The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, authored in the late 1800s by Mark Twain, is a widely known and loved novel whilst also being extremely controversial. In Twain’s writing, he dives into deep themes such as racism in the United States, how common and normal slavery felt to people of this time period, and the basic human morals that all people -not just whites- should possess. Twain’s famous novel takes place in the early 1800s, a time period in which inequality and slavery were widely praised and accepted because of how normal and common they were. This novel expresses true examples that took place during this time period, because there are many examples of racism included in Twain’s writing, which could potentially convince the readers to think that the author and the book itself may even be racist. On the contrary, it was written after slavery had been abolished, and authored by an anti-slavery advocate, so this novel also includes a perspective of Huck that includes themes of equality for all people. Twain uses characters from many different backgrounds & upbringings to give readers an insight into the views that were against slavery. Pap, Huck’s curt father, is an extremely racist white man who depicts blacks as property that can be bought and sold, and who should be treated like vermin.
He acts normal for this time period, and his dialogue in the novel expresses how many others felt towards African-Americans. This is shown when Pap says, “I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn’t too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote agin.” (29). Twain thoroughly displays how strong people’s opinions of racism were in the minds of people of the south through the character of Pap.
This character also shows the readers why Huck faces such a conflicting moral dilemma when choosing whether or not to free a slave. Children in the south like Huck, were all raised on the opinion to hate anyone who is not white. Even though Huck and Jim were friends, our protagonist still had a hard time going against the ideals that he’d been raised on his whole life. Huck begins to wonder if he believes in what he has been told his whole life or if he has a different opinion. This struggle is evident when Huck lies on Jim’s behalf and ensures the white man that the only man on the raft is, “white.
” (90). On one hand, he wants to stay true to what those who raised him have said – that blacks are a lesser breed and should not be given any rights. On the other hand, he wants to help Jim escape, since he is such a good friend to him.
Readers can easily notice the moral dilemma Huck is facing, as he chooses whether or not to hand Jim into the authorities and please the widow who raised him, that owns Jim, or if he should save his new friend that has shown Huck more kindness than his own father ever did. The effect of this dilemma begins Huck’s questioning of his past, and he starts to truly believe that his friend Jim is more than just a slave, he is a human that deserves to be treated as such.As the story develops, readers can see how Huck and Jim’s friendship grows, even though society deemed it unlawful.
As a result of spending more and more time with Jim, Huck’s opinions begin to develop into the belief that Jim was more than property – he was another person just like he is. Huck is never fully able to break free from the opinions that he was raised upon during his upbringing and change his thinking completely, but he did realize that Jim doesn’t deserve to be forced back into slavery, and so Huck decided to help him escape. Huck connected with Jim in a way that many white people never would, and Huck decided that it seemed unfair to force Jim back into a situation that he now knew was horrible and inhumane. This displays a different side of Huck to the readers – one that is starting to branch off from his father’s words, and become one of the first people to see Blacks as equals. Throughout the novel, Jim’s character portrays to the readers that he has become strong and respectable, in contrast to the illiterate slave that he was portrayed as at the beginning of the book.
It shows the development of the character’s thoughts throughout the plot – Jim is no longer simply a slave, he has a personality and the readers know that he is a wonderful, caring person. Through the change in Huck’s attitude, readers can infer that Jim has earned respect from him because of his actions and his kind heart. This situation would be condemned by the racist people of the time period, but Twain used Huck and Jim’s relationship to contrast all the racism in this novel with an abolitionist point of view. Huck, though he wouldn’t admit it, plays not only the part of a racist southern boy, but also that of an abolitionist and friend to a black man. Racism and segregation were both a huge issue at the end of the 19th century at the time when Huckleberry Finn was written. Characters like Pap, Huck, and Jim, faced these issues head on in this story.
It shows the progressions of a boy who was raised by extremely racist and intolerable people. He develops from an indoctrinated child and then into a young man who decides for himself that slaves are humans too. Mark Twain uses his book to show the different views of the age – that of Pap, the very racist drunkard, that of Jim, the kind and strong slave, and that of Huck, caught between sticking with what he’s been told is right and what he believes in.