In the famous novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses several literary techniques to show the pitfalls of eighteenth century society — in this instance, the cowordance of Americans when it comes to topics such as racial equality.
For example, in chapter twenty two Mark Twain writes now the thing for you to do is to droop your trails and go home and crawl in a hole. He is using visual imagery to criticize Americans for their cowardice by comparing them to a pack of scared dogs. Furthermore, he writes that Why don’t you juries hang murderers? Because they’re afraid the man’s friends will shoot them in the back in the dark — and it’s just what they would do. He’s painting us a vivid picture of the attitudes of Americans — they’re cowards who allow criminals to roam free because of their own trepidation.
Another example of Mark Twain satirizing eighteenth century America comes from chapter twenty two as well. He writes that the idea of you thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a man! Here, he places emphasis on the word man by using syntactical elements (in this case, he utilized italics) to satirize the real nature of the crowd — they’re not brave, honorable, or moral creatures; they’re simply cowards who can’t face society’s real problems. He uses the same syntactical technique when he writes that but a mob without any man at the head of it is beneath pitifullness. Here, he is criticizing mob rule and placing emphasis on his opinion that they are below pitifullness.
Also found in chapter twenty two is Mark Twain using connotative diction to demonstrate the cowardice of men. He writes that because you’re brave enough to tar and feather a poor friendless cast out women that come along here, did that make you think you had grit enough to lay your hands on a man? He’s hitting on the fact that society in no way has grit, that is, courage and resolve; strength of character. He furthers this when he writes the pitifullest thing out is a mob; that’s what an army is — a mob; they don’t fight with courage that’s born in them but with courage that’s borrowed from their mass and from their officers. Here, he’s asserting that armies are simply pitiful mob that by itself has no strength of character, but instead works solely of the valor of a few leaders.
The final example of Mark Twain satirizing eighteenth century society in chapter twenty two comes when he says now leave — and take your half a man with you. He’s making use of rhetorical development to assert that eighteenth century Americans are half men — that is to say, they show too much cowardice and aren’t really capable of facing tough societal issues. He develops his rhetoric by also writing that why, a man’s safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind — as long as it’s daytime and you’re not behind him. He’s contending that society as a whole is a coward, and that they tolerate whatever cruel injustices are going on around them without speaking up or giving it a second thought.
As we can see from the examples above, Mark Twain uses several literary techniques, from visual imagery to rhetorical development, to satirize eighteenth century American society. He demonstrates that while slavery may have ended, the racist attitudes within all parts of the country still remain, leading to unfair treatment of blacks. In order to overcome this, he remains adamant that Americans need to directly address the problem, instead of acting like cowards towards the issue.