Mark Twain In his famed novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain writes a classic American adventure story, complete with moral dilemmas, the theme of an individual against society, and the proverbial journey into maturity. However, the focus of his book is not on the adventure itself, but rather on the pseudo father-son relationship that springs up between Jim and Huck during their pilgrimage down the Mississippi. Huck, an uncivilized, pragmatic child, has had little if any controlling influence in his life. His father Pap is an abusive alcoholic who kidnaps him in the beginning of the novel, setting the scene for his disappearance and the ensuing journey. Huck meets Jim, an escaped slave, and accepts him as a companion, as they are both running for their freedom. However, Huck still sees Jim as a slave, a piece of property, rather than a human.
This changes as the two journey down the Mississippi River, becoming dependent on each other, one filling both a practical ! and emotional need of the other. This bond begins to fade from view as the book strays from Huck and Jim with the introduction of the Duke and the Dauphin, and gets progressively further from view towards the end of the book. Eventually, When Twain re-introduces Tom in the end of the novel, he removes Huck and Jims relationship as the focus of the book and thereby dilutes his message. Huck and Jim begin their travels together as two very different people running in the same direction, yet end as the closest of friends. In the beginning, Huck and Jim stay together out of need because Jim needs a white person to run with to avoid being captured as a slave, and Huck is lonely by himself. Running together, they gradually become good friends, but their camaraderie is not cemented until they are separated and later reunited in chapter fifteen. In this chapter, the two are separated in a dense fog near Cairo, their destination, where the Ohio river joins the Mississippi.
After many hours, Huck finally makes his way back to the raft, which he finds with one broken oar and covered with debris. Jim is sleeping, and Huck, still in a childish state of mind, decides to play a joke on Jim by pretending that he was never lost. He pretends to wake up next to Jim, who is overjoyed to see him, and convinces him that the whole episode was a dream. When Jim finally rea! lizes that Huck is fooling him, he admonishes him sharply for it, “my heart wuz mos’ broke bekase you wuz los’, en I didn’ k’yer no’ mo’ what become er me en de raf’. En when I wake up en fine you back agin, all safe en soun’, de tears come, en I could a got down on my knees en kiss yo’ foot, I’s so thankful.
En all you wuz thinkin’ ’bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. 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.” (Twain, 109) It is here that Jims association with Hucks really becomes paternal, for Jims words are those of a responsible father whose son has acted shamefully. Jims words have a profound affect on Huck, who realizes that Jim is a person, and that his feelings can be hurt. Regardless of his former friendship with Jim, he still considered him a lowly slave until then. In the early 1800s in the South, blacks were slaves, and the social order was accepted. Most people thought nothing of black rights, they were considered property.
As Huck states, “I was stealing a poor old woman’s nigger that hadn’t ever done me no harm”(Twain, 271) Twains installation of Jim as a symbolic father for Huck is a rejection of this sentiment, in that he sees Jim as a person, and a far better one than Hucks real father who, despite his white skin, never treated Huck as a good father should. Pap seems to typify the whites in this story, most of whom are ethically barren in one way or another. The Duke and the Dauphin are frauds, the Grangerfords and the Shepardsons kill each other over nothing, and Colonel Sherburn kills Boggs without a thought. By rights, Jim is morally superior to virtually all the whites in the book. Such is shown when Jim sacrifices his freedom to stay with Tom when he lies wounded on the raft in the end of the novel, despite the fa! ct that it was Tom who had been tormenting Jim for weeks with his asinine rescue game.
All this ties into Twains message, which is a cry for racial equality. Unfortunately, Toms re-appearance dilutes this message, making it not as emphatic as it could have been. When Tom meets Huck in the end of the book, he immediately takes control of the situation, telling Huck that to rescue Jim the “right” way, they must use the most excessively complicated method possible. This entails all sorts of unnecessary things like digging into the cabin through the floor, having Jim write messages in his own blood on plates and throw them out the window, and filling the cabin with rats, spiders, snakes, and other unpleasant creatures to make the environment more like that of a prison for Jim. Being the pragmatist he is, I would have thought Huck would have objected to the extensive measures Tom went to, especially considering the fact that Huck could have rescued Jim much quicker using his own ideas.
Huck idolized Tom all throughout the novel, and thus his reasoning was that Tom was smarter, and knew more about rescuing people. However, as Huck has spent the entire novel fighting against societal etiquette which he deems impractical, it seems odd tha! t he would follow it here, regardless of who preaches it. Also, because Jim meant more to Huck than anything else, and as Huck was willing to go to Hell for Jim, it would have seemed like Huck would have placed a higher priority on Jims rescue. Needless to say, Hucks relative complacency during this ordeal weakens Twains message by degrading the quality of his relationship with Jim, for were it more important, Huck would have freed him sooner. Furthermore, when Tom treats Jim cruelly, as he would a slave, he negates Jims previous standing as an actual person, with real feelings.
As Walter Blair writes, “Jim, whom the reader and Huck has become to love and admire, becomes a victim of meaningless torture, a cartoon.” (Miller, 91) Despite its childish appeal, Huckleberry Finn is a serious novel, with definite moral implications. However, when Tom re-appears in the end of the book, he usurps control of the story for twelve chapters, turning it into a game, a prank, a narrative more fitting to his novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, than its counterpart. Works Cited Miller, Robert K. Mark Twain. New York: Fredrick Ungar Publishing Co., 1983. (91) Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1896. (109, 271) .