… nt not to take a novel at face value and to ‘read between the lines’ in order to capture the underlying themes of a novel. If one were to do this in relation to , one would, without a doubt, realize that it is not racist and is even anti-slavery. (Ed. Scott, Arthur Lincoln) On a superficial level Huckleberry Finn might appear to be racist. The first time the reader meets Jim he is given a very negative description of him.
The reader is told that Jim is illiterate, childlike, not very bright and extremely superstitious. However, it is important not to lose sight of who is giving this description and of whom it is being given. Although Huck is not a racist child, he has been raised by extremely racist individuals who have, even if only subconsciously, ingrained some feelings of bigotry into his mind. It is also important to remember that this description, although it is quite saddening, was probably accurate. Jim and the millions of other slaves in the South were not permitted any formal education, were never allowed any independent thought and were constantly maltreated and abused. Twain is merely portraying by way of Jim, a very realistic slave raised in the South during that time period.
To say that Twain is racist because of his desire for historical accuracy is absurd. Despite the few incidences in which Jim’s description might be misconstrued as racist, there are many points in the novel where Twain through Huck, voices his extreme opposition to the slave trade and racism. (Ed. Scott, Arthur Lincoln) In chapter six, Huck’s father fervently objects to the governments granting of suffrage to an educated black professor. Twain wants the reader to see the absurdity in this statement. Huck’s father believes that he is superior to this black professor simply because of the color of his skin.
In Chapter 15 the reader is told of an incident, which contradicts the original ‘childlike” description of Jim. In chapter 15 the reader is presented with a very caring and father-like Jim who becomes very worried when he loses his best friend Huck in a deep fog. Twain is pointing out the connection, which has been made between Huck and Jim. A connection, which does not exist between a man and his property. When Huck first meets Jim on the Island he makes a monumental decision, not to turn Jim in. He is confronted by two opposing forces, the force of society and the force of friendship.
(Ed. Kester son, David B) Many times throughout the novel Huck comes very close to rationalizing Jim’s slavery. However, he is never able to see a reason why this man who has become one of his only friends, should be a slave. Through this internal struggle, Twain expresses his opinions of the absurdity of slavery and the importance of following one’s personal conscience before the laws of society. (Kaplan, Justin) By the end of the novel, Huck and the reader have come to understand that Jim is not someone’s property and an inferior man, but an equal. Throughout the novel society’s voice is heard through Huck.
The racist and hateful contempt, which existed at the time, is at many times present. But, it is vital for the reader to recognize these ideas as society’s and to recognize that Twain throughout the novel disputes these ideas. Twain brings out into the open the ugliness of society and causes the reader to challenge the original description of Jim. In his subtle manner, he creates not an apology for slavery but a challenge to it.
(Salween, Peter) The entire plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rooted on intolerance between different social groups. Without prejudice and intolerance The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would not have any of the antagonism or intercourse that makes the recital interesting. The prejudice and intolerance found in the book are the characteristics that make The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn great. (Wagennacht, Edward C.
) The author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who is more commonly known by his pen name, Mark Twain. He was born in 1835 with the passing of Haley’s comet, and died in 1910 with the passing of Haley’s comet. Clemens often used prejudice as a building block for the plots of his stories. Clemens even said, “The very ink in which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” There are many other instances in which Clemens uses prejudice as a foundation for the entertainment of his writings such as this quote he said about foreigners in The Innocents Abroad, “They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vichy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce.” Even in the opening paragraph of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Clemens states, “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” (Twain, Mark) (Kaplan, Justin) (The World Book) There were many groups that Clemens contrasted in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The interaction of these different social groups is what makes up the main plot of the novel. For the objective of discussion they have been broken down into five main sets of antithetic parties: people with high levels of society and people with low levels of society, rednecks and scholarly, children and adults, men and women, and finally, the Sheperdson’s and the Grangerford’s.
Whites and African Americans are the main two groups contrasted in the novel. Throughout the novel Clemens portrays Caucasians as a more educated group that is higher in society compared to the African Americans portrayed in the novel. The cardinal way that Clemens portrays African Americans as obsequious is through the colloquy that he assigns them. Their dialogue is composed of nothing but broken English. One example in the novel is this excerpt from the conversation between Jim the fugitive slave, and Huckleberry about why Jim ran away, where Jim declares, “Well you see, it uz dis way. Ole missus-days Miss Watson-she pecks on me all de time, en treats me potty rough, but she aw luz said she wouldn sell me down to Orleans.” Although this is the phonetic spelling of how some African Americans from the boondocks used to talk, Clemens only applied the argot to Blacks and not to Whites throughout the novel.
There is not one sentence in the treatise spoken by an African American that is not comprised of broken English. But in spite of that, the broken English does add an entraining piece of culture to the milieu. (Blair, Walter) The second way Clemens differentiates people in the novel of different skin color. Blacks in the book are portrayed as stupid and uneducated. The most blatant example is where the African American character Jim is kept prisoner for weeks while he is a dupe in a childish game that Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn play with him. Clemens spends the last three chapters in the novel to tell the tale of how Tom Sawyer maliciously lets Jim, who known only unto Tom is really a free man, be kept prisoner in a shack while Tom torments Jim with musings about freedom and infests his living space with rats, snakes, and spiders.
At the end of this chapter Tom even admits, “Why, I wanted the adventure of it… .” The next two groups Clemens contrasts are the rednecks and the scholarly. In the novel Clemens uses interaction between backwoods and more highly educated people as a vital part of the plot. The main usage of this mixing of two social groups is seen in the development of the two very entertaining characters simply called the duke and the king. These two characters are rednecks that pretend to be of a more scholarly background in order to cheat people along the banks of the Mississippi. In one instance the king and the duke fail miserably in trying to act more studiously when they perform a “Shakespearean Revival.” The duke totally slaughters the lines of Hamlet saying, “To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin.
That it makes calamity of so long life. For who far fel bear, till Bir nam Wood do come to Duns hire, but that fear of something after death.” (Blair, Walter) Thirdly Clemens contrasts adults and children. Clemens portrays adults as the conventional group in society, and children as the unconventional. In the story adults are not portrayed with much bias, but children are portrayed as more imaginative.
The two main examples of this are when Huckleberry fakes his death, and when Tom and Huck “help” Jim escape from captivity. This extra imaginative aspect Clemens gives to the children of the story adds a lot of humor to the plot. Fourthly in the novel Clemens contrasts women and men. Women in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are portrayed as frail, while men are portrayed as more outgoing.
The foremost example of a frail woman character in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Sally. One example was when Tom and Huck were collecting wildlife to live in the shack that Jim is being held prisoner in they accidentally let loose some snakes in Aunt Sally’s house and Aunt Sally, .”.. would just lay that work down, and light out.” The main reason that Clemens portrays women as less outgoing is because there are really only four minor women characters in the novel, while all major characters are men. Lastly Clemens contrasts two families engaged in a feud. The names of the two families are the Sheperdson’s and the Grangerford’s. The ironic thing is that, other than their names, the two factions are totally similar and even attend the same church.
(Blair, Walter) This intolerance augments a major part to the plot because it serves as the basis for one of the escapades Huck and Jim get involved in on their trip down the Mississippi. In conclusion the entire plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rooted on intolerance between different social groups. Without prejudice and intolerance The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would not have any of the antagonism and intercourse that makes the novel interesting. Therefore making it not a racist novel, but historically accurate tail of life at that time. Mark Twain is innocent of all wrongdoing.