Huck Finn: A Boy with A Shoulder Angel and Devil?

The article that I chose to read, found through EBSCOhost, is entitled "Huck Finn the Inverse Akratic: Empathy and Justice."  This article, written by Chad Kleist, was published in 2009, was published by the Ethical Theory & Moral Practice journal, and is 10 pages in length.

In this piece, Kleist discusses the characteristics of an akratic and inverse akratic individual, meaning that they either (respectively) a) do not perform an act that they believe is the right thing to do, or b) performs an act that they believe to be wrong.  Also, this piece discusses the empathic connection between Huck and Jim in terms of Jim's fight to stay free from slavery that forms as a result of their friendship and Jim's trust in Huck.

I feel that this is exactly Huck Finn in Clemens' work.  Huck is constantly being torn by the fact that he thinks turning Jim in as a runaway would be the right thing to do, but at the same time, he cannot follow through with the act due to his deep-forming friendship with Jim.  Never did I realize that there was a technical term for this condition.  This article taught me that this is a case that can be seen in many pieces of literature.  Also, the focus on Jim being the reason for Huck's inverse akrasia is an interesting point of view.  Kleist tells the reader that he believes that it is Jim's situation that Huck begins to empathize with, and as the bond strengthens between the two of them, this leads to Huck believing more of Jim's story and relating to it more even though he has not personally experienced these events.

In my opinion, I feel as though it is not so much Huck and Jim's friendship that creates this empathy between the two; rather, it is Huck's similar situation with his father and with Miss Watson.  Huck, too, was caged up by his dangerous and careless alcoholic of a father and the etiquette-crazed Miss Watson.  This was, after all, the whole reason behind faking his death, was it not?  In a sense, Huck, too, is a runaway slave to his family lineage and his lack of civilization and education.

Kleist, Chad. "Huck Finn the Inverse Akratic: Empathy and Justice." Ethical Theory & Moral Practice 12.3 (2009): 257-266. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.


Yes, that's definitely and academic journal. It's a journal that applies ethical theory to a literary subject, so the author is probably an expert in ethics, not literature. If you were to use this article in an academic paper, I'd ask that you make sure to represent the scholarly opinions of literary experts, as well. You have shown you can find a full-length peer-reviewed academic article. Good work!

Hi Alexi,

This is Chad (who wrote the Huck Finn article). I want say that you I really enjoyed your last paragraph. As you can see, I didn't focus on those aspects of the book because I am interested in how to best understand empathy rather than focusing on the origin of those feelings. I think you are absoultely correct that he is able to empathize with Jim in virtue of the struggles both Huck and Jim endure. I'm looking forward to hearing any furhter thoughts you have.

Best wishes,


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This page contains a single entry by Alexi J. Swank published on October 18, 2010 1:08 PM.

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