What are the reasons why Jim runs away in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jim runs away because he finds out he is going to be sold.

Jim is Miss Watson’s slave. When Huck runs away from his father, faking his death, he finds that Jim has also run away. Huck feels like he should turn Jim in, but he doesn’t. He thinks he might go to Hell for this, but he doesn’t approve of slavery.

When Jim first sees Huck, he is afraid of him. He thinks that since Huck is supposed to be dead he must be seeing a ghost. Huck assures him he is not a ghost, and not actually dead. Huck is glad to see Jim, but worried he might tell someone where he is.

Jim tells Huck that he has been on the island since Huck was supposedly killed. He has been living off the land. Huck asks him why, and he admits he ran away. He doesn’t want to tell Huck at first because he does not want Huck to turn him in. 

Jim explains that he ran away so he would not be sold. Miss Watson rode him all of the time. When he heard that she could get eight hundred dollars for him, that was the last straw.

Well, one night I creeps to de do' pooty late, en de do' warn't quite shet, en I hear old missus tell de widder she gwyne to sell me down to Orleans, but she didn' want to, but she could git eight hund'd dollars for me, en it 'uz sich a big stack o' money she couldn' resis'. (Ch. 8) 

Jim wants to be reunited with his family. He wants to buy them freedom or kidnap them. This will be much harder to do if he is sold to New Orleans.

Huck doesn’t really seem interested in turning Jim in. He is looking forward to having someone with him. In a way, they have mutually-assured destruction. Neither can turn the other in without turning himself in. Therefore, they are good company.  

Jim is happy, because he says now that he is “free” he is rich. 

“Yes; en I's rich now, come to look at it. I owns mysef, en I's wuth eight hund'd dollars. I wisht I had de money, I wouldn't want no mo'.” (Ch. 8) 

This is good enough for Huck! As the two go along the river together, they become good friends. Huck doesn’t understand why helping Jim is considered wrong in his society. He knows people believe he will go to Hell for lying about Jim, but he decides he doesn’t care. He doesn’t want to follow society’s rules, especially those that contradict his conscience.

Read the study guide:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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