Society plays a significant role when it comes to our decision making, especially at a young age. Children are easily influenced by their peers whether it be their friends, family, or acquaintances they meet throughout their lives. In the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the author Mark Twain heavily illuminates this. Huckleberry Finn has many different types of influences in his life. Each influence sheds light on certain aspects society portrays. Influences such as Ms. Watson, Tom Sawyer, Pap, and Jim. Each one of these influencers has a different level of authority towards, Huck which affects the choices he makes and whether it’s good or bad according to the society. This will also determine where Huck stands on Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development.
Huck had to deal with a lot of people throughout the book, but Pap has done more for Huck in the long run. Pap was an abusive, manipulating, alcoholic father who didn’t care about his son. Pap influenced Huck by his behavior. Huck got fed up with his father’s abusive ways and decided to try and escape by faking his own death. Huck “Blooded the ax good and stuck it to the back side, and slung the ax in the corner,” (33) to make sure it looked like he was truly dead. This goes straight into the 6th level of Kohlberg’s Theory. Huck fakes his own death and escapes because he knew it will benefit him, in the end and keep him safe.
For most of Hucks life, he has had a lot of negative influences. But Jim was a very positive influence on Huck. Jim taught Huck to not judge a book by its cover. In the beginning, Huck would play tricks on Jim. But one trick made Jim very upset. Huck “…didn’t do him no more mean tricks, and he wouldn’t done that one if he’d a knowed it would make him feel that way.” (Twain 86) This is a big step in Huck’s morality. He’s played tricks and games on Jim for so long but realized that it hurts Jim. Huck try’s and makes an effort to make Jim feel better and decides he doesn’t want to be mean to Jim anymore. With this bond between Jim and Huck growing, Huck begins to break away from society a bit more. Once he saw a sign mentioning a runaway slave with a perfect description match to Jim, Huck decided to wright s letter to the owner to turn in Jim for the reward. But Huck stopped for a moment and thought about the times they’ve shared on the river. He then tore the letter up and said “I don’t care if I go to hell.” (Twain 120) Huck shows a level 6 in Kohlberg’s Development scale. Huck knows that being friends with Jim is wrong in society’s eyes, but knows that it’s the right thing to do. Even if society says otherwise.
Although Jim was a great influence on Huck. Huck still deals with bad influences, such as Tom Sawyer. Huck goes on a search to dedicate himself to a group because his only other parental or authority figure are the two sisters, Mrs. Watson and the Widow Duglas. Based on Huck’s characteristics, we can see that he doesn’t want to be civilized and that he dosent have to much of a respect for authority, but he still looks for someone to take action, even if he does this unintentionally. Tom influenced Huck to be what people see as a bad kid. In the beginning of the book, Tom creates a gang. One of the rules was that if anyone betrays the group, they kill that person’s family member of choice. A boy in the group says that Huck has no family and there isn’t anyone they can kill for him. Huck wanted to be in the gang but is worrying that he won’t be allowed too join anymore. “he was most ready to cry; but all at once he thought of a way, and so he offered them Miss Watson- they could kill her,” (Twain 8). His actions show a level 3 in Kohlberg’s Theory. He wants to belong and make the gang happy, especially Tom. But Tom soon wasn’t an idol to Huck anymore. While on his trip down the Mississippi River with Jim, Huck has gained new morals and a new way of thinking. But, Tom still stays immature. Huck and Tom are planning to help Jim escape. But Tom already knows that, Jim is free. “They hain’t no RIGHT to shut him up! SHOVE!—and don’t you lose a minute. Turn him loose! He ain’t no slave; he’s as free as any cretur that walks this earth!” (Twain 132) Tom has no problem tricking Jim into staying locked up just to have a bit of fun. Huck realizes this and soon starts to make choices for himself when it comes to, Tom. Huck going against, Tom shows level 6 decision making because he’s making choices based on what he believes is right.