Mark statement shows the state the slaves were

Mark
Twain’s The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn is a realistic novel
portraying the reality of the Southern back at that time. The novel is a
perfect depiction of the idea of race and slavery. Although the title says that
the novel is about Huck’s escape and adventure towards his own freedom, Twain
included Jim to shed light on how black men were viewed at that time. The
reader should understand the historical context of the novel to better be able
to understand the novel. According to Richard K. Barksdale (1984), due to the
fact that the novel took place in Missouri, it is accordingly considered to be
a racist novel set in a setting revolving around slavery (p. 17). He continued
by claiming that the character of Jim came from a background where “whatever
knowledge came to the slave came only with the express permission and
authorization of the master or mistress” (p. 17). This statement shows the
state the slaves were living in and how they were treated not as human beings.
Therefore, Jim is a representation of the black slaves and how they were viewed
at that time.  

Knowing that the novel is written in 1884, it is depicting the
society of 1830-1840s, a society where slavery is legal. Since it was after the
Civil War in 1861-1865 when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation
Proclamation giving the African Americans their freedom from slavery in the
south. By the time the novel was released in 1884, the tension between races
was still fresh. Accordingly, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a
novel revolving around the theme of racism and slavery. However, Twain
challenges the typical society views in his novel through the journey Jim, the
black slave, and Huck, the white kid, take together. This challenge is to show
the readers never to follow the traditional views but rather to form their own
views to be able to better know right from wrong.

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            The most obvious sign of racism in
the novel is the over use of the word “nigger” all throughout the novel. Some
readers might find it offensive, but Twain’s main aim behind the usage of the
word was to make the novel as realistic as possible to be able to portray what
was really going on at that time. While reading, the readers learn that Jim is
the property of Miss Watson as said in chapter 2, “Miss Watson’s big nigger,
named Jim” (p. 5) The novel was written at a time where the blacks were not
seen as human beings but as a property. At the beginning of the novel, Huck is
following the norms of the society he is in and being a racist. In chapter 2,
when Tom and Huck were in the garden and they saw Jim, they wanted to play
games on him as if Jim was some kind of emotionless inhuman object. After Tom
tricked Jim, Jim believed that he was bewitched and made all the other black
slaves believe in that too. Readers do not only see the excessive usage of the
word “nigger” in simply one paragraph, but they can also see how white men view
the black men as a joke. Leslie Gregory (2005) states, “even though blacks had
been granted citizenship in 1870 by the 15th Amendment to the
constitution, Southern white society still looked upon them as sub-human
creatures without souls or feelings” (p. 1).  Huck is not to be judged for being a racist
and acting the way he did. Not only is Huck a kid, but he was also raised in a
society where slaves were bought and not treated as humans. This was enforced
by living with his brutal racist father, as well as Miss Watson owning Jim as a
slave. According to a research by Katie Bryant (1978-1979), she claims that
“…learning was forbidden for slaves…” (p. 7). The fact of the blacks being
uneducated, this gave the white superiority over them, and this is shown
through Huck’s father. Everywhere he goes no matter where, the idea of racism
and slavery is reinforced.

            Katie Bryant (1978-1979) stated
that, “Huck is a realistic character in that he matures during the novel,
specifically as he comes to regard Jim as another human being with feelings”
(p. 7). By running away together, Huck started to learn a lot about Jim. It all
started when they meet on Jackson Island and Huck is surprised to hear that
someone could actually escape his owner, although Jim’s flee was due to the
fact that his owner wanted to sell him. Huck believes that Jim’s escape is a
sin, but promises to keep his secret safe, “people would call me a low down
Ablitionist and despise me for keeping mum – but that don’t make no difference.
I ain’t agoing to tell, and I ain’t agoing back there anyways” (p.48). Although
Huck does not agree with slaves running away from their owners, but he really
starts to feel with Jim and build a bond.

Rhett S. Jones (1984) claims that,
“Huck manifests white double-consciousness as he shifts back and forth between
his own regard for Jim as a person and the kind of person the society tells him
Jim must be” (p.30) which is shown in several points in the novel. In chapter
15, the readers can feel how much Jim was worried about Huck, “… my heart wuz
mos’ broke bekase you wuz los’, en I didn’ k’ye no mo’ what become er me en de
raf’. En when I wake up en fine you back again’, all safe en soun’, de tears
come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss’ yo’ foot I’s so thankful” (p.
95). When Huck realized that Jim has feelings and emotions just like any white
person, he started to feel guilty and decided not to hurt him anymore (p.95).
At this point, Huck is breaking free from the stereotypes of the southern mentality
towards the black men being slaves and have no feelings or emotions.

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