Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things if you was meaning to pay them back some time; but the widow said it warn't anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it. Jim said he reckoned the widow was partly right and pap was partly right; so the best way would be for us to pick out two or three things from the list and say we wouldn't borrow them any more—then he reckoned it wouldn't be no harm to borrow the others. So we talked it over all one night, drifting along down the river, trying to make up our minds whether to drop the watermelons, or the cantelopes, or the mushmelons, or what. But towards daylight we got it all settled satisfactory, and concluded to drop crabapples and p'simmons. (12.9)
Huck just can't seem to avoid these moral conflicts. On the one hand, his dad's system of morality: as long as you mean to pay it back, it's just borrowing. On the other hand, the widow's system, which is—taking anything at all that doesn't belong to you is stealing. (And probably sends you straight to hell.) So, Huck finds his own middle ground: take some things, but leave other. Conveniently, he decides to leave crabapples and persimmons—which, take it from us, aren't nearly as delicious as watermelon and cantaloupe. It's like robbing a candy store and then making off with the Twix and Snickers while leaving the Circus Peanuts and Wax Bottles to make your conscience feel better. No one wants to eat that stuff, anyway.
"Well, my idea is this: we'll rustle around and gather up whatever pickins we've overlooked in the state- rooms, and shove for shore and hide the truck. Then we'll wait. Now I say it ain't a-goin' to be more'n two hours befo' this wrack breaks up and washes off down the river. See? He'll be drownded, and won't have nobody to blame for it but his own self. I reckon that's a considerble sight better 'n killin' of him. I'm unfavorable to killin' a man as long as you can git aroun' it; it ain't good sense, it ain't good morals. Ain't I right?" (12.44)
This is one of the thieves Huck meets on the steamship, and apparently even thieves live by some sort of moral code: don't kill. You know, unless you have to. You've got to have standards.
"The first light we see we'll land a hundred yards below it or above it, in a place where it's a good hiding-place for you and the skiff, and then I'll go and fix up some kind of a yarn, and get somebody to go for that gang and get them out of their scrape, so they can be hung when their time comes." (13.17)
Huck definitely has standards, and his standards include making sure people get their proper punishment. Like hanging.