The first of the revivals were unprecedented with the number of people that showed up to be saved. Hundreds of thousands of people would flock to one location to have their souls saved through repentance. People would even travel as far as hundreds of miles to attend. In one camp revival many ministers were preaching wherever they could get a head above the crowd. People swayed with the sparking emotions and many would fall over in their conversion process, shriek, or even go into a seizure-like state.
Some didn’t believe in the ‘holy’ power of the revivals, but thought them to simply be a group of people who were acting like a heard of sheep and following whatever any self proclaimed leader told them to do. Many people did follow blindly, but that was what the church teaches, to have faith without proof.
Revivals were a way to reactivate people into the church and to convert masses of non-believers. Even some of the men who became preachers were themselves converted there or just before the meetings. In this setting of non-civility sinners often burst into hysterics while confessing all of their sins for anyone to hear. The masses would comfort them and move onto the next sinner.
In Huck Finn the revival portrayed was a fiery one with people swaying to the mood. This is very true to the way real revivals took place. Twain probably even attended a few of them himself for the authors curiosity.
When the King confessed his sins and asked for help, with the setting of revivals the people would have only been to glad to help a repenting soul. The whole spirit of the camps were to help those in need and to being as many people to repentance as you possibly could. If you could save others than you’d get good marks on your own soul for when the final judgement comes.
Revivals impacted many writers and how they portrayed the spiritually minded characters, or the characters with a lack of spirituality. Some authors went to revivals, others were converted there, and yet more simply knew about revivals through the grapevine. There are plenty of characters that go through their own conversion process; even Huck went through one, though it wasn’t connected to a church, only to his conscience.
In any event, revivals were a large show of faith in the Church. It is the faith, though not necessarily revivals themselves, that is always prevalent throughout any story set in the old America where the country was based on people trying to escape from religious persecution.
Material History of American Religion Project. Sep. 14, 2003
Waugh, Geoff. 2. Nineteenth Century. Sep. 14, 2003. http://www.evanwiggs.com/revival/history/2-1800.html