Huck’s guardians, the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, embark on a mission to civilize Huck, that is, teach him to behave according to the moral dictates of the society they live in. As such, both women demonstrate how despite claiming to care deeply about morality, they can be very hypocritical. Miss Watson’s hypocrisy is easy to spot. Her sense of mortality is quite shallow, evidenced by her almost comical descriptions of heaven as being where angels play harps and prayer as God giving you what you ask for. She focuses more on finding faults in others than on her own behavior, as when she states that Tom Sawyer, a teenage boy who has his whole life to mature, will probably go to Hell. The worst of Miss Watson’s hypocrisy is her slaveholding, particularly her plan to sell Jim down the river despite her earlier promises not to. For mere money, Miss Watson is willing to separate Jim further from his family and subject him to even harsher conditions. Despite fussing over small things like Huck getting dirty, she willingly treats human beings like property.
The Widow Douglas might be more difficult to recognize as representative of the hypocrisy of society due to her kind nature and good intentions. Huck finds aspects of the Widow’s rules appealing because she enacts them with a loving heart. For example, her description of Providence makes Huck’s “mouth water” because of her focus on spiritual gifts and kindness. Nevertheless, when Huck leaves her care, he realizes that so many of her rules feel stifling. Despite the Widow’s genuine goodness, her sense of morality is as uneven as the society she is a part of. Once again, the most serious version of this hypocrisy appears in her attitude toward slavery. When trying to teach Huck about the Bible, she specifically teaches the story of Moses, who frees the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Despite impressing upon Huck that the story in Exodus is important, the Widow Douglas has no qualms about owning slaves herself. So even though the Widow Douglas may be kind and good-hearted, her version of morality has an element of shallow respectability that can tolerate slavery while condemning smaller trespasses like smoking.