Examining The Personal Challenges Of Social Change English Literature Essay

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin by Mark Twain (Samuel. L Clemens) and the TV series 'The Simpsons' are both highly valued as groundbreaking and iconic. History has shown that the products of long lasting value reveal a similar pattern of representing fundamental human issues, where the struggle of the individual against these universal concerns is influenced by their society. The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin and 'The Simpsons' are both remarkable portrayals of how the individual deals with the dishonesty and corruption present in their society.

Mark Twain draws his messages from the themes and issues of Freedom and civilisation, slavery, racism and religion, which are represented through Huckleberry Fin's society and addressed through the reader's insight into Huckleberry's moral conscience. 'The Simpsons' episode 'You Kent Always Say What You Want' addresses a modern issue of censoring and misleading information or politically controlled journalism created by the media and government. Both use naive figures, Huckleberry Fin and from 'The Simpsons' - 'us' the audience and the Simpson family, to demonstrate how we blindly accept that society's moral code is always right, when our authorities are never questioned.

The underlying hypocrisy of a civilised religious society has ironically been targeted through their treatment towards the African race. Huckleberry was conditioned to belief that the white society was far superior to the black, a black man didn't have any more legal status then an animal and nor did they have any human rights a white man had to respect. Huckleberry's experience with Jim (a black man) on the raft made it considerably hard for him to justify with Jim's position and reconcile to these treatments. Our first caricature of ironic and audacious behaviour which Huck endures towards the black people is the drunken ranting of his father 'Pap' towards the government letting a black man vote, "It was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote, myself, if I warn't to drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a state in this country where they'd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote again". This parodies Pap's belief, that he is more superior and has more morals than a black man, when it is evident throughout the text he is a low life out cast of society who was always drunk "cussing and whooping and carrying on". In relation to Huckleberry's view towards Jim as "a mighty good nigger" in comparison to his father which he was running away from, we can identify with Huckleberry's inner struggle and uncertainty with accepting the moral code of society.

Jim is also juxter-positioned against other characters and societies within the novel, most significantly the two frauds, the 'King" and the 'Duke', who use Huckleberry and Jim considerably, having them wait on them and being ordered, allowing their freedom on the raft to slowly diminish. While Jim always believed the King and Duke were true members of the royal family, Mark Twain is able to criticise how unjust and immoral the beliefs of the whites was towards black people. It also hints on the hierarchical system, using the King and Duke to represent that no matter how superior a human can be compared to another, they will always have faults and weakness's symbolising that we are all equal.

Jim transformed into a father figure in Huckleberry's life and his qualities defined what a moral and righteous person should be. Through Huckleberry's experience with Jim, he was left to make a conscious decision between the character of Jim, and the weight of his society's morals. The appliance of these contradictions was addressed in Huck's decision whether or not to inform Jim's owner, Miss Watson on the where-about of Jim, despite Huckleberry's promise not to tell. The significance of the letter is not only great in demonstrating Huckleberry's uncertainty and personal challenge, but pin points the moment of social change as Huckleberry choose to support Jim and go against his society's moral codes. Not only was he willing to become an outcast of society but was damned for hell. "All right, then, I'll go to hell... I will take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brought up to it" It is through this statement that Mark Twain represents the defects and flaws of a so called 'civilised' society, but criticizers their religious system also. As modern America now deeply regrets their treatment towards the black people, we can understand why it was more moral of Huckleberry to go against his society at the time, proven also if we ask our self's 'what would Jesus do' in this instance.

Huckleberry's struggle with religion is obvious throughout the text, and his attempts to overcome struggle with conflicting messages is encountered for very clearly when he tries to justify against two opinions when stealing. His pap said "it warn't no harm to borrow things, if you was meaning to pay them back; sometime" while the widow proposed "it warn't anything but a soft name for stealing" Jim and Huck both recognise the differences in society they begin to see and conclude that "the best way would be for us to pick out two or three things from the list and say we wouldn't borrow them any more- then he reckoned it wouldn't be no harm to borrow the others". Mark twain uses humour to convey Huckleberry's uncertainty and personal challenge with conflicting aspects of a society. Given Mark Twain's Misanthropic attitude towards his society, there is an in depth satirical insight into Huckleberry's society as 'civilised' and therefore morally correct, Huck's up bringing into this self assured and religiously led society, proves to consistently contradict Huckleberry's conscious morals, making it increasingly hard for Huckleberry to find the correct reasoning behind his choices.

Mark Twain also addresses the impact of a society heavily influenced by romanticism. Mark Twain had deep concerns about the influence of romantic fiction and represents its corruptive power in the Southern societies along Mississippi river. Because of the romantic nature of the townspeople, which locates them in a 'dreamy' society, the two frauds are able to fool them with persuasive dialect and genteel behaviour. It is ironic however that the text also ridicules the Northerners when the Colonel Sherburn refers to them as cowards that "don't fight with courage that's born in them" The townspeople are so ashamed by Sherburn's accusations they walk away with their heads down in shame. The influence of romanticism is heavily represented in Tom Sawyer, who continuously refers to romantic fictions like Don Quixote or Walter Scott and is symbolised by his chivalrous behaviour. The way Tom wants to 'free' Jim is a mockery of the influence of these romantic novels and although this was the type of thinking Huck rejects, his admiration for Tom is so strong he finds reasoning in carrying out Tom's task despite them being completely illogical and unnecessary.

'The Simpsons' episode 'You Kent Always Say What You Want' focuses on the corruption and bias behaviour of the media including the censoring and dishonesty in journalism. When Kent Brockman, the news reporter is sacked from his job he ends up living with the Simpsons family, where he reveals the hidden truths behind the programming of Fox network.

The primary purpose of the media by the cooperation's that own it is to sell and maximize profit while at the same time to protect their interests. "Tonight on Smart-line a provocative discussion of the middle east- will not be featured, instead we'll be talking to a man who bought an ice cream cone, of course that has nothing to do with the fact this station and the ice cream company are own by the same corporation". Kent Brockman's sarcastic statement reveals to its audience, which is directed at 'us' the viewer a frightening truth that instead of exposing real and stimulating news to their audience, the cooperation's which own the network rather practice product placement. In effect the public are less exposed to the truth and are dumb down with futile rubbish.

Fundamentalist Christian's desire for control over the media is represented through Ned Flanders. In the scene where Ned Flanders searches for video tapes with blasphemous material, Ned's son Rod ask what he is doing, in reply Ned responds "Imploring people I never met to pressure a government with better things to do to punish a man who meant no harm for something nobody ever saw, that's what I'm doing". This is used as a strong Parody aimed at fundamentalists with the desire to have control over the public through the media. The fundamentalists want to censor anything they believe will provide a contrary view point to them or will 'morally endanger people', Lisa Simpson reinforces this religious propaganda with sarcasm targeted at the religious watch dog groups "keeping the world safe from the horrors of free expression" this no doubts comments on the fact that our media is influenced with bias and controlled opinions.

This is also conveyed when Homer Simpson continually switches Fox programs between one which is advertising a raunchy TV serious about airline strippers and Fox news attacking the liberals with such obscurities like "liberals hate families", Kent's response to Lisa Simpson's confusion with the conservative Fox news in line with a raunchy TV series is that Fox deliberately runs shows that will attract huge fines, that are then funneled through the FCC to the Republican Party. Not only does this scene criticize how networks air programmes which will attract people (made evident with Homer Simpsons constant cheering towards the program) so they can influence them with their political agendas, but also the hypocrisy of the Fox network for they portray them self's as conservative stations, while they air raunchy ill-advised programs. It appears Homer has become a victim of the influence of the politically advised 'Fox' network, when he says to Marge, referring to Kent Brochman "I'm sorry Marge, but I won't live under the same roof as a member of the liberal media."

Kent Brockman suffers a continuous struggle against his career as a journalist, he is able to admit that "journalists use to question the law and expose abusive power, now like toothless babies they suckle on the teat of misinformation". Although he is able to recognise this, the irony of this outspoken journalism is that by threatening the cooperate masters he is able to have his job back. Although Kent is aware of the truth and the falseness of his position he value's money over truth, and allows a 50% pay increase to out weight his conscience as a professional journalist.

Political parties that have particular either social or moral positions are attracted to different networks to influence people to vote for them, in the same way networks give preference to political parties in return for access or favours, these alliances create opinion and news that will always be skewed toward the political party that they are aligned with. The result is that the consumer very rarely if not ever is given a fully informed and balanced point of view. The episode tries to direct their messages on TV straight to the viewer so they become aware of how unreliable and untrustworthy the media is, advocating for a social change, so people will question their sources and not become the victim of a bias media.

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