Lies & Lying in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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  • 0:02 Lying for a Purpose
  • 1:05 Lying for Protection…
  • 2:20 Lying with Pizazz
  • 2:48 Lying with Limits
  • 4:03 Lying for a Living
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Lies are generally considered to be bad, but they do sometimes serve a purpose, especially in literature. In 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,' lies and lying show up regularly and often for a specific reason.

Lying for a Purpose

Have you ever lied for what you considered to be a good reason? Maybe to get yourself or a friend out of trouble or to keep someone's feelings from being needlessly hurt. We do this kind of thing all the time, especially with small things often referred to as little white lies. These are harmless lies that people tell all the time, such as agreeing with someone's opinion to avoid a fight or telling them their hair looks nice (even if you don't think so) to boost their confidence.

The lies told in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are too big to really be put in this category. However, most of them serve a clear purpose similar to those for which we might tell a white lie. For example, Huck lies to prevent needless trouble. We see this when he lies to his father, Pap, about what he did while he was drunk. He uses smaller lies like these to keep himself out of trouble or possible danger.

Lying for Protection and Safety

Huck also lies a number of times to avoid detection, either his own or Jim's. Since he is considered dead, he lies about his name wherever he goes. The first time he goes on shore to see what's been going on, he pretends to be a girl. This ends up being Huck's most unsuccessful lie; he gets found out very quickly. However, the woman he talks to never finds out who he really is, so the lie still serves its purpose. Huck also lies to keep Jim from being detected. At one point, a group of men don't believe Huck's companion is white and want to look for themselves. Huck convinces them that the people on his raft have smallpox. This keeps the men far away from the raft and Jim from being detected.

Huck also lies once or twice for a good cause. We mainly see this with the boat the Walter Scott. Huck lies about having family on the wreck in clear danger. He convinces some men to go check it out. By doing this, he gives the thieves on the wreck a chance of rescue. Since he stole their boat, this is also their best chance to not drown. Here we see that some of Huck's lies serve a noble purpose.

Lying with Pizazz

Have you ever told a lie that got a little out of hand or was more dramatic than it needed to be? Huck certainly does when he fakes his own death. He lies to get away from Pap, which is certainly understandable given Pap's drunk and abusive nature. However, he probably could have just gone back into town and told the judge that Pap kidnapped him. Faking his own death and fleeing town seems a little over the top. That's Huck, though. All of his lies hold a little bit of drama.

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