Essay, Research Paper: Mark Twain And Adventures Of Huck Finn

Literature: Mark Twain

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In the novel by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the two main
characters, Huck and Jim, are strongly linked. Their relation is portrayed by
various sides, some of them good and some others bad. But the essential interest
of that relation is the way that uses the author to describe it. Even if he had
often been misunderstood, Twain always implied a message behind the themes
developed around Huck and Jim. The first encounter between Huck Finn and Jim is
at the beginning of the book, when Huckís friend, Tom Sawyer, tries to fool
Jim, Miss Watsonís slave. Huck and Jim still donít know each other, but Huck
isnít biased against the old slave. Itís an important point because, as
racism was a widely held mentality in the South, we can learn that that young
boy was more open-minded than most people there. Later, they find themselves in
the same situation. As they were escaping from the civilized world, they take
refuge in the Jacksonís Island, on the Mississippi river. Huck is running away
from a bad father and Jim has leaved Miss Watson because he didnít want to be
sold to New Orleans. Soon after joining Jim on the island, Huck begins to
realize that Jim has more talents and intelligence than Huck has been aware of.
Jim knows "all kinds of signs" about the future, people's
personalities, and weather forecasting. Huck finds this kind of information
necessary as he and Jim drift down the Mississippi on a raft. As important, Huck
feels a comfort with Jim that he has not felt with the other major characters in
the 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 starts
out as an extra person just to take on the journey, but they transform into a
friend. "It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and
humble myself to a nigger."(chap. XV) Huck tries to squeal on Jim but can't
because he remembers that Jim called him "de bes' fren' I ever had;...de
on'y white genlman dat ever kep' his promise to ole Jim."(chap. XVI) Huck
realizes that he can not turn Jim in since they both act as runaway outcasts on
the river. The support they have for each other sprouts friendship. As does the
Widow, 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 intimidating
or as imaginary as is Tom's. As does Pap, Jim allows Huck freedom, but he does
it in a loving, rather than an uncaring, fashion. Thus, early, in their
relationship on Jackson's Island, Huck says to Jim, "This is nice. I
wouldn't want to be nowhere else but here." This feeling is in marked
contrast with Huck's feelings concerning other people in the early part of the
novel where he always is uncomfortable and wishes to leave them. The lack of
comfort 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 slavery
conflict, we easily understand the situation of Jim. And one of the main ideas
of this Mark Twainís masterpiece deals with a multiracial coupleís story.
The relationship between black and white was hardly accepted in the 1830ís.
Such an adventure, two male characters, with opposite colour of skin, striking
up a friendship, was considered as a provocation by the society. The author
knows that very well and will try, through his two heroes, to denounce the
drifting of the Nation. Irony is his main weapon against that obscurantism. He
uses it as often as possible. For instance, on chapter XIV, Huck tries to
explain to Jim why a Frenchman is a man, even if he speaks differently. The
ironical feature comes from the fact that this black slave doesnít understand
the equality of all people, whereas himself isnít considered equal by the
white. Besides, another ironical aspect is that we think first, in that chapter,
that the white boy will civilize the black man whereas weíll discover further
that it is the contrary. First person brings the reader a more innocent side of
the story, so the reader feels more compassion for the small boy. The symbolic
image falls into play between Huck and Jim, "...en trash is what people is
dat 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 first
time shows feelings for Huck and lets him know you don't treat people who care
for you like "trash". This makes Huck aware that Jim means more to him
than just someone's slave, he now considers him a true friend. Next, Huck
finally sees Jim's loyalty toward him, "...so Jim he said he would stand
the first half of it for me..."(chap. XX), keeping a special watch not
waking him on his turn, "...I went to sleep, and Jim didn't call me when it
was 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 a
child had more effect instead of having two grown men, because a child needs a
father figure. Jim fit the description and perfectly provided that for him. The
mutual affection between Huck and Jim will even lead them to sorts of
sacrifices. When Huck discovers that Jim has been captured, Huck must decide
whether to turn in Jim and tell Miss Watson, or accept going to hell. He finally
chooses "hell" when he says, "I took it [letter to Miss Watson]
up, 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 says
to 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's
sacrifice is a noble and uncharacteristic achievement, allowing Huck to
unknowingly be bound for heaven. Jim's sacrifice, although small in his own
mind, is in fact one of the bravest sacrifices made throughout this book. For
example, after Tom gets shot in the leg, Jim displays his concern for Tom as he
says, "No, sah-I doan' budge a step out'n dis place 'dout a doctor; not if
it's forty year!" Despite all of the racist and harsh tricks Tom has played
on Jim, Jim risks his life to save his "friend." Rather than abandon
Tom, Jim is willing to risk his freedom to save Tom's life. Moreover, as Jim
makes this brave sacrifice, Huck thinks to himself, "I knowed he was white
inside."(chap. XL) Through Jim's sacrifice for Tom, Huck discovers that all
men, including blacks, are in fact equal. Huck no longer looks down upon Jim as
a "nigger," but rather as an equal human being. Lastly, the doctor
describes Jim's heroic sacrifice to the Phelps and tells them that, "He
ain't a bad nigger...and I never see a nigger that was a better nuss or
faithfuler, 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 had
treated him, not as an equal, but as an inferior, unequal nigger. Jim's
sacrifice is clearly an act of bravery far more heroic than the sacrifice Huck
made earlier in the novel. Huck and Jim's sacrifices for each other, however
different, also present many similarities. For example, Huck and Jim both think
they are sacrificing themselves for a friend. Huck sacrifices himself for a
black friend he has come to love as an equal. Similarly, Jim sacrifices himself
for a friend, when in reality, he is risking his freedom to save the life of a
racial bigot, Tom. In addition, both sacrifices have as a consequence a life of
everlasting hell. When Huck sacrifices himself for Jim, he accepts a literal
hell (that is truly the path to heaven). Jim, on the other hand, accepts a life
of figurative hell in slavery, when he is in fact free all along. Finally, each
sacrifice shares irony, in that they were both based on unknown pieces of
unknown, but significant pieces of information. Huck is unaware that his
decision of accepting "hell" will actually lead to his salvation and
ironically decides on doing what the thinks is "wrong." Likewise, Jim
is unaware that he is free, and is not risking his freedom in saving Tom. In
making these two brave sacrifices, Huck and Jim achieve a higher character than
if they had chosen easier paths. Huck's willingness to face hell to protect Jim
and Jim's willingness to face capture and slavery to save Tom, both contribute
to 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 past
colour boundaries, and discover that "all me are created equal."
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