Many people think that Huckleberry Finn is a racist novel and they have even gone as far as banning the novel from certain schools. They base this view on the fact that the word “nigger” is used very often and they see the black people being portrayed in a degrading way to show that they are inferior to the white society. Contrary to this idea, Huckleberry Finn is not a racist novel. Mark Twain actually attacks racism by satirizing the lifestyle of the white people and shows that they have no reason at all to think that they are better than the blacks. This satirizing of the white people is effectively seen in the portrayal of the king and the duke.
Mark Twain starts to mock the king and the duke as soon as they are first introduced in the novel. Their appearance gives a negative impression right from the start. The king is described as having, “an old battered-up slouch hat on, and a greasy blue woolen shirt,” and he’s wearing, “ragged old blue jeans britches stuffed into his boot tops.”(Pg. 121) The duke is described as much the same. This first impression makes us feel as if these men are scum and we don’t have a very good perception of them.The second thing that these men do also is used to mock society in two ways. The first man (the duke) makes up a story that he was actually the Duke of Bridgewater. He said that he was the son of the infant duke that was ignored to take over a position. Not to be outdone, the second man (the king) makes up a story that he was actually the rightful King of France. Mark Twain uses Huck Finn to show what he thinks of these two men. “It didn’t take me to long to make up my mind that these liars warn’t no kings nor dukes at all, but just low-down humbugs and frauds.”(Pg.125) These men are putting up a false front just like society does and Mark Twain shows through Huck that he can see right through this false front. The second thing that is mocked is the fact that these people pretend that they are royalty. Jim wonders why these men carry on so much and Huck tells him, ” . . .because it’s in the breed. I reckon they’re all alike,” and he also says, “all kings is mostly rapscallions, as fur as I can make out.” Mark Twain is showing here that society wants to feel established and be connected to royalty and what they don’t realize is that most kings are scoundrels. The duke and the king really seem to fulfill this role of scoundrels quite well king and the duke really show that they are scoundrels by being very greedy. Mark Twain shows his disgust for societies greed through the king and the duke. He is trying to show that society today is full of greed and only concerning itself with its needs only. The duke and the king show their greed by selling Jim to Mr. Phelps in order to make forty dollars eveafter all Huck and Jim had done to help them. (pg.205) Another incident concerning greed occurred after the plays were performed. They wanted a new way to make money so they started thinking. “These rapscallions wanted to try the Nonesuch again, because there was so much money in it, but they judged it wouldn’t be safe because maybe the news might a’ worked along down by this time.” (Pg. 155) So they did something else. They found out that Peter Wilks had died and they pretend to be his long lost brothers in order that they could steal the inheritance from the three daughter’s. They actually stoop this low just to gain some money. They only think of themselves without even considering the girls and their future. Mark Twain shows disgust for these men through Huck when he says, “It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race.” We can see Mark Twains disgust for societies materialism. They will do anything that will benefit themselves.
Mark Twain also shows his disgust for society through the king and the duke’s conniving and deceitful ways. The king and the duke pretend to be someone that they are not in order to benefit themselves. One episode that shows that they are greedy occurs when they pretended to be the world-renowned actors, Mr. Garrick and Mr. Kean. They exploit the people of Arkansas and have no problems with taking their money from them. As the duke says, “I’m in up to the hub for anything that will pay . . .”(Pg. 129) even if it means exploiting people and making them believe that they are other people. One incident that shows that the king is very sneaky and deceitful occurs at the camp meeting. The king gives a speech that states that he is actually a reformed pirate who wants to go back out onto the Indian Ocean and he would try to turn other pirates onto the true path. He exploits these people at church and they take up a collection for him because he needed money to get to the pirates. (Pg. 132) Mark Twain shows that these men have no conscience or morals.
The king and the duke represent society very well in their lifestyle. Mark Twain satirizes them for the purpose of making society realize what they are doing wrong. This book wasn’t written to show that society is racist against black people, it was written to change society’s mentality of how they view the blacks in order that they will change their wrong thinking. Mark Twain attacks racism by focussing on the white people and their wrongdoings for the intent of changing them to see that everyone is equal no matter what color.