Jim is the Central Character? The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the best- loved novels in American Literature. Due to its widespread popularity, critiques and analyses of the work abound, especially of Huck and his development. But in all analyses of Huck, scholars and students alike have neglected to give rightful place to one of the most important protagonist in American literature- Jim. Without Jim's provision for Huck, Huck's spiritual journey would have failed. In Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim plays the role of a father to Huck by providing for his physical, emotional, and moral well- being.
Jim plays the role of the father by providing Huck's physical well being. For example Jim provides food and shelter for Huck (Twain 64). He is continually caching fish and fixing meals for Huck. He takes it upon himself to build a snug wigwam on the raft to get under in blazing weather and rainy.
In addition, Jim gives Huck some advices (Twain 17). From the beginning of the story when he sees his Pap's boot prints, Huck establishes a precedent of going to Jim for advices. Despite of the slave's fearful superstitions, his advice is mostly sound, as seen when he advises against boarding the Walter Scott. Lastly, Jim provides protection for Huck. For instance, prior to Huck's and Jim's departure down the Mississippi River, they encounter a dead body on a wrecked boat near Jackson Island (Twain 50). Jim bends down and looks at the mutilated man's face and recognizes Pap's corpse. He tells Huck to walk in the room, but not to look at his face since it is too ghastly (Twain 50). Worried about Huck, he prevents Huck from seeing his father's disfigured face. Also, Jim actively protects Huck by lying to the King and Duke for him after they catch up him on the river and threaten him. Huck had no one to protect him before, now he has Jim top stand up for him against people that are like Pap, as father should. Although Jim's ability to protect him is limited because of his status as a black slave, he protects him as best he can.
Not only is Jim heroic, he also humanizes Huck and shapes his conscience for the better. Through his kindness, courage and loyalty, he earns Huck's respect. Huck decides to play a trick on Jim by pretending to drown (Twain 84). Then, after telling Jim that he had a nightmare, he teases Jim's superstitions by asking him to interpret pile of trash. Jim infuriated and tells Huck that he is so grateful that Huck is alive that he could get down on his knees and kiss his foot, and yet, all Huck cares about is making a fool of old Jim with a lie (Twain 86). Huck feels dreadful as he sees the kindness of Jim and how much Jim loves him. Thus, he humble himself to a nigger and even begins to believe that Jim care just as much for his people as whites folk does for theirs. It do not seem natural, but he reckon its so. Jim has made such a positive influence on Huck that respects Jim and even loves him. He begins to realize that kindness and humanity are more telling than race and color. Hence, Huck begins to driven by his conscience rather than doing what society dictates.
As consequences of Jim's benevolences and concern for others, Huck rises to heroic proportion. Throughout the story, Jim teaches Huck that society's teaching may not be always correct. For instance, the general populace teaches Huck that blacks are inferior and are meant for enslavement. However, Huck sees that Jim has a good heart in him and is a good man (Twain 214). Huck thus begins to act with his conscience rather than through society's calling as he realizes that the people may be wrong. When Duke and Dauphin lie to everyone in town by pretending to be Wilk's English uncles, their actions are enough to make Huck ashamed of the human race (Twain 163). Huck finally learns through Jim acting on conscience is a right choice. Thus, he does the moral thing by thwarting the plan of Duke and Dauphin. Furthermore, when Jim is again sold into slavery, there is absolutely no doubt in Huck's mind what he must do. He must steal Jim again (Twain 211). Jim changes Huck's mindset and belief throughout the story. Initially, Huck believes in society's teachings. He sees African- American as inferior, and he allows the duke and dauphin to undergo their devious plans. Jim's heroic actions eventually teach him that he should act based on his own heart.
As Jim provides for Huck's physical, emotional and spiritual needs, he takes on the role of a father. Because of the importance of this role, Jim becomes the real hero of the story rather than just an oppressed and the insignificant black slave. He is the true visionary center of the novel. Jim is the wisest individual in the novel and is even the most important character in the story. Without Jim, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would be a merely be a simple action story, and not what is, a great novel of humanity.
Reference: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain