Essay, Research Paper
Huck s Moral Lessons and His Changing Attitude Toward Jim
Essay written by: piscesj38
In many ways, to understand the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, the reader must also know a little about the author. Mark Twain was one of the many pen names of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He was born in 1835 and grew up in the Mississippi River town of Hannibal, Missouri. Twain is considered the father of modern American literature, primarily because of this novel. Numerous schools have banned this novel from their reading lists because they believe it to be racist. The ironic part of this is that Clemens was an abolitionist. He hoped that people would understand and be able to see the unfairness and horrors of slavery by reading his book and seeing what slavery does to people.
This book is set in the year 1852 in the south. It is a coming of age novel about an adolescent boy named Huckleberry Finn. In this early stage of his life, Huckleberry is taught many of life s lessons that will help him deal with events that may occur later on in his life. Huck fakes his death in order to run away from his alcoholic father and his caretaker, Mrs. Watson, and also to escape from being sivilized . While floating down the Mississippi River, he meets Jim, the runaway slave who is owned by Mrs. Watson. His life begins to change when he is faced with many moral struggles along the way. He has to fight against society s views, which conflict with his views. One of the most significant moral struggles that confronts him is the issue of slavery. Throughout the novel, Huck Finn becomes more self-reliant and mature. He begins to understand the evil in slavery and he realizes that he must follow his own conscience in his actions towards Jim.
Even at the beginning of the novel, before Huck has gotten a chance to explore what he believes is right, Huck has grown tired of dealing with society and what society thinks is right and civilized. He says, “The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me…I got into my old rags and my sugar hogshead again, and was free and satisfied (1).” Huck prefers living free and being able to think what he wants, rather than being sivilized. When Huck escapes from society, he runs into Jim at Jackson Island and is very happy to see him. Later Huck plays a mean trick on Jim. He kills a rattlesnake and puts it on the foot of Jim s blankets. Huck expects that Jim will react like any stereotypically, foolish, black person. As Chadwick states, Huck thinks that, (Jim s) eyes will bug out; his teeth will chatter; his knees will knock together; and Huck will have a good healthy laugh (2). But Jim is not a stereotype (Chadwick 2), and the joke turns bad when Jim gets bitten by the snake s mate. This tests Huck morality. Huck feels ashamed for what he did, but does not blame himself for not understanding that Jim is a human being (Chadwick 2). This shows his immaturity in the early stage of the novel.
Another event that teaches Huck a moral lesson is when Jim and Huck s rafts get separated on the Mississippi River. This event is the opportune time for Huck to play another trick on Jim. When they find each other, Huck tells Jim that he was dreaming and that they were never separated. Huck later tells Jim that they actually were separated, and expects Jim to laugh. The laughter does not come (Chadwick 3). Instead, Jim tells him, dat truck dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren s en makes em ashamed (86) . Huck then realizes that he has made a mistake, and that Jim also has feelings. He says, It was 15 minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I wasn t ever sorry for it afterward, neither (86). This event teaches Huck that when he makes a mistake, it is necessary to apologize.
As the story goes on, Huck begins to feel very protective and caring for Jim. This reaches a peak when Huck saves Jim from two slave catchers by tricking them into thinking that Jim is Huck s father, who is inflicted with small pox. Huck continues to realize that Jim has feelings when Jim talks about his family and how much he misses them.
In the climax of the novel, Huck fights with two different and distinct voices (Internet 1). One is the voice of society, which says that Huck should turn Jim in as a runaway slave because he is property and belongs to Miss Watson. The other voice is Huck s own, and it sees the wrong of turning in his friend. This voice does not view Jim as a slave, but as an equal and a friend (Internet 1). Huck, who is influenced by society has taught him, says, Well, I can tell you it made me all over trembly and feverish, too, to hear him, because I begun to get it through my head that he was most free-and who was to blame for it? Why, me. I could get that out of my conscience, no how nor no way (161), when talking about helping Jim run away. He starts to write a letter to Mrs. Watson telling her that Jim has run away because he starts to feel very guilty for helping Jim escape. Then Huck realizes that he would feel even more guilty if he turned in his great friend. He rips up the letter and says, Alright, then, I ll go to hell(162). This statement shows that Huck believes himself to be wrong, and that what society believes is right (McDonough 2). Huck s decision to continue to help free Jim show how his own instincts often hold him to a higher individual moral standard than to society s (McDonough 1).
Throughout his life, society has taught Huck that slavery is a part of life. The accepted was of thinking was that slaves were inhumane and pieces of property. He is told that slaves are just lesser people than people of the white race. Because it is what everyone believes, this prejudice is hard to erase and stays with Huck for a long time. Gradually, Huck begins to realize that this is not true. Jim shows him that even though he is a slave, he is a real person, not a piece of property. He has feelings, just like Huck himself. Huck continually learns through each individual incident how Jim is a genuine, caring and good person. Slowly, Huck begins to rethink some of the prejudices that he has been taught his whole life. He becomes his own person by choosing what he thinks is right to do, instead of what society says is right. This is difficult task that shows how Huck s maturity and his ability to think for himself has grown throughout this novel.