Huck Essay, Research Paper

You Don?t Know Me?

In Chapter 1 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck spoke for Mark Twain

when he made the statement, ?You don?t know about me…but that ain?t no matter.? The

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was not a sequel to his other adventure stories but a

literary statement questioning how civilized our American society really was. Twain was

not a racist but a realist. The perception of racism in the novel should be attributed to the

historical setting and the effect it had on its characters. The story took place in the South

before the Civil War. The South?s economic structure depended on keeping the Negro in

servitude. Many white Americans accepted slavery and believed the Negroes were inferior

which resulted in racist attitudes and behaviors. Twain used the character development of

Jim and Huck to demonstrate how these attitudes could change once Huck was able to see

past the cultural stereotype of Jim being a Negro and recognize he was a person who was

both noble and decent and deserved to be free like any other man whether he was black or


Twain?s early development of the character Jim has been controversial because of

the apparent racism. In the early chapters, Jim was portrayed as a typical slave stereotype:

superstitious, ignorant, and naive. On two separate occasions Huck delighted in

exploiting Jim?s superstitious beliefs to play a joke on him. In Chapter 10, Huck put a

dead snake in Jim?s blanket after Jim had warned him that, ?it was the worse luck in the

world to touch a snakeskin.? Then Huck realized Jim wasn?t really the fool he thought

him to be when the dead rattlesnake?s mate returned and bit Jim. Huck felt bad. Huck

played his last trick on Jim after they passed Cairo and got separated by the currents. At

first, Huck thought it was funny to pretend that they had never been separated, but he was

humbled by Jim?s reactions which showed both dignity and his strong sense of value.

Huck?s viewpoint of Jim was changing, but his former upbringing was evident when he

openly admitted, ?It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to and humble

myself to a nigger.?

It was statements like this that have made many dispute Twain?s intentions. Did he

have to use the word ?nigger? over two hundred times? Throughout The Adventures of

Huckleberry Finn, Twain used dialect and the word ?nigger.? The use of the word was

not purely racist, since it was not used in a derogatory manner but as a term meaning black

person. The real racism was in the way the characters viewed ?niggers.? After the

steamboat explosion in Chapter 32 Aunt Sally said, ?Good gracious! anybody hurt??

Then Huck casually replied, ?No?m. Killed a nigger.? Relieved Aunt Sally said, ?Well it?s

lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt.? Twain was being ironic and wanted his

reader to see the real truth behind the Southern perception of humanity. Neither

considered the death of a Negro worth noting.

As the novel progressed, Huck had to wrestle with the former values instilled in

him by this culture. During Huck and Jim?s adventures down the river, Huck learned the

real difference between hypocrisy and prejudice and friendship and values. The senseless

killing between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons made him question civilized ways

that perpetuated a feud where basically good people foolishly follow old customs rather

than changing tradition. Huck was further angered that a whole town could be duped by

the king and duke. The town symbolized society. Even though some of the townspeople

disagreed with the king when he inhumanly separated and sold the Wilks family?s slaves,

no one interfered. Although many could interpret this incident as racist, Twain used this

incident to show how Huck?s viewpoint and values had changed. Huck realized that Jim

and other ?niggers? were not just someone else?s property but human beings and should

be treated accordingly.

Twain was not a racist. Throughout the book, he did not make one derogatory

remark about the black people but instead characterized some of the members of the

civilized society which had enslaved them to be religious zealots and hypocrites, fools and

liars, robbers and murderers, and rogues and scoundrels. Twain had satirized the pre-civil

war American society and its institutions to make his reader question their present actions.

If the reading public had taken a closer look at The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, they

would have realized it directly opposed the current Jim Crow laws. Twain had

purposefully denied that there was a moral or motive in the story fearing they would not

see his point or would turn him off like Huck and Tom?s friends did when Tom Sawyer

outlined the rules he found in adventure books. Instead, Twain hoped his reader would

view the world through Huck?s eyes to realize if they were open and honest they too

would be able to do what was right. Then they could develop a deeper understanding or

sympathy for other human beings and be able to recognize racism.

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