Racism in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Free Essay

Published: 2023-03-14
Racism in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Free Essay
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Racism Stereotypes Social issue Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 2021 words
17 min read

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain that colorfully describes the people along the Mississippi River. Huckleberry Finn is the main character who is perceived as a boy about 13 or 14 years of age. The boy has a difficult time fitting into society throughout the novel, having been brought up in difficult circumstances. The novel features various themes, with the theme of racism being the most dominant. This is evident through various terms used in the novel, such as "nigger." Contemporary American society uses the term to show the difference between white and black people. The term implies how unjustly blacks were often treated in society. Huckleberry is perceived as exhibiting racism attitudes due to his environment. He was white from the Southern region. His intention in writing was to expose the hypocrisy of slavery; hence, demonstrate how racism was capable of distorting the oppressors as much as it did those who were oppressed. At one point, he states that "Human beings can be awful cruel to one another" (Twain 222).

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Mark Twain hints how slaveholders profited from slavery, notwithstanding the conditions of oppression, exploitation, physical harm, and mental abuse. At one point, he highlights how Jim has inhumanely ripped off his relationship and was dissociated from his family. Even so, the white slaveholders in the novel are found to rationalize every form of discrimination and oppression upon the black slaves. They lured them through promises such as racist stereotypes. They even went ahead to reaffirm that the blacks were mentally inferior compared to the white people and that they were more animal than human. Jim is the suspect to Huckleberry's murder only because he was black. Additionally, his action of running away is associated with his intentions to murder Huckleberry. At some point, Watson states, "Has everybody quit thinking the nigger done it?" (Twain 56). Even so, he is seen by the reader as innocent and running in a bid for freedom and to stay with his family. The slaveholders and racists, therefore, harm blacks yet also unknowingly harm themselves. The novel highlights their misunderstanding of what constitutes being humane as they are much determined to make huge profits by exploitation.

Towards the end of the novel, Jim is traded to Tom Sawyer's relatives. It was the intention of Tom and Huck to rescue Jim from slavery. Jim was a simple-minded person who was increasingly sympathetic. He is one character who does not deserve any oppression. Even as Huckleberry runs away from his abusive father, Pap, Jim goes ahead to reveal that he had been in hiding for some days to avoid being sold away. He could later solve his dilemma by planning an escape to Illinois. Therefore, Huckleberry and Jim are seen as equal as they are victims of abuse even though Jim's trouble was to greater extents considering the racial prejudice in America at that period. Slavery was a despicable and social injustice act. Jim was also an inferior character, having been brought up in a racially intolerant society. At some point, Huckleberry opts for the worse by rejecting his previous prejudice only to rescue Jim. He states, "All right, then, I'll go to hell!" (Twain 212). his statement proves how he was transiting from tolerance and showing that Jim required help from his condition and oppression.

At the beginning of the piece, Huckleberry buys into racial stereotypes. He is lured to the extent of reprimanding himself for not surrendering Jim, who ran away for freedom. He even had the entire societal and legal obligation to turn him in. With time, they become friends, and he realizes that they are both human beings who care for other people and who had the abilities to make a wise or even foolish decision. However, Jim proves to be better than any other people met by Huck in his travels. In the end, Huckleberry realizes that there was more sense even in defying his religion and society than let his friend, who could care and hurt, be stuck in slavery and oppression. He even opted to "steal Jim out of slavery" (Twain, 212).

Most of the time, Huckleberry could find himself in a moral dilemma on whether to perform as expected by society or choose to follow what he thought was best. Therefore, he betrayed the society by going against the expected to maintain his relationship with Jim. The actions by Huckleberry provide some detail that there was succinct decision making in the process. However, the actions were wrong by the society at that single time and place even though Huckleberry did not care as he had enough oppression from his father. Sometimes he could find himself thinking of giving Jim up as a runaway slave. "Then I thought a minute, and says to myself, hold on, suppose you could have done right and given Jim up, would you feel better than what you do now? No, says I, I'd feel bad---I'd feel just the same way I do now" (Twain 91). The statement gives a perspective of self-argument on the right thing to do. He settles for doing what his heart tells him and neglects every forceful action of society.

The novel additionally features both unsympathetic racist characters as well as partially sympathetic characters. The unsympathetic characters include Miss Watson and Pap. Watson was a member of the aristocratic class in St. Petersburg, who was proud of her Christian values (Twain 2). Even so, she remained to be a slave owner. She was the one who put Jim into slavery and let him remain there for a long period. Furthermore, she was capable of selling him to New Orleans for monetary gains. That could have been a virtual death sentence as slaves were oppressed to work to death in the harsh environments of the cotton plantations. She, therefore, remains to be a hypocrite for not abiding by her ideals of kindness and mercy as expected of Christianity. On the other side, Pap is the most virulent racist character besides being Huckleberry's father. He can be perceived as the novel's greatest villain.

Pap oppressed his son throughout his life and later returned to him after abandoning him just because Huckleberry became wealthy. At one point, he held Huckleberry captive outside of town. Jim gives a dialect in regards to racism when he implies that "You know my father, he sometimes did not know what to do. Sometimes he would go away and some others he would stay" (Twain 19). He went to a racist diatribe where he is seen to complain of the African-Americans who were allowed to vote. His oppression and forms of discrimination to his son are evidence of racist attitudes within the same society.

Mrs. Judith Loftus and Huckleberry were the partially sympathetic characters in the novel. Loftus was a white woman who met Huckleberry as soon as he returned to St. Petersburg. She is perceived as a kind woman who could take up the Christian values of Watson. She was of magnanimous character towards Huckleberry for his disguise. It was assumed that Huckleberry had a reason to conceal his identity. Therefore, she was aimed at seeing the best in others. Even so, she was uncompromising when it was time to capture Jim. She wanted a three hundred dollar exchange for returning Jim home. "The nigger runs off the very night Huck Finn was killed. So there's a reward out for him -- three hundred dollars" (Twain 55). Even with little doubts such as smoke from a campfire, she intends to send her husband to check him out there and capture him. It reaches a time when she ignores the suffering that Jim would undergo as soon as he was recaptured. Loftus was from a slave-owning culture, a reason why her blood rushed for the capture of Jim. It is the racist attitude and environment that she was brought that let her become blinded to Jim's humanity.

Slavery is the best-known aspect of the novel that is covered under the theme of racism. Twain had a unique perspective of slavery and the ideas surrounding racism. Even so, these concepts have been debated greatly, and in his personal and public life, Twain is considered as an anti-slave. Various events in the novel support his anti-slavery actions. In the novel, he explains how and why slavery is a wrongful act, especially when blacks are considered in oppressing ways. Twain uses Jim as the main character in slavery to demonstrate the inhumanity of racism. Jim is used to proving the inhumanity that exists with oppression and discrimination because of color (Twain 99). Throughout the novel, Jim shows complicated human emotions and struggles with his life in St. Petersburg.

Jim had to apologize for no reason. "It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I have done it, and I am not even sorry for it afterward, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't do that one if I'd a knew it would make him feel that way" (Twain 111). Jim is used to showing the lack of freedom with racism. His separation from his family proves the implications of racism. Additionally, his struggle with the hypocrite Ms. Watson proves the oppression as a result of racism. He additionally is seen to protect Huck, not because he was a servant but because he had created a friendship with him. While reading through the events by Jim and Huck, the reader is expected to have emotions, sympathy, and empathy for both Jim and Huck.

Twain proves how they were enslaved and threatened because of their color. Even though Twain aims to prove the concept of racism by giving Jim's example, he does not directly address the issue in quotes. For instance, there is no point at which Jim and Huck argue about the issues of racism or slavery. The only cases they talked about were about language. Jim confronted Huck that, "Looky here, Jim; does a cat talk like we do?" (Twain 98). Additionally, every other character in the novel is seen as a minor one, and still, they do not address the issues to do with racism directly. It is only to the final lead that the novel draws in some central conflict regarding slavery.

There is a tough decision on whether Huck should free Jim only to be condemned to hell. The decision at that point is life-threatening for Huck. He even goes to the extent of rejecting everything that he was taught through civilization. Therefore he opts to free Jim as a result of his personal experiences compared to social norms as given by society (Twain 212). Both Jim and Huck are rational characters throughout the novel, and as soon as they encountered superstitious events, they were overwhelmed with irrationality. They were mature people to make valid decisions for them, a reason they chose to stand against slavery and racism. Racism is evident through the action of choosing morality through natural life over that of civilization.

The entire novel also has various racial slurs from different people. For instance, the dialect by Huck that "The widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she civilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out" proves how oppressed he was (Twain 1). From an analytic point of view, these slurs are not meant to be a representation of the author's attitude, as could be commonly thought. These were meant to depict common language as well as expressions involving Black Americans. The issue of racism is directly presented rather than being complex and uneven. The author also made conscious efforts to say that every person has the same heart. The setting and action of the novel present such efforts.

Additionally, the slurs that are consistent throughout the novel prove the stereotypical character created by Mark Twain. Therefore, according to him, life ought to be induced to stand as wrath against the racist attitude of various people.

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