Essay, Research Paper: Adventures Of Huck Finn

Literature: Mark Twain

Free Literature: Mark Twain research papers were donated by our members/visitors and are presented free of charge for informational use only. The essay or term paper you are seeing on this page was not produced by our company and should not be considered a sample of our research/writing service. We are neither affiliated with the author of this essay nor responsible for its content. If you need high quality, fresh and competent research / writing done on the subject of Literature: Mark Twain, use the professional writing service offered by our company.

Ever since it was written, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn has been a novel that
many people have found disturbing. Although some argue that the novel is
extremely racist, careful reading will prove just the opposite. In recent years
especially, there has been an increasing debate over what some will call the
racist ideas in the novel. In some cases the novel has even been banned by
public school systems and censored by public libraries. The basis for the debate
is how Jim, a black slave and one of the main characters, is depicted. However,
if one was to look at the underlying themes in the novel, they would realize
that it is not racist and could even be considered an anti – slavery novel.
The most popular problem people have with this book is the use of the word
“nigger”. It must be remebered that during this time period it was not
considered much of an insullt. You can also notice in the book it was not meant
offensively by Huck, or taken offensively by Jim. This is what Stephan Shepard
had to say about the banning of the book and the use of the word “nigger”:
In addition to removing Mark Twain's novel from the required reading list, the
district decided to use a censored version of the novel on its optional list.
Admittedly, the censorship is minor the infamous "n-word" is deleted
throughout the novel – however, it is not only a dishonest alteration of
Twain's craft, it is also an unfair attempt to enforce the tastes of a few upon
all students in the district. (Shepard 1) Also a column in The New York Times
pointed out, "Huckleberry Finn is in constant trouble with teachers,
librarians and parents because of its iterations of “nigger”, a word that
has a preemptive force today that it did not have in Huck Finn's Mississippi
Valley of the 1840s" (Ritter 2). Another aspect of the novel that some
consider racist is the description of Jim. The first time the reader meets Jim,
a very negative description is given. It is said that Jim is illiterate,
childlike, not very bright and extremely superstitious. However, it is important
not to lose sight of who is giving this description. Although Huck is not
exactly a racist child, he has been raised by extremely racist individuals and
has had certain ideas about blacks put in his head. Also, sad as it is, this
description was probably pretty accurate for the time period. Millions of slaves
in the South were not permitted any formal education, were not allowed any
independent thought and were constantly abused. Twain is portraying a very
realistic slave raised in the South during this time period, and to say that he
is racist because of his historical accuracy is ridiculous. Casting judgment
upon him and calling him racist is not only unfair, but also pointless. The
values of Twain’s time were different than the values of today. The very
existence of slavery proves this. Twain has no obligation to live up to
today’s morals or ethical values, and cannot be expected to because they did
not exist when he was alive. Therefore, the present-day objections to
Huckleberry Finn are ridiculous. It is stupidity to go back and apply standards
that are predominate today, to novels written more than a hundred years ago (Baldanza
2). Also, it is important to remember in Chapter 15, the reader is told of an
incident which contradicts the original childlike description of Jim. In fact,
the reader is presented with a very caring and father – like individual who
becomes very worried when he loses Huck in the fog (Twain 134). This is in order
to point out the connection made between Huck and Jim. A connection that is made
between two people, not a person and a piece of property. There are many points
in the novel were Huck voices extreme opposition to the slave trade and racism.
In chapter six, Huck’s father intensely objects to the government granting
suffrage to an educated black professor. Twain wants the reader to see the
foolishness of this statement. Huck’s father believes that he is superior to
this black professor simply because of the color of his skin (Twain 69). Huck
oppeses this statement made by his father and does not understand. Twain wants
the reader to see the foolishness of this notion. Another example of Huck’s
opposition to slavery is when Huck first meets Jim he makes a conscious decision
not to turn him in. Later in the story, Huck is not able to understand why this
man who has become one of his only friends should be a slave. Through this,
Twain expresses opinions of the absurdity of slavery and importance of following
ones personal conscious before the rules of society. Remember that the novel is
set in the South. Blacks were slaves with no legal rights werefaced with high
degrees of discrimination. Their status is lower than that of a white person,
and Huck grows up debating that reality. It is a barrier at first between
himself and Jim, which they eventually realize and overcome. By the end of the
novel, Huck and the reader have come to understand that Jim is not someone’s
property but an equal. Another argument that has come up in this debate is how
Twain gives Jim an accent and uses many misspellings in his dialogue. An example
of this is when Jim says “Drot your pore broken heart... what are you heaving
your pore broken heart at us f’r? We haint done nothing” (Twain 124). The
use of an occasional apostrophe and misspelling increases the level of detail in
the novel, it adds an element to the feeling of the characters, not a racist
undertone. If Mark Twian was such a racist, why would he constantly make the
black man look better than all of the whites? Quite visibly, Jim acts better
than all of the white characters in the book. Jim is loyal to Huck, he goes
along with him and protects him to the best of his ability. He also has a very
clear plan, and that is to go to Cairo, escape to a free state and make enough
money to buy his family or have the Underground Railroad free them (Fischkin 3).
His loyalties are to his family and friends. You can compare him to Huck, who is
a good guy but even he is running away from society and being a rebel. Other
white characters include the King and the Duke who exploit, cheat, and steal
from anyone they can find, having no morals whatsoever. Sheapardson, who is
white, murders a man in cold blood. Whites together in the book generally
signify a lynch mob of sorts. Other examples, such as the orphans, are so
thoughtless that they practically give away their money to their exploiters (Conn
1). Twain paints a sad image of the morals of most white characters in the
story. The actions of the characters point to things being wrong with society,
not to point a finger at blacks. Because Jim lives, as the Times column pointed
out, "on a higher ethical level than anybody else in this book including
Huck. He is a hero in the novel but not enough of a noble hero to be considered
politically correct in today's society” (Times 6). In fact, many people have
noticed this about the novel: Twain is using this casual dialogue ironically, as
a was to underscore the chilling truth about the old south, that it was a
society where perfectly "nice" people didn't consider the death of a
black person worth their notice. Because of his upbringing, the boy starts out
that slavery is part of the natural order; but as the story unfolds he wrestles
with his conscience, and when the crucial moment comes he decides he will be
damned to the flames of hell rather than betray his black friend. And Jim, as
Twain presents him, is hardly a caricature. Rather, he is the moral center of
the book, a man of courage and nobility, who risks his freedom – risks his
life -- for the sake of his friend Huck. (Swalden 2) Booker T. Washington noted
how Twain "succeeded in making his readers feel a genuine respect for
'Jim,” and pointed out that Twain, in creating Jim's character, had
"exhibited his sympathy and interest in the masses of the Negro
people." The great black novelist Ralph Ellison noted how Twain allows
Jim's "dignity and human capacity" to emerge in the novel. He stated:
Huckleberry Finn knew, as did Mark Twain, that Jim was not only a slave but a
human being, a symbol of humanity . . . and in freeing Jim, Huck makes a bid to
free himself of the conventionalized evil taken for civilization by the town.
And on those occasions when Twain does compare blacks and whites, the comparison
is not flattering to the whites. Things like "One of my theories is that
the hearts of men are about alike, all over the world, whatever their
skin-complexions may be “. Another time he stated "Nearly all black and
brown skins are beautiful, but a beautiful white skin is rare" . He also
said "There are many humorous things in the world; among them is the white
man's notion that he is less savage than all the other savages". These
statements were noted in an essay by Peter Swalden who in summation states
“Mark Twain a "racist"! Isn't it about time we put this ridiculous
notion to rest” (1). Because he is a black man fleeing slavery, Jim faces many
struggles. He is constantly reminded of the dangers of running and is threatened
by his capture. He is also forced to accept the fact that his race makes him
inferior to a white, and even a friend like Huck is still of higher status. Huck
and Jim overcome the race barrier, only after Huck overcomes the inner struggle
of whether to save Jim or not. Huck's idea of racism is based on his upbringing,
but he himself questions the validity of these statements of black inferiority
(Ritter 1). Throughout the novel societies voice is heard through Huck. The
racist and hateful contempt which existed at the time is present, but it is
essential for the reader to see how Twain opposes these ideas throughout the
novel. Twains brings out the ugliness of society and causes the reader to
challenge the original description of Jim. In a subtle matter, he creates a
challenge to slavery (Wallace 12). After a careful examination of the book, one
can realize that Twain is attempting to show us the vast problems that society
has. One of those problems is slavery, so he gives the reader an idea of the
runaway slave’s position. Regardless of whether his interpretation of the
slave’s position is correct or not, it is not an attempt to degrade blacks,
but rather an effort to show the reader that in Twain’s opinion, slavery is
wrong. Twain’s novel was not intended to be a book about slavery, it was
intended to be a book which showed how wrong society was. Twain not only shows
the reader that there are things which need to be changed, but also points out
quite a few things which need modification. Mark Twain put a plea for humanity,
for the end of castes, and of its cruelties in all of his stories (Allen 260).
Mark Twain's main purposes in producing this work seems clear, he wishes to
bring to attention some of man's often hidden shortcomings. At the time the
story was written, nobody considered race to be a major factor in the novel and
Twain himself was more than likely one of the least-racist United States
citizens alive during his time. Many critics have also realized that this novel
is not racist in nature. One of the most prominent critics said, “Its
satirical mode forces us to recognize the inconsistencies in our moral
consciousness” (Nichols 210). Nichols’ argument is one of the strongest in
favor of Huckleberry Finn. This argument illustrates his point that the main
theme of this novel is to show its reader that times have been much worse and
that we did not always enjoy the freedoms we take for granted today. This is
very true. For example, Pap, Huck’s father, is a blatant racist and displays
it often. A main example is when he rants and raves because they allowed a black
man to vote. He bellows, “But when they told me that there was a state in this
country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out”. (Twain 69). By
reading this passage, the reader can get a sense of what is was like back in the
early nineteenth century before blacks were freed showing the differences
between our times and times one hundred years ago. From this statement, the
reader can learn and be thankful that man has stopped such practices and evolved
to a more tolerant society. Another example that supports Nicholls statement is
shown when Sherburn killed Boggs in cold blood. A local lynch mob comes to hang
Sherburn and a near-riot situation happens. An event like this shows the reader
how man has changed and bettered himself from his ancestors. Today, we give
accused killers rights, “due process of law”, and proceed in a more
civilized manner (Marx 22). These differences between now and over one hundred
years ago show the reader how the human race has advanced. If this novel can
teach its reader about the evils of the past, then, perhaps, such evils will not
happen again (Smiley 1). In conclusion, educated readers and critics alike have
realized that Mark Twain meant no disrespect to black people in his novel
Huckleberry Finn. It can even be said that this book was anti – slavery and
did more disrespect to whites than blacks.

Allen, Micheal. Classic Literary Criticisms. New York: Oxford University
Press. 1981 Baldanza, Frank. Mark Twain. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1961.
Conn, Peter. Literature in America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Fishkin, Shelley F., Was Huck Black? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993),
p.3. Marx, Leo, "Huck at 100," The Nation, Aug. 31, 1985. Nichols,
Timothy. Classic Criticism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1976 Ritter,
Frank. “Polically Correct”. Op – ed page, Tennessean Times. September 18th
1996. Shepherd, Stephen (Oak Leaf Staff Writer) “Was Mark Twain Racist?”.
New York: Oxford university Press. 1983 Smiley, Jane, "Say It Ain't So,
Huck," Harper's, January 1996. Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Norton Anthology of American Literature_. 2 vols. Ed. Nina Baym, et al. 4th.
ed. New York: Norton, 1994. 29-214. Wallace John H, The Case Against Huck Finn

Good or bad? How would you rate this essay?
Help other users to find the good and worthy free term papers and trash the bad ones.
Like this term paper? Vote & Promote so that others can find it

Get a Custom Paper on Literature: Mark Twain:

Free papers will not meet the guidelines of your specific project. If you need a custom essay on Literature: Mark Twain: , we can write you a high quality authentic essay. While free essays can be traced by Turnitin (plagiarism detection program), our custom written papers will pass any plagiarism test, guaranteed. Our writing service will save you time and grade.

Related essays:

Literature: Mark Twain / Adventures Of Huck Finn
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Jim and Huck use and believe in many superstitions. There are many examples from the book that show this in the characters. Most of the superstitions are very rid...
Literature: Mark Twain / Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn
What is America all about? The land of the free and home of the brave. Although this infamous quote is true today, hundreds of years ago this quote was a lie. Not only were some white men not free to ...
Literature: Mark Twain / Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
This type of book is realistic fiction. The main character is Thomas Sawyer, a twelve year old boy, whose parents are dead. Tom lives with his aunt, Polly. Tom is busy either making trouble or thinkin...
Literature: Mark Twain / Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
Mark Twain’s, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, is a story told from the eyes of the young Tom Sawyer. The story takes place in the small rustic town of St. Petersburg Missouri. Tom Sawyer is the main cha...
Literature: Mark Twain / Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
“Tom Sawyer” is full of adventures. In this book there is an adventure around every corner. Some of his adventures have leaded him into some bad situations but with his good heart and bright mind he h...