Lies are generally considered to be bad, but they do sometimes serve a purpose, especially in literature. In ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ lies and lying show up regularly and often for a specific reason.
Lying for a Purpose
Have you ever lied for what you considered to be a good reason? Maybe to get yourself or a friend out of trouble or to keep someone’s feelings from being needlessly hurt. We do this kind of thing all the time, especially with small things often referred to as little white lies. These are harmless lies that people tell all the time, such as agreeing with someone’s opinion to avoid a fight or telling them their hair looks nice (even if you don’t think so) to boost their confidence.The lies told in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are too big to really be put in this category. However, most of them serve a clear purpose similar to those for which we might tell a white lie.
For example, Huck lies to prevent needless trouble. We see this when he lies to his father, Pap, about what he did while he was drunk. He uses smaller lies like these to keep himself out of trouble or possible danger.
Lying for Protection and Safety
Huck also lies a number of times to avoid detection, either his own or Jim’s. Since he is considered dead, he lies about his name wherever he goes. The first time he goes on shore to see what’s been going on, he pretends to be a girl. This ends up being Huck’s most unsuccessful lie; he gets found out very quickly. However, the woman he talks to never finds out who he really is, so the lie still serves its purpose.
Huck also lies to keep Jim from being detected. At one point, a group of men don’t believe Huck’s companion is white and want to look for themselves. Huck convinces them that the people on his raft have smallpox. This keeps the men far away from the raft and Jim from being detected.Huck also lies once or twice for a good cause. We mainly see this with the boat the Walter Scott. Huck lies about having family on the wreck in clear danger.
He convinces some men to go check it out. By doing this, he gives the thieves on the wreck a chance of rescue. Since he stole their boat, this is also their best chance to not drown.
Here we see that some of Huck’s lies serve a noble purpose.
Lying with Pizazz
Have you ever told a lie that got a little out of hand or was more dramatic than it needed to be? Huck certainly does when he fakes his own death. He lies to get away from Pap, which is certainly understandable given Pap’s drunk and abusive nature.
However, he probably could have just gone back into town and told the judge that Pap kidnapped him. Faking his own death and fleeing town seems a little over the top. That’s Huck, though. All of his lies hold a little bit of drama.
Lying with Limits
Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck almost always lies to strangers, though his personal lies never result in harm to anyone else. When he gets caught in the Duke and the Dauphin’s lie, he feels terrible and eventually reveals the truth to Mary Jane. He doesn’t feel as bad lying until he gets to know them, as he doesn’t like to lie to his friends. Likewise, he never lies to Tom, his best friend.
He tells Tom the truth even when he is ashamed of what the truth is, such as when he is freeing Jim.The one time he lies to a friend it’s Jim. He lies to Jim for no real reason, simply to play a trick on him. When Jim realizes this, he is incredibly disappointed in Huck and lets him know this. Huck feels terrible afterwards and never again lies to or plays tricks on Jim. We also see in the scene with the Wilks that Huck will not lie while touching a Bible.
In addition, he doesn’t want to lie to Judge Thatcher. He can’t tell him what is going on, but instead of making up a story, he simply tells him that he doesn’t want to lie to him. So we see that even though Huck has no issue with lying in general, there are limits to when he will lie and to whom he will lie.
Lying for a Living
Huck is not the only character in the novel who lies.
In fact, the biggest liars around are the Duke and the Dauphin. They lie, first of all about being a Duke and a Dauphin – which they are not. They also make their living off of lying – they are true con artists.
They have a different lie for every town they visit: about their identity, their line of work, and their relationship to people in the town. These two also have absolutely no issue if people get hurt in the process of their lies. We see this with the Wilks. If it weren’t for Huck, they would have ended up with every penny of the Wilks’ fortune, and sold all of their slaves away from their family. Clearly, their lies do not have the same limits as Huck’s.
Since The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is told from Huck’s point of view, most of the lies we see are his. Most of these are done for a purpose. He lies to get himself out of danger, to keep himself or Jim from being detected, and sometimes he lies for a good cause. Some of his lies are a little overdramatic, but they are generally for a good reason, and his conscience puts limits on those to whom he lies. The Duke and the Dauphin are also accomplished liars. The difference here is that they do it for profit and don’t care if anyone else gets hurt in the process, unlike Huck.