Huckleberry Finn

Essay by char21 May 2009

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During a time when American society was indefinite with blacks, Mark Twain categorizes Jim with a certain dialect and a mind of superstitions in his novel, The Adventures of Huck Finn. Standing up for Twain’s depiction of Jim, Daniel Hoffman states in his essay “Black Magic-and White-in Huckleberry Finn.” that “it was the only possible starting-point for a white author attempting to deal with Negro character a century ago” Even though Twain receives great criticism for the stereotype in his creation of Jim, he provides a clear view of his humanity, contradicting the picture that many held of African Americans during that time.

Once Jim is no longer confined to being a slave, his feelings toward others change. For example, when Huck and Jim come upon the dead man on the floating house, Jim warns Huck not to:“look at the man’s face-it’s too gashly.”Due to Pap’s abusive figure, Jim comprehends the situation, protecting Huck from the pain of seeing his dead father.

Jim’s love for Huck allows him to develop a father to son relationship, “now free [for Jim] to take the place that Pap was never worthy to hold.” After encountering freedom on the raft, Jim still illustrates altruism and “signs of moral statue.” In addition, Jim’s stature is made evident toward the end of the novel when he refuses to leave Tom after he had been shot, knowing quite well that he could be punished. Jim willingness to sacrifice his life for his friends prove how immense his compassion, intelligence and above all, his loyalty toward Huck and Tom. “His selflessness is truly noble.”Our first encounter of Jim is him as a slave, which slowly changes over time. Jim in slavery is “helpless,” which puts him in a situation of being a “gullible prey to every chance or accident” he comes across. This is apparent when Jim falls asleep and Tom hangs his hat on a tree limb, claming that witches put a spell on him and took him all over the state. Jim’s story amplifies with each telling until finally slaves come from all over to her his tale, improving his stature among others. His traits and behaviors are interpreted as stereotypic: lethargic, an inclination toward exaggeration, and haughtiness. Jim’s simple nature becomes common sense, continuously choosing the right path for Huck and him to follow. For example, Jim observes the nervous actions of birds and predicts that it will rain. When his premonition comes true as a huge storm comes upon the island, Jim is “no more a gullible supplicant to witches.” In the beginning of the novel, Jim is depicted as simple and trusting, to the point of gullibility, but proves to be wrong with his prudent insight.

Due to many censorious opinions, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was banned from certain high-schools because of the delineation of slavery created by Mark Twain. He uses Jim, a main character, to show the human side of a slave. Twain himself was passionately anti-slavery and means for us to “admire Jim- much as he admires Jim himself.” Thus, his purpose is to make the reader feel sympathy for Jim and outrage against the society that would harm him. Through the many arduous obstacles Jim overcomes, “the fear ridden slave becomes in then end a source of moral energy.”To many, the novel represents a must read classic, while to others, it raises serious opposition. In defense of Twain’s stereotypical delineation of Jim, Hoffman states his opinion by showing Jim’s heroism, altruism, and loyalty throughout his essay. By giving Jim a voice in the novel and the ability to suffer human emotions, Twain allows Jim to “stride out of his scapegoat minstrel’s role to stand before us in the dignity of his own manhood".

Sources:Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn