"It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race."
Now, if you're in the Classic Literature section of the forums, you probably know where that quote is from. But just in case you don't, it's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. However, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, if you didn't at least vaguely recognize the quote, I doubt you'll have much to contribute to this discussion.
Well, a few of you might know that I'm working on a major literary criticism assignment for Huck Finn. The assignment requires me to read a few criticisms myself (always a good course of action, anyway) and I've noticed a lot of disagreements between critics. But this one really baffles me, because I'm not at all sure who is right.
If you recall, Huck says the above quote at the end of Chapter 24, when the Duke and King are pretending to be the brothers of recently deceased Peter Wilks. When I read the book, I just assumed that Huck was referring to the actions of the King and the Duke. I daresay witnessing a couple of good-for-nothing's deceive and deprive a group of grieving people would make me ashamed of the human race. But one critic I read had a different idea. Roger Moore says:
Watching the King and Duke "work" small-town crowds, Huck is more offended by the credulity of the dupes than by the duplicity of the con artists. As the mountebanks pull the wool over the family and neighbors of the late Peter Wilks, it is the responses of the victims, their slavish willingness to believe, that Huck finds disconcerting, declaring that, "it was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race."
Now I personally don't know where Moore got that idea, though I suppose it could have gone either way. By saying "it", Huck doesn't really specify which part makes him sick. Here's the paragraph it was stated in:
Well, the men gathered around and sympathized with them, and said all sorts of kind things to them, and carried their carpetbags up the hill for them, and let them lean on them and cry, and told the kind all about his brother's last moments, and the king he told it all over again on his hands to the duke, and both of them took on about that dead tanner like they'd lost the twelve disciples. Well, if I ever struck anything like it, I'm a nigger. It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race.
Looking at that, I suppose Huck could have been referring to the Duke and King's behavior, or the gullibility of the townspeople, or he could really have been referring to both.
What do you think?