come in contact with any “bad luck signs,” they immediately abandon logic. This inconsistency mirrors the behavior of believers in religion, such as the people at the Camp Meeting (172). In general, these were probably very rational, discerning people. However, when the King tells them a story about a pirate’s discovery of “the true path,” they throw logic to the winds and give him all of their money.

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  47. @Haven-While i agree that Twain uses prayer to represent good and innocence, he often is just as quick to show Christianity as a tool that contributed to slavery. And this is true, religion was a very important tool in keeping blacks oppressed by stripping them of their traditional African tribal beliefs and replacing them with a system where the white man ruled supreme.

    @Nick-I too was surprised that Twain decided to focus so much on superstition, and I found that it distracted me from the plot. It was and interesting character motif for Jim though.

    @Olivia-yes, it was a very interesting dichotomy between Huck's practicality and the necessity with which he looked at religion and superstition. This seems to support that Huck believes if he does not follow religion and superstition he will be cursed/punished with bad luck.

    @Kenny-That makes so much sense my asian brother! Jim's use of "magic" as a tool similar to Huck's lying makes a lot of sense for Jim's survival and self-reliance.

    @Erica-I agree that Twain's message was that people were far too reliant on outdated beliefs, though I think Twain was aiming more for the 'take every belief with a grain of salt' angle, as some beliefs such as prayer and a few of Jim's superstitions seem fruitful.

    @Ellen-This is a very interesting view of the use of core beliefs as tools to disarm the unwary and gain their trust. The more I look over it, the truer it becomes.

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  48. Now my official entry:

    Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the reader is given dozens of examples of superstition and ‘magic’ that was common belief throughout the South during that time period. Religion and faith also play a large part in the perspective and behavior of characters like Huck and Jim. These two sets of beliefs contradict each other at times in the novel, yet also prove to be very similar in the fact that they spout illogical perspectives that Huck grows to doubt.
    At the beginning of the novel, Huck is educated about the Bible and Christianity by his caretaker and guardian, the widow Douglas. He quickly becomes bored with the lessons, explaining his disinterest in faith because “…(the widow) let it out that Moses had been dead for some considerable time; so then I didn’t care no more about him; because I don’t take no stock in dead people” (2). While Huck shows little interest in religion, he accepts it as a part of society and life and mentions biblical characters such as Moses and Cain throughout the novel. Religion in the South was another instrument that was used by whites to justify slavery and bigotry. It is this unwavering dogma the Huck must constantly battle with throughout the novel. Religion and society repeatedly tell him that slavery is morally acceptable and blacks should naturally be enslaved, while his own experience with Jim tells him that slavery is wrong and that no one should have their freedom taken away from them. In the climax of the novel, Huck must make the decision to free Jim or not, and reasons that “I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I'll GO to hell.’” (270-271). While Huck’s faith is not abolished by his decision, the corrupt belief in ‘ethical’ slavery’ is.
    Superstition and the belief in magic are just as prevalent in the book. Huck believes in magic just as much as he does in God. While religion is used to justify slavery, superstition is used to explain the strange and to add an aura of childish mystery to the story. Jim is often the epicenter of these events, and is seen to be a type of shaman by the slave community for his reputed dealings with spirits and the mystical “…witches bewitched (Jim) and put him in a trance and rode him all over the state” (7). While the initial impression of Jim is a mysterious one, we learn in Huck’s interaction with him that he merely wants the same thing that all other blacks of his time period wanted: freedom. On many occasions throughout the novel Jim proves to be a kind-hearted and caring character and honestly hurt when Huck plays a trick on him. This honesty and friendliness is intentionally put in place by Twain to disarm the reader of their stereotypes on blacks and their superstitious beliefs which are harmless in the eyes of Twain.
    Huck’s beliefs in Christianity and superstition often blur and mix throughout the novel, but Twain clearly assigns a purpose to both of them. The omnipotent reach of religion can be abused by those who would justify their immoral acts. And superstition is not some crazed or childish fantasy but rather another belief system comparable with religion.

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  49. Religion (and superstition) is treated in a very strange way; those who are religious are often fools and religion is mocked throughout the book yet the religious are always helpful and goodhearted. Uncle Silas, a preacher, and Aunt Sally are portrayed as bumbling and absent-minded yet kind. For example, while Jim is their prisoner they “come in every day or two to pray with him… and see if he was comfortable and had plenty to eat” (pg 309.) Jim has strong supernatural beliefs and while Huck often needs to take care of him Jim is extremely loyal. Huck even has faith, though he goes against it, and is willing to steal Jim out of slavery even if it means he’ll “go to Hell” (pg 271.) The faithless, such as the Duke and King, are despicable. The two put on a huge indictment of religion, the royal nonesuch, but ultimately pay for it by having all their money taken and being tarred and feathered. While Mark Twain takes many shots at religion throughout but he seems to support those with strong faith, be it in God or ghosts, and gives them more positive traits than those against religion, who are thieves and liars.

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  50. Religion, superstition, and belief mostly shape the novel from within, by influencing the actions, morals, and thought processes of each character. The widow represents the religious belief structure and instills morals of kindness & goodwill onto Huck. Jim personifies superstition and as such is very careful & pre cautious, traits which serve the duo well on their journey. From a social standpoint, being that superstition is the equivalent to religion for slaves, Jim is somewhat considered a priest of sorts.
    Huck is a very interesting character in the analysis of concept based behavior because his actions are based on a combination of religious, superstitious, and experiential beliefs. His made method of decision making seems to be based on previous experience & observation, which is why he seem to possess an amazing amount of common sense. Huck also, however, is often influenced by the beliefs of his companions, most likely to find acceptance and approval. This can be seen after Huck saves the three bandits on the sinking ship, when he states “I was feeling ruther comfortable on accounts of taking all this trouble for that gang, for not many would a done it” I wished the widow knowed about it. I judged she would be proud of me for helping those rapscallions” (86). Without the widows influence, Huck would have most likely done nothing to help those people. After his selfless act, he reflects on the inspiration of his act, and finds comfort in the widows perceived happiness with him. This openness & indulgence in the beliefs of others make Huck a very dynamic & engaging character. Finally, the presence of so many different faiths & thought processes make the novel seem full of internal conflict & depth.

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  51. Basically all of the magic and superstition in this book is coming from the slaves. For example Jim, or the slave at Aunt Sally’s house who fed Jim. It might possibly have to do with the fact that since they are slaves, and can’t see much possibility of escape from slavedom, they need to hold on to this idea of magic that might someday help free them.

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  52. In Mark Twain’s novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, religion and superstition play a major part in shaping the protagonist, Huck. Ever since he was a young, susceptible child, Huck has been taught by Miss Watson to prize religious values and beliefs. Although at some moments he seemed to be rebellious and contradictory to the values that he believed, Huck still had a clear conscience and was conscious of what was right and wrong. Huck faces many challenges towards his conscience as he travels down the river. For the most part, these challenges have to with Huck upholding old, dogmatic religious and societal views on minorities or changing them to fit more egalitarian beliefs. He struggles through out novel, for he is taught to think that the majority is always right and that slavery, and the abuse that comes from it, is justifiable through religion. Through many different incidents, Huck is able to overcome the boundaries imposed by the monster called slavery and the doctrinaire society. Simply put, Huck broadens practical usage of “good-ol’” religious virtues so that he can approach everyone, not just Caucasians, without any preconceptions and with equal hospitality and kindness. Similar to his virtues, Huck’s actions depend greatly on religious lessons, but also on superstition ignorantly imposed by Huck’s companion, Jim. Huck is far more open to superstition, for it seems more realistic and some-what practical to Huck than religious virtues.

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