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A Father Does Not Always Know Best

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A Father Does Not Always Know Best Essay, Research Paper

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain brilliantly illustrates a boy’s travels down the Mississippi and the trials and tribulations that occur as a result. Having a runaway slave as a companion and being set in the South during slavery only forebodes trouble. The many characters and stunts that Huck’s pulls provides for an interesting depiction of a young man’s venture down a river. Huck lives in a small town and has only one drunken parent, which supplies Huck with many problems. His biological father, Pap, wanders from town to town, begging for money and drinking; and every once in a while pops back into Huck’s life to beg money and to scold his son for going to school and becoming ?sivilized?. However, there is also another male figure that acts as a father to young Huck. Miss Watson’s slave Jim travels along with Huck and befriends the boy. Because Jim is a role model and mentor to the young Huck, he is more of a father figure than his biological father.

Jim also teaches him principles directly through their conversations and debates. “Jim said he reckoned that the widow was partly right and that Pap was partly right, so the best way would be or us to pick two or three things from the list and say we wouldn’t borrow them anymore? (Twain, 49). Jim taught Huck how to combine what he had been taught so far and how to rationalize. He also taught Huck little fables and old wives tales such as the ‘bad luck if ya touch a rattlesnake’ and ‘a hairy breast mean ya gonna be rich sumday…(Twain, 40, 34) “Jim says you mustn’t catch a bird cause it’s death and you mustn?t count the thing you’re ganna cook for dinner cause it’s bad luck” (Twain, 34) Jim teaches him both lessons that are essential to life and ones that are amusing and make life interesting. Fathers satisfy the needs of their sons. Jim satisfied Huck?s need for exploration and his quest for knowledge and also satisfied his need for pleasure and enjoyment.

A father teaches his son lessons. Jim taught Huck many lessons both unintentionally and directly. Jim shows Huck that slaves are human people. Huck learns that slaves are capable of human emotions such as love and compassion because Jim talked of buying his wife out of slavery and stealing his children out of bondage. Jim talks of how he remembers beating his little girls and shows that he regrets it and is overcome with sadness. Jim also discusses how he missed his family at the end of the novel. As Huck listens to all of this throughout the story he concludes that slaves have feelings and emotions and that they love their families just as white folk love their families. He begins to see beyond skin color and see Jim as father and a husband. He, as a result, learns compassion from Jim

On the contrary, Pap does teach Huck lessons, but not in the loving way a father should. He teaches Huck what not to be. Huck learns what he wants to be in life or what he wants to do, by seeing what he doesn’t want to become. Pap drinks heavily, and beg and filches and cons the good people of the town. On top of this Pap is arrogant and ignorant, a dangerous combination. He tries to steal and swindle his own son; therefore Huck learns that this is not good from the way he feels because of this. Pap kidnaps, beats and holds hostage his own son. Thus, Huck learns that whatever his father does is usually wrong and illegal. “And lookey here, yo drop that school, ya hear? …Ain’t you a sweet-scented dandy, though, bed and bed clothes. Drop these frills, ya here” (Twain, 15). Pap instructs Huck on how to steal, that school and houses and civilization is bad in general and that black men are substandard and inferior and should not be allowed to vote. Fathers do not fill their children?s heads with lies and myths. Fathers, also, do not abuse their children emotionally, physically or mentally. All of which Pap did.

Oh, yes, this is a wonderful government, wonderful. Why, lookey here, there was this free nigger there in Ohio…they said he was a p’fessor in a college and could talk all kinds of languages and knowed all sorts of things. And that ain’t the worst. They said he could vote. …What is this country comin’ to?…I says I’ll never vote again…why ain’t this nigger put up on auction and sold? (Twain, 20)

He filled Huck’s head with lies. He rationalized stealing anyway he could and just leeched off of society. He had only lies and short cuts to teach Huck.

Not only does a father teach his son right from wrong and the such, he cares and protects his son. ?Jim said if we had the canoe hid in a good place, and had all the traps in the cavern, we could rush there if anybody was to come to the island” (Twain, 36). Jim helped Huck find a safe spot in the cave and secure their contraband from the rain. He also shares his meals with Huck and they both help each other out when they have to escape or are in a scrape. He cares for Huck and does not to want to see him hurt. When they went exploring on the ship-wrecked houseboat, Jim would not let Huck see the man sleeping in the corner. “‘Come in Huck, but doan’ look at his face-it’s too gashly’. I didn’t look at him and Jim threw rags over him.” (Twain, 38) The dead man was Pap and Jim didn’t want Huck to see his father and be upset and have that added trauma and stress. Jim looked out for Huck and guarded him. Jim taught him many things and took care of Huck, at times.

Pap, while he was still alive, had beaten Huck repeatedly, kidnapped him and scared his child so bad that he faked his own death to escape his clutch. Pap certainly did not care or even love Huck, he was simply a person who knew he could exert control over another person to use for his own selfish gain. He did not want to provide for Huck nor was he even remotely happy when good things happened for Huck. Huck and Tom found money. Instead of being happy for his son, he wanted to take it all from the boy. Instead of thanking the widow for taking care of his boy and providing for him the things and the life he could not give Huck, he scolded Huck for ‘Puttin’ on airs” (Twain, 11). He threatens to give him a cowhide if he caught Huck going to school or church or staying with the widow and becomin’ ’sivilized’. He was utterly jealous of his son and did not know what it meant to love anyone but himself. He did not care about providing for his son.

Finally, Jim provided Huck with a healthy relationship and his presence alone taught virtues and characteristics. Huck guarded Jim and learned what it meant to care for another person. Jim made Huck question morals and ethics that had been socially conditioned into him. He gained a sense of respect for Jim. “He had a pretty level head for a nigger” Huck declares one day (Twain, 58). He begins to see Jim as a person from whom he can learn. Jim fostered affection from Huck. This sense of concern for another person is proven when Huck told Jim to ” lie down in the canoe since it was pretty light out” (Twain, 39). When Huck plays the trick on Jim and makes him think that their trial in the fog was a dream and Jim plays along and then Jim gets angry at Huck for thinking he was dumb enough to fall for such a gag Huck feels genuinely bad.

When I got all wore out wid work en wid calin? for you en went to sleep my heart wuz mos’ broke bekase you wuz los en I didn’t k’yer no mo’ what becom er me…en when I wake backup you back agin’ all safe en soun’ de tears come en all you wuz thinkin? about was how you could make a ool uv ol’ Jim wid a lie. Then he got walked into the wigwam without saying anything, but that was enough. I felt so mean, I woudn’t have done that if I knowed it’d make him feel that way. (Twain, 65)

This passage illustrates many points. It shows that Huck had feeling for Jim. He cared how he made him feel and thought of him as a friend. He felt bad for lying and wanted to apologize. It also shows that Jim put Huck? safety before his. He said he did not even care what happened to himself as long as Huck was safe and fine. That shows the true love and compassion of a parent. Also, when Huck declares ?fine, I?ll go to Hell? he demonstrated that even though he believed it was wrong to help Jim escape and that he would be severely punished by God, he helped him anyways (Twain, 162). Huck had learned compassion from his travels with Jim. Jim loved Huck and Huck loved Jim, they were friends and they were both better people because of their friendship. Yet, because of Jim?s age and Pap?s absense, Jim served more as a father than as only a friend.

Huck and his biological father did not foster a wholesome rapport. Pap did not provide Huck with any sort of basis for any moral or ethical system. He, himself, did not possess any ethics or virtues and thus could not imbue any to his young son. The only legacy that he did leave Huck was what not to do and what not to be. He showed him that whiskey was corrupting and that it can wreck a man. Pap did not learn from his son and the things Huck did learn were lessons that he would have learned anyways. Consequently, Huck did not benefit at all from having Pap around and Pap did not grow from having Huck around. It was not a healthy relationship. Pap did not care about Huck and he put his own needs before his son?s, if anything, he did the opposite. Only biologically can Pap be considered as a father to Huck.

Jim and Pap are very contrasting characters, and accordingly affected Huck differently. Jim embodies the qualities and values that a good citizen and a good father need to exemplify. Pap is a parasite of society, feeding off of charity, other people?s kindness and most of his all son. He possesses no admirable qualities or work ethic. A father figure is supposed to teach his son morals, lessons and provide for his son. Jim met all the requirements; Pap did not meet any. Huck learned principles, love, respect, empathy and consideration. He only learned about the evils and pitfalls of man from Pap. Pap beat and abused Huck. Such as when they were in the cottage after he kidnapped Huck. ?I used to scared of him all the time, he tanned me so much.? (Twain, 14) No nurturing father instills fear in their children. He did not provide for his son or even care about his son. He thought of his son as property and only wanted to be in possession of his property. However, Jim thought of Huck as a friend, a person. He helped Huck and provided for him throughout their travels down the Mississippi. Yet, all being stated, it really only comes down to how Huck felt about and thought of the two men. He did not love Pap. He despised the drunken freeloader and feared his visits. However, Huck did love Jim, or at least he cared about Jim. This is established when Huck lied to Jim about the fog and then Jim disclosed his concern for the missing Huck and the hurt Huck caused when he lied to him, and Huck felt bad. He wished he hadn?t lied and made Jim feel like so bad. This shows that Huck cared about what Jim and their relationship. Because Pap was detrimental to Huck and Jim was a positive influence and role model, Jim can be seen as a father figure and Pap as only an inebriated user.

Works CitiedTwain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dover Publications, Inc.: New York, New York, 1994.

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