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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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What are the similarities and differences between the characters Huck and Jim in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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One of the similarities between the two is that they both feel free out there in the great outdoors. Huck has never known anything else in life; since he was knee-high to a grasshopper he's had to make his own way in the world, living off the land and sleeping...

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One of the similarities between the two is that they both feel free out there in the great outdoors. Huck has never known anything else in life; since he was knee-high to a grasshopper he's had to make his own way in the world, living off the land and sleeping under the stars. He'd never be able to adjust to life in a town or city, as his experiences with Miss Watson and the Widow Douglas show.

As a slave, Jim can never experience freedom in the so-called civilized world. The natural world provides him with a haven of relative peace and security, free from the horrors of forced labor and perpetual servitude. Like Huck, Jim can only truly be himself in a natural environment. This is the only place where either can express their individuality.

As regards to differences, Jim's freedom is danger of being taken away from him at any moment. He and Huck constantly need to be on the look-out for any bounty-hunter seeking to make a quick buck out of capturing a runaway slave. But it's Jim's freedom that's at stake, not Huck's. Huck might get into trouble for harboring a runaway, but at least he'll never be sold into slavery like Jim. Being white places Huck in a privileged position in that he can lead a more natural existence without always having to look over his shoulder.

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Both Huck and Jim are similar in their desire for freedom, though the nature of this freedom is different for each. Jim wants to be free from the tyranny of slavery. He wants this freedom not just for himself but for his family as well. Huck seeks freedom from the civilized society that wants to mold his wild nature into its own conventional image.

The major differences between the two characters are social and physical. Huck is a lower-class white boy and Jim is an enslaved black man in the prime of life. Due to his race, Huck is able to move about more freely, while Jim is always at the mercy of other white characters, forced to tread carefully in a racist society. Sometimes, he must even submit to the mercies of people as careless as Tom Sawyer, who concocts a convoluted escape plan for Jim with his own amusement, and not Jim's well-being, in mind.

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The most obvious differences between Huck and Jim in Twain's novel are physical. Huck is a young boy while Jim is a man. Huck is white and Jim is black. As the friendship between them grows, however, the similarities become an important driving force in the novel.

Both Huck and Jim, for example, long for freedom from Miss Watson and the Widow Douglas, her sister. Both escape from the house in which these ladies make their home in order to achieve the freedom they seek. At first glance, this is a similar freedom, away from the boundaries the society of the time places on them. 

The freedom they seek is not entirely similar, however.  Jim longs for freedom from slavery. While his owner, Miss Watson, did not mistreat him, she did threaten to sell him to work at the plantations. This created such fear in the slave that he preferred to face being a fugitive. Huck, on the other hand, longs for freedom from the constraints of education, routine, and life indoors.  In other words, he seeks to escape the privileged lifestyle that was available only to the rich and the white elite at the time.  

While the bondage they experienced were not quite the same, neither Jim nor Huck had any enthusiasm for the lives they lived with Miss Watson. These respective lives are deemed appropriate by "civil" society. Both Jim and Huck have ideals that extend beyond the boundaries of society.

Hence, two freedom-loving souls find each other. In the symbiotic relationship they cultivate throughout the novel, Huck helps Jim achieve freedom, while Jim provides Huck with a moral compass that is more appropriate to his nature than Miss Watson or the rest of society can imagine.

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