Discuss the significance of the fog incident and Jim’s interpretation of it: “The lot of towheads was troubles we was going to get into with quarrelsome people and all kinds of mean folks,...
Discuss the significance of the fog incident and Jim’s interpretation of it:
“The lot of towheads was troubles we was going to get into with quarrelsome people and all kinds of mean folks, but if we minded our business and didn’t talk back and aggravate them, we would pull through and get out of the fog and into the big clear river, which was free states, and wouldn’t have no more trouble.”
Consider the major themes as well as foreshadowing.
In Chapter XV of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck and Jim are separated from one another in the fog when the raft pulls away from its ties, and Jim interprets this incident as a warning of conflicts that may come in the future.
When Huck, who is in a canoe, finally comes upon the raft which has broken away, he notices that Jim has fallen asleep as he sits with his head between his knees. Mischievous by nature, Huck quickly decides to lie down near him and pretend that Jim has been asleep the entire time so that he will think the recent incident was a dream. Huck touches Jim as he says, "Hello, Jim, have I been asleep?" Awakening, Jim is startled to see Huck, but thrilled that he is all right. Huck pretends that Jim's exclamations make no sense as he refers to Huck's "coming back":
"I been setting here talking with you all night till you went to sleep about ten minutes ago, and I reckon I done the same...."
"Dad fetch it, how is I gwyne to dream all dat in ten minutes?"
"Well, hang it all, you did dream it, because there didn't any of it happen."
Jim is quiet for a few minutes as he tries to recall what may have occurred. Finally, he concedes that he must have dreamed, but it was "de powerfullest dream" and most fatiguing one he has ever known. Then he interprets the "dream" for Huck.
He warns Huck that they will encounter some "quarrelsome and mean people," but they must not irritate them. Their calls to each other—the "whoops"—are warnings that they must correctly interpret their experiences, or else they will be taken toward bad luck. But if they do not engage in argument with these "mean people," they can pull through "the fog" and the sandbars, floating to the safety of the free states, where they will have no more conflict. Thus, for Jim, their journey down the Mississippi River—a river that is often difficult to navigate because of its sandbars and turns—becomes an allegory for their lives. Certainly, Jim's warnings are prophetic because later on they do encounter people who are cruel and devious.
This incident on the river and Jim's dream play into the theme of the Hypocrisy of Civilized Society as many a time Huck and Jim are safer alone on the deeper parts of the river away from shore. While he is on the river, Jim can be free; once on shore he is yet a slave, and a fugitive one at that.
Another theme that appears in Chapter XV is that of Maturation as Huck begins to mature and assess the values of his society. More and more he begins to perceive Jim as a man of human value, not a mere slave.
In terms of the plot, the fog incident is important because it prevents Jim from getting to freedom immediately. If it had not been for the fog, Jim might have been able to get ashore in Cairo, Illinois, at which point he would have been free.
When Huck gets Jim to believe that the whole thing is a dream, we are seeing one of the major themes of the book -- Huck's attitude towards Jim as a person and as a black person. He is conflicted in this regard. He knows he's supposed to be better than Jim and so he doesn't mind playing tricks on him. But then his better nature breaks through and he feels bad and apologizes to Jim.
This shows Huck's own nature trying to break through his social conditioning.