Professor Essay, Research Paper


The Duke and King represent in a very raw, extreme form, a general psychological tendency of the respectable citizens Huck has encountered on his journey thus far.

Twain satirizes the egocentricity and self-righteous indignation of American society. He shows that even what may first appear to be a gesture of generosity by members of this society, is often driven by selfish motives. The more respected characters that Huck has met before the arrival of the duke and the king are usually more interested in various forms of respect or approval, this usually takes one of three forms: the respect of society at large; superficial self-respect, attained by upholding irrational and self-destructive conventions (Grangerfords & Shepherdsons: the feud), or some form of moral or religious advantage. The scene when Judge and Mrs. Thatcher attempt to rehabilitate Pap is a perfect example of this; the deliberate melodrama of this scene and the Thatchers? highly exaggerated emotional reactions are more than enough to show the disengenuity of their seemingly noble motives. Twain mercilessly satirises this disturbingly strong thirst for self-seeking moral satisfaction in both the Thatchers and Miss Watson. In the same vein The Grangerfords attend church and praise the sermon while leading lives centred around a feud, a concept that categorically contradicts the ?brotherly love? that was the subject of the sermon.

We can see that most of the characters Huck encounters are entirely motivated by greed and the prospect of personal gain. While the success of most of the more respectable characters he has satirised, up until the arrival of the King and Duke, has been hindered by the very desire for a respectable image that they crave. The Duke and the King have no such superficial qualms. Their goals take the form of money, they do not attempt to fool themselves by feigning religious piety or attempting to demonstrate a moral superiority that they do not possess, nor do they (like the ferry-boat captain) try to gain favour with the more respected members of society, in an attempt to raise their position on the social scale.

It is because they lack these inhibitions that the Duke and the King represent in an ?undiluted? and unhindered form the self-interested motivations of the more respectable characters that Huck encounters.

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