The Morrison and Smiley articles provide a critical lens through which one can read Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Both of these author’s point out issues within the text which Morrison calls “uncomfortable” and alarming (385). Complacency toward the issue of race seems to be one of the major issues at play here. This can be seen in the main text, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as the characters fail to treat Jim with any human dignity, but as Smiley points out, the novel itself is an example of complacency. When critiquing the novel, it is easy to blame the characters for their actions, but Smiley notes that Twain is the real “villain” (156). She notes, and I agree, that the novel really suffers at its end. While it starts off as a playful adventure, potent issues start to build up—issues that are simply left unresolved. Huck is never allowed to explore the issue of race because the author of his tale doesn’t want him to. Twain was unwilling to address the real issue, and yet his work is praised as some great novel to be emulated by countless authors to come while other authors who did address real issues of the time, like Harriette Beecher Stowe, were left out of the list of “greats.” Morrison’s article coincides with this point as she comes to understand, through multiple readings of the book, that the point of the novel is in what Twain left unsaid. The fact that he neglected to confront the issue of race speaks volumes toward the issues at play in the South.
King’s and Kolvenbach’s articles paint this issue in a more modern and universal light. Both articles focus on justice and freedom, and while both of them rely on Christianity as a strong motivator to pursue justice Kolvenbach stresses the importance of educating people. King points out that the issue of complacency toward race is still a major issue in America well into the 1900s saying that he knows through “experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed” (2). The South put up a fight to maintain its system of oppression during the Civil War, and King astutely points out that that fight has never truly stopped. King and Kolvenbach call their readers to action in their respective works. Faith and action work together in the Jesuit educational system broken down for us by Kolvenbach, just as King’s system of direct action combines religious beliefs and a desire for justice.
The major theme here is what is being left undone or unsaid by the majority of the population. Morrison and Smiley critique Mark Twain for failing to engage in the racial issues while writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and King and Kolvenbach call people of all ages to action in order to come up with a solution to this problem of racial inequality. The key here must be educating the public on issues surrounding social injustices. As Kolvenbach states, “We can no longer pretend that the inequalities and injustices of our world must be borne as a part of the inevitable order of things” (32). People must speak up in order to make any sort of change in the systems of oppression and social injustice that exist in the world today.