What is the nature and significance of Tom’s treatment of Jim in The Adventures of the Huckleberry Finn?
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Tom's dramatization of effecting the escape of Jim reflects earlier attitudes of Huckleberry Finn; for, it demonstrates a incomprehension of Jim's humanity and even a lack of recognition for his feelings as he uses Jim to fulfill his romantic notions of adventure.
Tom's dramatic plan to have Jim keep a log of his confinement by writing on his white shirt while they do such things as dig moats and saw the leg of Jim's bed when all they need do is lift the bedstead and slip the chain off puzzles the pragmatic Huck:
"Well, if that ain't just like you, Huck Finn....Why, hain't you ever red any books at all?--Baron Trenck, nor Casanova, nor Benvenuto Chelleeny, nor Henri IV., nor none of them heroes?"
Here in Chapter XXXV, Twain satirizes Tom's romantic ideas as he copies the adventurous and courageous escapes that were made popular through the romance literature of his day. Twain also points to the callous treatment of Huck's friend Jim, whom they toy with when his life is really in danger. This behavior of Tom is in contrast with that of Jim who, were one of the boys held in such a manner, Jim would not hesitate to rescue him. While Tom does not try to harm Jim, he really places the man in danger of being found out.
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