The lovable heathen of Happy Valley : Mark Twain's assault on the Christian religion in Huckleberry Finn.

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Thompson, Richard
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Middle Tennessee State University
The purpose of this study is to show that the "dark side" of Mark Twain existed long before personal tragedies and financial calamities befell him; existed, in fact, when he was one of the most recognizable personages on the globe; when he was at the very pinnacle of family, social, literary, and financial success; when he was considered Fortune's favorite; when indeed he was thought to be the very "darling of the gods." The focus of this study is Twain's generally acknowledged masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published 100 years ago in 1884. This book, almost as controversial today as it was when published, masks the bitterness and despair Twain felt about organized religion in general, and the Christian religion in particular. Behind its gentle humor, comic scenes, burlesque, and farce, and even its more violent episodes is a vicious attack on spokesmen of the church, as well as revered rituals and sacred icons.
Chapter I extablishes Twain as still the most popular writer in American letters by citing past and contemporary evidence of the reverence shown to him by the American public.
Chapter II recreates the happy period of Twain's family, social, literary, and financial life between 1876 and 1884, the beginning and ending dates of the composition of the novel.
Chapters III and IV use specific examples from the book to prove that Huckleberry Finn attacks the Christian religion, the Bible, the pulpit, the gullible faithful, and English novelist Sir Walter Scott, whom Twain considered the foremost romantic spokesman of "swinish religion." To emphasize the fallibility and hypocrisy of religion, Twain cites the role of the church in its support of the institution of slavery.
Finally, Chapter V shows that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a cornerstone of the creed of secular humanism, the plea of a gadfly humorist humanist still regarded the world over as the "most lovable heathen of happy valley.".