Huck Finn- Racism Essay, Research Paper
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a Mark Twain classic, wonderfully demonstrates pre-Civil War attitudes about blacks held by whites. Twain demonstrates these attitudes through the actions and the speech of Huckleberry Finn, the narrator, and Jim, Miss Watson’s slave. These two main characters share a relationship that progresses from an acquaintance to a friendship throughout the novel. It is through this relationship that Mark Twain gives his readers the realization of just how different people’s attitudes were before the Civil War. Twain also reveals the negative attitudes of whites toward blacks by the cruel manner in which Jim is treated with such inferiority.
The beginning of Huck and Jim’s relationship is tainted with racism. When introducing the reader to Jim’s character, Huck describes Jim as illiterate, childlike, and superstitious. Although Huck describes Jim in a racist manner, it is not Huck himself who is racist. Instead, the widow, Miss Watson, and Pap, the adult “role models” in Huck’s life, are who instilled this hatred in Huck. Racism was all around Huck, and the transference of this bigotry to Huck could have hardly been avoided. Although Huck is a bit racist to Jim at the beginning of their journey, the negative attitude held by Huck begins to fizzle as their adventure continues on. The more Huck and Jim go through together, the closer the two become. Huck begins to see Jim as a friend and vice versa. By the end of their journey, Huck disagrees with society’s idea that blacks are inferior. One example of this is evident when Huck doesn’t tell anyone of Jim’s whereabouts. Huck doesn’t tell anyone because he knows that if he does, Jim will be forced to return to slavery. Instead, Huck chooses to “go to Hell” for his decision. He has shied away from society’s acceptance of slavery.
One of the ways Twain exposes the folly of the negative attitudes toward blacks is through describing the whites’ cruel and pointless acts of hatred directed toward Jim. The least severe of the cruel acts toward Jim is that whites often ridicule him. Another dehumanizing act is when Jim is made to hide his face in the daytime. The most foolish and ignorant idea of the whites, however, is when Silas Phelps locked up Jim. Another demonstration of the whites’ folly is when Pap, Huck’s father, violently objects to the granting of suffrage to a black man. Pap does not take into consideration that this man is an educated professor; he believes that he is superior to this black man simply because of the color of his skin. In actuality, however, Pap is an uneducated drunk. This adds to the irony of the white’s actions. These cruel acts performed by white people are silly and ignorant. These acts show the true close-mindedness and foolishness of the white people that materialized from society’s preformed hatred and racism.
The changes in Huck’s attitude toward Jim suggest that society’s negative attitudes can be revised. Many times society is expected to have a negative view on certain topics; in this case, the topic being blacks. No one person wants to rock the boat by voicing his or her opinion. However, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn demonstrates that preconceived ideas can be changed. All society needs is an open mind. By the end of the novel, Huck did not care at all about what anybody thought of him. He was proud to be friends with Jim, and Jim was proud to be friends with Huck.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an eye-opening novel that causes the readers to come to a blunt realization of what really went on before blacks gained their freedom. Through Huck and Jim’s rich friendship, the readers realize that preconceived notions are not always intelligent ones. Huck and Jim show that society can empty itself of hatred through an open mind and an open heart. Jim endured many unnecessary cruel acts of racism throughout the novel. If society had washed its hands of ignorance, these pointless acts would not have gone on, and slaves, represented by Jim, would not have been treated in a dehumanizing manner. Through the events of this novel, Twain educates the readers of the foolishness of past society in hopes that these acts of ignorance will cease.