Huck's Enlightenment: Huck's transformation from having racist beliefs to an honest and moral character who knows the evil behind slavery

Essay by King646High School, 12th gradeA+, April 2007

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Throughout Mark Twain’s Adventures Huckleberry Finn, Huck challenges everything society has taught him about racism and eventually forms his own beliefs, based experience. When Huck and Jim first decide to runaway with one another, they form a friendship that is merely based on survival. At the beginning of their companionship, Huck does not recognize that Jim has feelings, so he plays a cruel trick with a snake; he also fails to make an apology. During their journey down the Mississippi River, Jim’s humanity bewilders Huck. When Huck tells Jim about King Solomon, whom Huck believes to be the wisest of men, Jim takes an interesting perspective and argues it relentlessly; Huck is surprised and claims that he has never seen a “nigger” do such a thing. As Huck and Jim overcome each obstacle in their journey, particularly when Huck learns to apologize to Jim, their friendship strengthens from one that is founded on survival to a relationship that is built on compassion.

Huck then starts to question what society has taught him about race and begins to form his own beliefs.

When Huck and Jim embark on their expedition society still has a strong influence on Huck’s beliefs, this is evident in the snake incident on Jackson Island. Before Jim and Huck leave Jackson Island, Huck decides to play a cruel joke on Jim. Huck hides a snake near Jim’s foot, hoping that when Jim wakes up it will scare him. However, Huck forgets that the snake will attract its mate, and sure enough, the mate returns and bites Jim’s ankle. Huck’s carelessness shows us that he does think of Jim as a human yet. Although Huck feels foolish for forgetting about the snake, he does not apologize to Jim. In fact, Huck vows never to let Jim know that he was responsible for the snakebite, “I warn’t going to let Jim find out it was all my fault, not if I could help it.” (p. 53) This incident shows that Huck does not care for Jim as if he were a human; Huck jeopardizes Jim’s safety and does not even apologize afterwards. Despite this incident, Huck and Jim’s friendship grows with time.

After leaving the Walter Scott wreck, Huck and Jim continue down the Mississippi River. One afternoon, Huck tells Jim about King Solomon the wise, and a debate ensues. Although neither probably sees the significance of King Solomon’s story, Jim takes the story literally and argues that King Solomon was unwise because he wanted to split a baby between two women. Jim claims that having half a baby is worthless and that King Solomon is unwise for considering this. Although this is not the actual point of the story, Huck is not able to prove Jim wrong. After giving up the argument, Huck states, “I never seen such a nigger. If he got a notion in his head once, there warn’t no getting it out again.” (p.78) Jim’s persistence against Huck, a white person, makes him appear to be more human.

As Huck and Jim continue on their journey, they approach the Ohio River. Before they can get to land, a thick fog causing them to lose all sense of direction separates Huck and Jim. Eventually, Huck is reunited with Jim, who is sleeping on the raft when Huck arrives. When Jim awakes, he is elated to see Huck, but Huck tries to trick Jim and pretends that Jim simply dreamed their separation. Jim finally notices that he did not dream this, and that Huck is playing another cruel joke. Jim becomes upset at Huck for making him feel like a fool after he worried so much about him. At first, Jim’s reaction dumbfounds Huck, but then realizes that Jim felt worried, like any other human would be. Huck struggles to apologize because he has been brought up in a racist society where it is unheard of to ask for a slave’s forgiveness. After some time, Huck decides to apologize to Jim and explains, “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger…I wouldn’t done that one if I’d ’a’ knowed it would make him feel that way.” (p. 86) This apology is significant because it shows that unlike the snake incident, Huck apologizes to Jim as if he were a human. Jim’s humanity is becoming more evident to Huck.

At the beginning of Huck’s journey with Jim, Huck sees Jim as property. However, as their relationship develops, so does Huck’s understanding of Jim’s humanity. By the end of their voyage, Huck fully recognizes Jim as a person, despite what society has taught him. Huck’s unlearning is significant to him because he now sees slavery from a different perspective and the evil that lies behind it. Huck’s experiences with Jim and his recognition as a human can teach us to make our decisions without influence from society.