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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain
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How does the character of Jim relate to the anti-slavery theme in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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By humanizing Jim, an escaped slave, Twain makes a forceful case against slavery and racism.

Jim functions as the father figure Huck has never had, highlighting the problems with assuming a person is superior because they have white skin. Huck's white father is a cruel, neglectful, violent man with criminal...

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By humanizing Jim, an escaped slave, Twain makes a forceful case against slavery and racism.

Jim functions as the father figure Huck has never had, highlighting the problems with assuming a person is superior because they have white skin. Huck's white father is a cruel, neglectful, violent man with criminal tendencies. He abuses Huck so badly that Huck stages his own death to escape this man, who he fears may one day kill him. Pap Finn has never shown gentleness or compassion towards his son, leaving him for most of his life to fend for himself. Huck has grown up sleeping in barrels, wearing ragged men's clothing, and scrounging up what food he could find.

Jim's kindness and thoughtfulness towards Huck is a marked contrast to his father's behavior. As Huck himself notes when debating whether to betray Jim as a runaway slave, Jim has petted him, been concerned for his welfare, and let him sleep through his watch on the raft. Huck also notes that Jim expresses kindness and compassion towards his own children, for example, deeply regretting the time he struck his daughter when she didn't obey him, only to find out that scarlet fever had left her deaf and unable to hear his command.

The bond Huck develops with Jim causes him to protect Jim, even though he has been taught it is a sin for which he will go to hell if he doesn't turn in an escaped slave. Huck has gotten to know the man Jim is and would rather risk hell than betray him. In one of the more moving passages in the novel, Huck sums up his feelings:

But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. 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 when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was ...

Black writers such as Toni Morrison have critiqued Jim's portrayal, saying he achieves redemption only because he is good to a white boy, but nevertheless, we can appreciate Twain's attempt to draw a humane and sympathetic portrait of a black man despite the limitations of his time period.

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