How would you compare and contrast Jim and Pap in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The similarities of Pap Finn and Jim have to do with their status in society; though Pap is not African American, he is mostly rejected by mainstream society because of his reprehensible behavior. He is a drinker who does not hold down a job. He is psychologically and physically abusive toward his son and is often absent from his life. He resists the efforts of those who reach out to help him. He does nothing to improve his life.

Jim also suffers from low social status, but in his case, it is because he is an African American slave. He is rejected by mainstream society because it practices slaveholding, and because he is a slave, his essential humanity is not generally recognized. Instead of being viewed as a man, he is viewed as a commodity.

The differences in Pap and Jim are found in their respective approaches to living their lives. Though Jim is highly intelligent, he understands that he must keep that quality hidden from his captors. He stays under the radar, carefully saving money and planning for the future as he plots his escape and reunion with his wife and children. Jim understands that Huck offers him cover, and he comes to value their friendship, becoming a father figure to Huck in many ways and offering moral instruction.

Pap Finn is incapable of planning for the future as he stumbles from one drunken escapade to the next. He is not only uneducated; he is ignorant and incapable of recognizing it as he rages about the ignorance and inferiority of others. Instead of working to provide a life and future with his son, he abandons him, preferring the sordid existence that leads to his inevitable demise.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let's start with an obvious similarity for comparison: both are men. Beyond that fact, the contrasts outnumber any comparisons that might be made. For instance, while Jim is kind, compassionate, and able-minded, Pap is a lousy drunk who abuses Huck when he grows intoxicated. And while both men could be considered "father figures" for Huck, Jim is actually the one who shows the boy what true, honorable manhood looks like. Pap, on the other hand, gives Huck a dose of reality -- he proves that not all men are industrious, well-meaning people like Jim.

A more obvious physical contrast between the two characters is that of race: Pap is caucasian, while Jim is an African-American. Ironically, in a time that looked down upon "negroes" as inferior and ignorant, Jim proves to be both intelligent and strong.

sharrons eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel, Huckleberry Finn, at first glance there seems to be fewer similarities between Pap and Jim, but if we closer closer, there are actually some striking similarities.  The similarities go far beyond the fact that both are male.  One of the most striking similarities is that both Jim and Pap are outcasts.  Pap is an outcast because of his lack of education, his poverty, and his alcoholism.  Jim is an outcast because his is a black man, a slave.  Also, just like Pap, Jim also has a lack of education.

Also, both men serve as role models in Hucks life.  Pap is a role model of what may happen to Huck if he does not "give in to the more 'civilized' forces or undertake his "journey".  Jim is a role model becauses he shows stength and courage while living in a society that oppresses him.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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