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Morality as Defined by Mark Twain

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This essay explores some of the questions Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) addresses in his popular novels such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Within these two stories, Twain demonstrates the gross discrepancies between the ‘civilized’ concepts of morality as compared to actual social behavior and the ‘natural’ rules discovered by the individual through his primary characters, Huck and Hank respectively. Both The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court are considered frame stories in which a number of smaller short stories or vignettes are linked together by an underlying ‘frame.’ The frame of Huckleberry Finn is the structure of a boy’s trip down the Mississippi River with an escaped slave. As the pair travels downriver, they come into contact with numerous unique individuals, such as Mr. amp. Mrs. Phelps, the Duke and Dauphin, and the Grangerfords. In each situation he finds himself in, Huck faces a crisis of decision where he must either choose to do what he’s been taught is right by civilized society or do what he feels in his heart is the right thing to do. As he floats down the river, he has the opportunity to reflect on the choices he’s made and the reasons he’s made them, developing his own sense of morality-free and different from what he’s been taught. The frame of Connecticut Yankee is somewhat more complicated as there is first the structure of the American tourist and his encounter with a mysterious stranger and his manuscript, discovering at the end that this stranger is also the main character, Hank.