The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: How Southern Society Treats Jim

Topics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Black people, Race and Ethnicity Pages: 4 (1303 words) Published: February 26, 2014

Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain concentrates on Jim and how Southern society treats him. From the beginning, Twain uses Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer to represent the South as they escape Huck’s house and belittle Jim by hanging his “hat off of his head” (19). The boys toy with Jim because the society that they grow up in says that they are better than him because he is black, and they are white. Despite this initial representation of Southern society, Huck does not portray the South most of the book. Jim does though signify black society the majority of the book. When Huck and Jim go on their journey together, they endure a series of odd occurrences, and Twain uses these occurrences to criticize the South and depict Jim as more than the South’s stereotype for a black man. Twain emphasizes the South’s black stereotype and Jim’s characteristics in order to criticize the South.

The South’s black stereotype consists of two main ideas. The first idea that Twain uses is superstition. Twain illustrates the black stereotype of superstition in Jim’s having a hair-ball that tells him what to do. “Jim, had a hair-ball as big as your fist, which had been took out of the fourth stomach of an ox, and he used to do magic with it. He said there was a spirit inside of it, and it knowed everything” (29). Jim’s superstition here suggests that all black people have this same superstition. Twain uses Jim as a symbol of black society. David Smith resolves to say that the hairball illustration is “a comical example of Negro ignorance and credulity, acting in concert with the ignorance and credulity of a fourteen-year-old white boy” (369). Smith portrays Jim as a young childish figure not knowing right from wrong here, but later in his essay he uses this example as an instance of “Jim’s quick wits” (369). Smith and Twain both show that Jim can be both an ignorant figure as well as a wise one while Twain also uses Jim as a representation for black...
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