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Huck Finn Essay, Research Paper

The Notice at the beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reads Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be shot; persons attempting to find a moral will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot By order of the Author, (10). Though Mark Twain intends his novel to be read in jest, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn actually conveys an important insight into humanity. The character Jim, a Negro, defies the white man s perception of a Negro, and ultimately illustrates their place American society. This is done as Twain shows that Jim does not fit the mold of the stereotypical slave, has real emotions, and symbolizes the social standing of a Negro at this time.

In the first few chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim is introduced as the stereotypical Negro. He is ignorant, slow, and believes in many foolish superstitions. These characteristics are evident when Tom and Huck try to sneak out of the house. Eventually, Tom steals Jim s hat and hangs it on a tree branch. Afterward Jim said the witches bewitched him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over the state, and then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on a limb to show who done it, (15). This illogical and down right stupid explanation of the cause of this prank is the common white view of the dumb Negro at the time. Another example of Jim s foolishness is apparent Huck fakes his own death to escape his Father and run away. Jim runs into Huck and assumes he is witnessing the living dead, Doan hurt me- don t! I hain t ever done no harm to a ghos . I alwuz liked dead people, en fone all I could for em doan do nuffin to Ole Jim, at uz alwuz yo fren , (49). Instead of coming to the logical conclusion that Huck wasn t really dead, Jim s superstitions and ignorance cause him to believe he is in the presence of a ghost. In the first few chapters, Jim is given such character traits as being superstitious, ignorant, and foolish. This gives the impression that Jim is nothing else but a dumb old Negro.

The whole rest of the novel does nothing else but eliminate these character traits and portray Jim as being a sensitive compassionate human being. Jim breaks the mold of the traditional Negro when his true feelings toward his own family are revealed. he was thinking about his wife and children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick, because he hadn t ever been away from home in his life; and while I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their n. it don t seem natural, but I reckon so, (155). This presents the idea that a black man can feel the same about his respective family as a white man. The previous quote also has Huck comparing Jim to the white man. This is a step taken in the highest esteem as Huck recognizes Jim s capability for emotions. Jim again breaks the mold of the common slave after he describes the story of when he punishes his daughter for disobedience though he doesn t realize she actually becaem deaf because of scarlet fever. Oh Huck, I bust out a-cryin en grab her in my arms, en say, Oh, de po little thing! De Lord God Almighty forgive po jim, haze never gwyne to forgive hisself as long s he live! (156). With this, Jim reveals guilt for his own actions and compassion for his handicapped daughter, two more real emotions Huck and the readers now realize Jim feels. As Huck and Jim travel down the Mississippi River, Jim is shown in a different light. He is no longer an ignorant foolish creature which he was made out to be. No, Jim is actually a caring induvidual capable of a wide range of human emotions. His love for his children and compassion and respect for Huck Finn prove the stereotype that Negroes are inhuman and have little or no emotions wrong.

As Jim defies the social conception of a black man at this time, he also symbolizes the free Negro in the years after the Civil War. At this time in history, blacks were by all means free, though, due to racism, blacks were rarely apt to the rights and privileges apt guaranteed to them. While Huck, the Duke, and Dauphin all got to leave the raft at a given town, Jim was to stay aboard, and hide out. At one point, the Duke goes as far as to paint Jim s face and dress him up as a Sick Arab- but harmless when not out of his head, (157). Though Jim is supposed to be disguised from his race, most just see a strange nigger dressed so and so, (211). While Jim was disguised as an Arab, he was not treated as one. Like many black men at the time, they were free men, but not treated as so, due to ongoing racism. The biggest injustice that happens to Jim during the course of the novel is when the Phelps family recaptures Jim, though he had long since been granted his freedom. While Jim was a free man, he was in chains. Blacks at the time, while now equal in the eyes of the law with whites now still faced the chains of racism. While they should be able pursue their American Dream and seek happiness, blacks were labeled previously by society as inferior and still fought that barrier. The character Jim exemplifies the position in which many free blacks found themselves in after their freedom was granted.

While The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is written with Twain s trademark tongue-in-cheek manner, it conveys a far deeper meaning that just purely for entertainment. This book perceived blacks as being on the same level as whites though not accepted at that position by society. Twain s statements about the idea of white superiority and the position of a freed slave s place in society is shocking and powerful. Twain creates Jim into a compassionate caring human being, breaking the mold from being just a dumb old Negro. This book also recognized the hypocrisy that the white population showed when dealing with freed slaves. Though The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was mainly satirical, the novel actually portrays a daring stance to to race issue, especially at the time.


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