At first, the slave Jim appears rather simple as he rolls a large hairball in order to foretell events. Initially amazed that Jim cries and displays human emotion, Huck soon recognizes him as a father and true friend.
- After Huck feigns his death, he runs across Jim as he sleeps by a campfire one evening. When he wakes Jim, the slave believes he is a ghost and Huck must explain how he ran away from his Pap,
Well, I warn't long making him understand I warn't dead. I was ever so glad to see Jim. I warn't lonesome now....
- Even though he is happy having Jim with him as they travel on a raft down the Mississippi River, he plays a trick on Jim. For, when the raft pulls a sapling up by the roots because of its force, Huck and Jim become separated since only Jim has been on the raft and it floats on the other side of the "cut island." Shortly, however, Huck paddles the canoe to the raft where Jim is sound asleep. After climbing quietly on board, Huck pretends to have been there sleeping all the time after Jim awakens. After convincing Jim that he has, in fact, merely dreamt that Huck was gone, Huck mischievously points to all the trash on board the raft and the smashed oar, asking him what they stand for.
What do dey stan' for? I's gwyne to tell you. When I got all wore out wid work....en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke bekase you wuz los' en I didn' k'yer no mo' what become er me en de raf'....En all you wuz thinkin' 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv old Jim wid a lie. Dat truck [trick] dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed."
Now, Huck feels "so mean" that he could "have kissed his foot to get him to take me back." In fact, he works himself up to humbling himself to a "n----r," and does not regret doing so. After this Huck plays no more tricks.
- But, in Chapter XVI, when Huck hears Jim delighting in the idea of his freedom and how he will reclaim his wife and children, he is so angered at Jim's presumptions of freedom that he decides to turn him in:
My conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last I says to it. "Let up on me--it ain't too late, yet--I'll paddle ashore at the first light, and tell.
However, when he runs into some men hunting slaves, Huck does not have the heart to turn in Jim to them. Instead, he tells them the man on the raft is his father, who is very ill. The men, fearing smallpox, back away and give Huck some money; and Huck and Jim float along on the raft.
- In Chapter XXXI, in a twinge of social consciousness, Huck again decides to write Miss Watson that her slave is in town. But again his own moral conscience will not permit him to exploit Jim who has been both father and friend to him. So, Huck decides that he will defy the conventional moral code because Jim is his friend. Huck decides,
...somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him.... I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n 'stead of calling me so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog;...and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend he ever had in the whole world....
"All right, then, I'll go to hell"--and tore it up.
- In Chapter XL Tom Sawyer effects Jim's escape from the Phelps plantation, but is shot in the leg. When the hurt Jim insists that Huck fetch the doctor for Tom first, Huck decides, "I knowed he was white inside." His statement equates Jim with himself.