What are two outside sources about how Huck Finn's views toward Jim, society, or his conscience change in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One source about the changes in the character of Huck Finn is the article "The Flawed Greatness of Huckleberry Finn," published in Mizzou Magazine on May 21, 2013 (see the link below). Written by Twain scholar Tom Quirk, an English professor at University of Missouri, the article discusses the flaws in Huckleberry Finn's characters. The author argues the flaws help Twain create real characters. As the author states,

Mark Twain often submerged himself in and submitted to the voices of his created characters, the lowliest of the low, a 'community of misfortune' as he later called the pair, and let them speak for themselves. In other words, Huckleberry Finn is the supremely democratic novel, at least it is when Twain stays out of the way.

In other words, while Huck Finn is far from perfect, he is real because Twain allows him to speak for himself. Quirk pays particular attention to Chapter 9 of Huckleberry Finn, in which Huck covers up his father's dead body so Jim doesn't see it. This is an example in which Huck's views of Jim and of slavery change. The scene is in part a reference to the story of Noah and Ham in the Bible. Ham, Noah's son, did not cover up his father's naked body, and Noah later cursed Ham, which was used as a Biblical justification for slavery because slaves were regarded as the descendants of Ham. Therefore, this passage is an example of Huck regarding Jim with care and deference. The scene also refutes the justification of slavery.

Another outside source is "Rethinking Huck" by Steven Mintz in "History Now," the Journal of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute (at the link below). The article examines the inconsistencies in the novel to discuss whether Huck is racist. Mintz writes,

Huck hates abolitionists, and yet in the book’s most poignant scene, the book’s moral center, he apologizes to Jim for the indignities he has inflicted. Admits Huck: "I done it and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterwards." Yet this is also a book without a clear, unambiguous hero.

Although Huck is at times a victim of his racist society, Mintz argues the reader has to appreciate how much entrenched racism Huck must overcome in his mind and world in order to regard Jim as an equal. Huck's apology to Jim is a significant act in Huck's racist world. Mintz says, "At the novel’s very heart lies the conflict between Huck Finn’s instincts and his conscience, which had been deformed by his upbringing." In other words, Huck's journey towards seeing Jim as a human being is greater and more significant because it is so hard for Huck, as he comes from a society that degrades black people.

Read the study guide:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question