Honors American Literature
13 December 2012
Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn
During the late 1800’s post civil war, the reconstruction era surfaced in the union. The reconstruction, a political program designed to reintegrate the defeated South into the Union as a slavery-free region, began to fail. The North imposed harsh measures, which only embittered the South. Concerned about maintaining power, many Southern politicians began an effort to control and oppress the black men and women whom the war had freed. At around this time, Mark Twain released his novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which a young boy named Huckleberry Finn attempts to flee the South with an escaped slave, Jim. The novel follows the pair on their journey to the north, often emphasizing the relationship between the two. In his literary criticism, “The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn,” Frances V. Brownell states that, “Jim is not merely a noble cause or an ignoble foil, in either of which cases he would be more particularly important for the action episodes of the book than he in fact is; he is rather what one might call a moral catalyst” (Brownell). Although Brownell makes a strong argument, Jim’s actual role in the novel is as a father figure for Huck. Jim’s reason for bringing himself into the place of Huck’s father can be contributed both to the fact that Jim is trying to redeem himself after his first failed fatherhood, and that Huck’s own father, Pap, had been killed. Apart from the connection between the two, Jim has a more personal reason for becoming a father figure for Huck: the bitter personal memories and guilt from his mistake he made as a father previously. This reason is revealed shortly after Huck and Jim meet the King and the Duke. While Jim guards the raft he “with his head down betwixt his knees, [moans] and [mourns] to himself” (Twain CH 23). The strong, full grown Negro man actually mourns and moans to himself. He mourns over the mistake he made to his “po’...
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