Mark Twain uses Jim to express his views about slavery about the book Huckeberry Finn by Mark Twain.
Mark Twain felt slavery was corrupt and immoral. His feelings were that slavery was an unacceptable part of society and all people deserved to have freedom. "One of my theories is that the hearts of men are about alike, all over the world, whatever their skin-complexions may be." ( Salwen 1) Furthermore, Twain used Huckleberry Finn as a means to express his own feelings on slavery. For instance, Huck was raised to believe slavery was the norm in his society; yet as the novel progresses, Huck comes to a deciding moment; whether or not he should protect Jim. Huck finally "decides he would be damned to the flames of hell rather than betray his black friend."(1)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn gave Mark Twain the opportunity to prove that slaves were real people with valid feelings for their family, work, and life. In the novel, Jim ran away from Miss Watson because he heard her talk about sending him to another plantation down the river. Jim knew that ultimately this meant he would be treated terribly and be separated from his wife and children. While being separated from his wife and children, Jim missed them a great deal, and it was only the thought of life long separation from them that prompted Jim 's unlawful act of running away from Miss Watson "...Jim in short, exhibits all the qualities that "the Negro" supposedly lacks." (Smith 365)
Twain satirically used Huckleberry Finn to show how other characters in the story were racist toward African Americans. In doing so, Twain did not want the reader to acquire a racist feeling; rather he wants them to understand how the African Americans were mistreated by the white upper class. In a conversation about a steamboat explosion between Huck and Aunt Sally, she asked him: "Good gracious! Anybody hurt?" Huck replies "No 'm. Killed a nigger" Then Aunt Sally answers "Well it 's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt." (Twain 336) This conversation was exposing the unsettling truths about the old south; that the general society did not consider the fatality of a black person worthy of their attention. Further, "Huck 's offhand remark is indented to exploit Aunt Sally 's attitudes, not to express his own." (Smith 365)
Although Mark Twain 's primary theme was the anti slavery issue, he also addressed other equally important matters such as views on social class and how blacks were viewed in comparison to whites. "Jim is no murderer; Jim is no rapist; Jim is not a thief. He is no gangsta, nor is he gullible and stupid. Jim is nobody 's fool. He endures, and he overcomes." (Chadwick - Joshua xiii) In the book, Twain portrayed Jim as a fine man who had many excellent qualities. Contrary to Jim, the free white men in Huckleberry Finn were purposely developed and presented to show that, just because Jim was a black slave, he could still be more honest and true than a white man. For example, the Duke and the King, two men Huck and Jim took on their raft, pretend to be Peter Wilk 's long lost brothers and claim that he left his England estate to them. Near the end of the book, the Duke and the King were tarred and feathered for their cons and extremely bad plays. This illustration of white men being awful, untruthful people gave Jim 's temperament a superior position over the white characters due to his ingenuous and genuine disposition. To the reader, it seems as if Jim was the only one not making foolish decisions based on wicked desires. In making this obvious point, Twain was proving his quote: "Nearly all black and brown skins are beautiful, but a beautiful white skin is rare." (Salwen 1)
In addition to making Jim look superior to most white men, Mark Twain wanted the reader to understand his feelings about the upper class. Twain tried to covey his thoughts about how dim-witted upper-class townspeople were by Huck 's actions toward them in the novel. While Huck was living with Miss Watson, she forced him to dress up and attend church, teach him about the Bible and God, and to educate him on spelling and grammar. She told Huck that he should start being better behaved or he will go to the "bad place." In response to this, Huck said, "She told me about the bad place and I said I wished I was there." Huck 's reason for wishing this was because he felt Miss Watson was going to the "good place" where you must behave and follow many rules. Instead, he would rather go to the "bad place" where he could be himself. Through this, Mark Twain was trying to show the reader that strict religious values were not always the right values to follow.
Regardless of critics saying Huckleberry Finn is corrupt novel full racism and degrading African Americans, overall, the object of the novel is the complete opposite. The "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn explores the sensitive issues with which the African American middle class of the twentieth century has privately struggled." (Chadwick-Joshua 4) Mark Twain essentially provides the reader with an understanding of how African Americans were mistreated and dehumanized. Twain 's chief aspiration in writing Huckleberry Finn was not to covey a racist outlook on African Americans, but rather to convey his message of equality; "I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can 't be any worse." (2) Despite color and social status, his position was that all men were truly created equal and deserved to enjoy a free and liberated life.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: The
New American Library, Inc., 1979.
Chadwick - Joshua, Jocelyn. The Jim Dilemma. Jackson: University P of Mississippi, 1998.
Sawlen, Peter. Is Huck Finn a Racist Book? 1996. Salwen
Business Communications. 5 Apr. 2005
Smith, Russell. The Legend of Mark Twain. 1994. 1 Apr. 2005
Twain, Mark. 2001. The Columbia Encyclopedia. 19 Mar. 2005
Malkin, Michelle. The Book Burners Against Mark Twain. 24 Aug.
2001. Capitalism Magazine. 15 Mar. 2005
Cited: Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1979. Chadwick - Joshua, Jocelyn. The Jim Dilemma. Jackson: University P of Mississippi, 1998. Smith, Russell. The Legend of Mark Twain. 1994. 1 Apr. 2005 . Twain, Mark. 2001. The Columbia Encyclopedia. 19 Mar. 2005 . 2001. Capitalism Magazine. 15 Mar. 2005 .