While on my recent road trip, I did manage to find time to finally finish reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was recommended to me as a book about critical thinking.
When I first read this book as a school kid many years ago, I thought it was just a great adventure story, like so many other kids at the time. Now, many years later, and with a more mature outlook on the world, several new layers are revealed beneath the tale of a boy (Huck Finn) and a runaway slave (Jim), and their journey down the Mississippi River, on a raft.
When originally released around 1885 in the USA, the book was criticised for its course or crude language and even banned by several libraries. Later it was criticized even further for the use of racial stereotypes. However, the cunning use of these stereotypes by Mark Twain, was meant to highlight one of the many themes of the book; that of racism. It was also meant to be a commentary on slavery, which was entrenched in the period the book was written about.
Perhaps the most important underlying theme of the book explores how Huck is in constant moral conflict with the prejudicial values that the society of the time inflicted on people. And this is where intense self-evaluation (and critical thinking) enables him to ultimately make the right moral choices.
Mornings, before daylight, I slipped into corn fields and borrowed a watermelon, or a mushmelon, or a punkin, or some new corn, or things of that kind. Pap always said it warn’t no harm to borrow things, if you was meaning to pay them back, sometime; but the widow said it warn’t anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it. Jim said he reckoned the widow was partly right and pap was partly right; so the best way would be for us to pick out two or three things from the list and say we wouldn’t borrow them any more – then he reckoned it wouldn’t be no harm to borrow the others. So we talked it over all one night, drifting along down the river, trying to make up our minds whether to drop the watermelons, or the cantelopes, or the mushmelons, or what. But towards daylight we got it all settled satisfactory and concluded to drop crabapples and p’simmons. We warn’t feeling just right, before that, but it was all comfortable now. I was glad the way it come out, too, because crabapples ain’t ever good, and the p’simmons wouldn’t be ripe for two or three months yet.