Huckleberry Finn is a young orphan at odds with his “sivilized” world of adults. This symbolizes the tension between the natural world and the civilized world. Speaking through Huck’s raw vernacular, Twain voices his critique of various authorities of society. He exposes the hypocrisies of organized religion with Huck’s perspicacious observations of the church and religion. Twain shows how religion had become a mere outward show without any inward realities.
Huck is first exposed to religion by the Widow Douglas. Religion appears to him as a meaningless ritual. Prayer meant to “tuck down [one’s] head and grumble a little over the victuals” (109). He never knew what it meant or why it was done. One of Twain’s critiques of organized religion is that it is preoccupied with dry facts and out-dated notions instead of seeking how to impact and improve the present society. Huck describes how the Widow Douglas attempted to “learn [him] about Moses and the Bulrushers” (109). But when he found out that “Moses had been dead a considerable long time”, he “didn’t care no more about him” (109). Huck does not find any benefit in studying about dead people.
Furthermore, religion tends to focus more on doctrines and dogmas rather than practical living. During Huck’s stay at the Grangerfords, he attends church with them. Huck describes the preaching as “pretty ornery”; it was “all about brotherly love, and such-like tiresomeness” (183). The other members of the congregation felt that the sermon “had such a powerful lot to say about faith, and good works, and free grace, and preforeordestination” (183). Twain demonstrates how sermons were no longer effective at converting sinners or motivating saints; instead they had been reduced to a series of meaningless clichés.
Twain further criticizes the current state of religion for its inability to truly reform people. The new judge attempted to reform Pap and “talked to him about temperance and such things till the old man cried” (121). Pap’s conversion seems like the typical one. He weeps over having “fooled away his life” and was determined to “turn over a new leaf” (121). Pap signs the temperance pledge, and everyone is moved by his contrition. However, the ink was barely dry before Pap takes for a “jug of forty rod” and becomes “drunk as a fiddler” (121). Religion involves more than merely signing a pledge; it needs a change of heart and life.
Religious conversions had become just a play on the emotions. At the camp-meeting which Huck attends with the king and the duke, the preacher puts on a theatrical performance, meandering around the platform, waving his arms, and...