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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Lying is something most people do daily either to give someone an ego boost or in Huck's case to keep him and Jim, a runaway slave, out of trouble. For some people, though, lying is a way to harm others by deceiving them, as the duke and dauphin do, or to benefit for themselves. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain frequently writes about several character's lies. From a character not written about as often, as in Tom Sawyer, to one of the main characters in the book, Huck Finn, all characters have their turn to lie. Even though most of the characters in the novel are lying to gain benefit for themselves, not all lying is wrong. Learning the difference between a good and bad lie, the wrongs and rights of lying, and the reason Twain added so much lying into his novel is important for understanding the story.
The representation of good and bad lies are throughout the entire novel. A good lie would be a lie that could be for the benefit of others or with good intentions. Huck displays this type of lie throughout the entire book. In Chapter 12, Huck and Jim decide to investigate the ferryboat that had crashed. While in the ferryboat, however, Huck and Jim hear a few individuals talking, and they learn that the individuals are not good people. They decide to obtain the other men's boat as their raft had gone downstream. The current would destory the ferryboat in a matter of minutes. Jim and Huck continue to ride down the river, and Huck felt horrible for abandoning the men at the ferryboat. Huck decides to seek out a watchman. When they finally spot a lantern, Huck approaches the watchman, "They're in an awful peck of trouble, and - ... Why, pap and mum and sis and Miss Hooker; and if you'd take your ferryboat and go up there -" (79). Even though Huck did lie, it was to save the lives of the men on the ferryboat without getting anyone in trouble. Bad lies are when someone lies to benefit themselves selfishly, as in deluding or stealing. The duke and the dauphin are a perfect example of this. The duke and the dauphin are aboard Jim and Huck's raft and pretend they are someone else in order to get better treatment from Jim and Huck, "I will reveal it to you, for I feel I may have confidence in you By rights I am a duke" (123). Huck begins to question the dauphin in which he says, "Bilgewater, I am the late Dauphin", but Huck was not falling for there tricks, " I learnt that the best way to get along with his kind of people is to let them have their own way" (124)(125). Just like there is an enormous difference between these characters in the story; there is also a vast difference in their types of lying.
Good lies are not necessarily right, but they are not exactly wrong. We lie because it is in our nature. Lies that Huck tells, as in the smallpox incident, "your pap's got the small pox and you know it precious well," is an example of a good lie (96). The watchmen would have continued walking to Huck and Jim's raft and would have spotted Jim if Huck would have told them the truth. Also, Jim knows that the deceased man in the floating house is Huck's father, but Jim does not tell Huck, "..Come in, Huck, but doan' look at his face - it's too gashly," and then later telling him the truth was an example of not telling the whole truth with good intentions. Jim did not want Huck to know his dad had died because it would have been hard for a young boy to understand. Jim also did not want to see Huck hurt because Huck was now like a son to Jim. Towards the end of the story, more examples of bad lies start blemishing from the duke. All he desires is money in any way that he can accommodate it. In Chapter 31, Huck is searching for Jim, and he asks the duke, "Whereabouts?" in which the duke replies, "Down to Silas Phelps' place, two mile below here" (202). The duke had sold Jim for forty dollars, and did not want to tell Huck where he was. The duke's lies are wrong because he is being greedy, unlike Huck and Jim's lies that are selfless.
Twain incorporates lying numerous times in this novel to challenge the morality that all lies are bad. He shows that as long as there is a good, moral reason for lying it is okay to do so. As the motive for Huck's lies in Chapter 11 was for seeing what was occurring on land without getting caught. Therefore, Huck dresses as a girl and goes to Judith Loftus's home to get information about the town. He gets the information that he needs, but she catches him in the lie, "You do a girl tolerable poor, but you might fool men, maybe" (69). Twain also wants to show that sometimes lies are not the best approach if someone is using it for the wrong purpose. When Huck shows up to Tom's aunt's house, he pretends to be Tom. He soon finds out that Tom will be arriving, and he will blow his cover, "Then I says to myself, s'pose Tom Sawyer comes down on the boat? And s'pose he steps in here any minute, and sings out my name before I can throw him a wink to keep quiet" (213)? Eventually, the whole lie is uncovered, and Tom and Huck get into some trouble with Aunt Sally.
The lies in the story push it along and knowing the difference between a good and bad lie, whether a lie is right or wrong, and the reason Twain incorporated lying is a good way to better understand the novel. Once again, Twain is challenging the morality that all lies are bad, and he shows this is untrue with the situations he put Jim and Huck in. If the lies that are being told are with good intentions or to help someone else then Twain shows that it is okay in some cases. The difficult point to prove is exactly what the standards for good intentions would be. Who is to say that there are specific boundaries on those types of beliefs.
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