In the novel by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the two maincharacters, Huck and Jim, are strongly linked. Their relation is portrayed byvarious sides, some of them good and some others bad.
But the essential interestof that relation is the way that uses the author to describe it. Even if he hadoften been misunderstood, Twain always implied a message behind the themesdeveloped around Huck and Jim. The first encounter between Huck Finn and Jim isat the beginning of the book, when Hucks friend, Tom Sawyer, tries to foolJim, Miss Watsons slave. Huck and Jim still dont know each other, but Huckisnt biased against the old slave.
Its an important point because, asracism was a widely held mentality in the South, we can learn that that youngboy was more open-minded than most people there. Later, they find themselves inthe same situation. As they were escaping from the civilized world, they takerefuge in the Jacksons Island, on the Mississippi river. Huck is running awayfrom a bad father and Jim has leaved Miss Watson because he didnt want to besold to New Orleans.
Soon after joining Jim on the island, Huck begins torealize that Jim has more talents and intelligence than Huck has been aware of.Jim knows “all kinds of signs” about the future, people’spersonalities, and weather forecasting. Huck finds this kind of informationnecessary as he and Jim drift down the Mississippi on a raft.
As important, Huckfeels a comfort with Jim that he has not felt with the other major characters inthe novel. With Jim, Huck can enjoy the best aspects of his earlier influences.Jim’s meaning to Huck changes as they proceed through their adventure.
He startsout as an extra person just to take on the journey, but they transform into afriend. “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go andhumble myself to a nigger.”(chap. XV) Huck tries to squeal on Jim but can’tbecause he remembers that Jim called him “de bes’ fren’ I ever had;…deon’y white genlman dat ever kep’ his promise to ole Jim.
“(chap. XVI) Huckrealizes that he can not turn Jim in since they both act as runaway outcasts onthe river. The support they have for each other sprouts friendship. As does theWidow, Jim allows Huck security, but Jim is not as confining as is the Widow.Like Tom Sawyer, Jim is intelligent but his intelligence is not as intimidatingor as imaginary as is Tom’s. As does Pap, Jim allows Huck freedom, but he doesit in a loving, rather than an uncaring, fashion.
Thus, early, in theirrelationship on Jackson’s Island, Huck says to Jim, “This is nice. Iwouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here.” This feeling is in markedcontrast with Huck’s feelings concerning other people in the early part of thenovel where he always is uncomfortable and wishes to leave them. The lack ofcomfort is also shared by Jim. As a slave, he truly feels like an outcast.Considering the context of the United States at that period, during the slaveryconflict, we easily understand the situation of Jim. And one of the main ideasof this Mark Twains masterpiece deals with a multiracial couples story.
The relationship between black and white was hardly accepted in the 1830s.Such an adventure, two male characters, with opposite colour of skin, strikingup a friendship, was considered as a provocation by the society. The authorknows that very well and will try, through his two heroes, to denounce thedrifting of the Nation. Irony is his main weapon against that obscurantism.
Heuses it as often as possible. For instance, on chapter XIV, Huck tries toexplain to Jim why a Frenchman is a man, even if he speaks differently. Theironical feature comes from the fact that this black slave doesnt understandthe equality of all people, whereas himself isnt considered equal by thewhite. Besides, another ironical aspect is that we think first, in that chapter,that the white boy will civilize the black man whereas well discover furtherthat it is the contrary. First person brings the reader a more innocent side ofthe story, so the reader feels more compassion for the small boy.
The symbolicimage falls into play between Huck and Jim, “…
en trash is what people isdat puts dirt on de head er dey fren’s en makes ’em ashamed…
“(chap. XV),this made Huck open his eyes for the first time in his life. Jim for the firsttime shows feelings for Huck and lets him know you don’t treat people who carefor you like “trash”.
This makes Huck aware that Jim means more to himthan just someone’s slave, he now considers him a true friend. Next, Huckfinally sees Jim’s loyalty toward him, “…so Jim he said he would standthe first half of it for me…
“(chap. XX), keeping a special watch notwaking him on his turn, “..
.I went to sleep, and Jim didn’t call me when itwas my turn…”(chap. XXIII). Even the little things like not waking Huck,show more than just an undying friendship.
The symbolism of a grown man and achild had more effect instead of having two grown men, because a child needs afather figure. Jim fit the description and perfectly provided that for him. Themutual affection between Huck and Jim will even lead them to sorts ofsacrifices. When Huck discovers that Jim has been captured, Huck must decidewhether to turn in Jim and tell Miss Watson, or accept going to hell. He finallychooses “hell” when he says, “I took it letter to Miss Watsonup, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide,forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute.
..and then saysto myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell,’ and tore it up.
“(chap. XXXI)Huck’s sacrifice for his friend Jim, a man he has come to view as a father,forces Huck to accept a life of everlasting pain and anguish. In reality, Huck’ssacrifice is a noble and uncharacteristic achievement, allowing Huck tounknowingly be bound for heaven. Jim’s sacrifice, although small in his ownmind, is in fact one of the bravest sacrifices made throughout this book. Forexample, after Tom gets shot in the leg, Jim displays his concern for Tom as hesays, “No, sah-I doan’ budge a step out’n dis place ‘dout a doctor; not ifit’s forty year!” Despite all of the racist and harsh tricks Tom has playedon Jim, Jim risks his life to save his “friend.” Rather than abandonTom, Jim is willing to risk his freedom to save Tom’s life.
Moreover, as Jimmakes this brave sacrifice, Huck thinks to himself, “I knowed he was whiteinside.”(chap. XL) Through Jim’s sacrifice for Tom, Huck discovers that allmen, including blacks, are in fact equal. Huck no longer looks down upon Jim asa “nigger,” but rather as an equal human being. Lastly, the doctordescribes Jim’s heroic sacrifice to the Phelps and tells them that, “Heain’t a bad nigger..
.and I never see a nigger that was a better nuss orfaithfuler, and yet he was risking his freedom to do it save Tom.”(chap.XLII) Jim risked his freedom to save an insolent, racist white boy who hadtreated him, not as an equal, but as an inferior, unequal nigger. Jim’ssacrifice is clearly an act of bravery far more heroic than the sacrifice Huckmade earlier in the novel. Huck and Jim’s sacrifices for each other, howeverdifferent, also present many similarities.
For example, Huck and Jim both thinkthey are sacrificing themselves for a friend. Huck sacrifices himself for ablack friend he has come to love as an equal. Similarly, Jim sacrifices himselffor a friend, when in reality, he is risking his freedom to save the life of aracial bigot, Tom. In addition, both sacrifices have as a consequence a life ofeverlasting hell. When Huck sacrifices himself for Jim, he accepts a literalhell (that is truly the path to heaven).
Jim, on the other hand, accepts a lifeof figurative hell in slavery, when he is in fact free all along. Finally, eachsacrifice shares irony, in that they were both based on unknown pieces ofunknown, but significant pieces of information. Huck is unaware that hisdecision of accepting “hell” will actually lead to his salvation andironically decides on doing what the thinks is “wrong.” Likewise, Jimis unaware that he is free, and is not risking his freedom in saving Tom.
Inmaking these two brave sacrifices, Huck and Jim achieve a higher character thanif they had chosen easier paths. Huck’s willingness to face hell to protect Jimand Jim’s willingness to face capture and slavery to save Tom, both contributeto the overall theme of racial equality/inequality present throughout the book.Huck and Jim’s journey down the Mississippi River has led them to look pastcolour boundaries, and discover that “all me are created equal.”English Essays