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David Foster <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 27 Nov 2006 23:09:57 -0500
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Dear Camy,

In thinking about Huck's lies, it is important to realize that he lies
frequently and many of the lies don't come near to being justified by
saving someone's life.  He still thinks they are necessary or
inevitable, as the very first paragraph of the book suggests (where he
says that everyone must tell "stretchers" except perhaps the purest
Christian women, like the Widow Douglas).  Many of Huck's lies are told
to get him out of trouble, or at least what he thinks will be trouble;
but some of them are more complicated.  The one that seems most
problematic is the lie he tells the boat owner/captain to get him to
attempt to rescue the gang of thieves aboard the Walter Scott.  Huck's
elaborate lie sends the essentially good man to the doomed boat where he
will, unsuspectingly, encouter a band of armed and desperate murderers.
Huck is saved from bearing the possible odium of the consequences of
this lie only by the fact that the boat sinks before the captain can get
there. In this case, Huck seems to be somehow doing what he thinks the
Widow would approve - looking after low-down rapscallians like the
members of the gang.  In general, I suspect that Huck (Twain?) thinks
that lies are required by the conditions of "sivilization". If one
wanted to read this theologically, one could say that man's sinfulness
(at least as that sin is revealed in social life) necessitates lying.
David Foster