When Huck first loses the raft that he has tied up and knows he may have lost Jim - what does Huck's behavior symbolize?Does his fear of having lost Jim and the raft show fear for himself, fear for...

When Huck first loses the raft that he has tied up and knows he may have lost Jim - what does Huck's behavior symbolize?

Does his fear of having lost Jim and the raft show fear for himself, fear for Jim, and does it temporarily put all their differences to the background? Age, Race, Social class, anything else?

in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Huck and Jim investigate the wrecked steamboat in Chapter XII, Huck realizes that two men intend to kill the third, so he runs to the water to tell Jim that they must notify the Sherriff; however, Jim moans that their raft is gone.  Nevertheless, Huck manages to locate the skiff of the thieves, and they retrieve the raft although they are too late to help anyone on board the wreck which sinks.  In this first loss of the raft, nothing occurs between Jim and Huck.

As they drift along with the booty of the thieves, Huck tells Jim about royalty, demonstrating again Twain's delightful satire.  During their conversations Jim is somewhat petulant because he is too old for all Huck's childish games; instead, he greatly desires to reach Cairon, Illinois, so he can get on the Ohio River and reach freedom.  But, as they approach the point where the Mississippi meets the Ohio river, a dense fog rises and when Huck reaches land with the canoe and strings the rope around young saplings, the current is so strong that the rope breaks and carries off the raft.  Jumping back into the canoe Huck pursues it, loses any sight of it in the fog and cannot determine from where Jim's "whoopes" emanate.  Exhausted, Huck falls asleep for a time, then wakes and spots a "black speck on the water."

When Huck finally reaches the raft, Jim is asleep, holding to the steering oar.  In his prankish way, Huck lies under him so that when Jim wakes up he is right there.  Huck convinces Jim that he has simply had a bad dream; Jim feels then that he should "'terpret" it since it was set for a warning. After Jim speaks for a while, Huck tells him that is enough, but asks, "...what does these things stand for?" showing him the debris which has collected on the raft. Jim realizes he has been tricked:

When he did get the thing straightened around, he looked at me steady, without ever smiling, and says:

"What do dey stan' for?  I's gwyne to tell you.  When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de cllin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no mo' what become er me en de far'.  En when I wake up en fine you back agin', all safe en soun', de ters come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss' yo; foot I's so thankfu.  En all you wuz thinkin' 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie.  Dat truck dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed."

With the emotion of Jim's reaction, Huck is ashamed of himself.  He narrates that he felt "so mean I could almost kissed his foot to get him to take it back."

It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger--but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither.  I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'd a knowed it would make him feel that way.

Perhaps for the first time, Huck begins to understand that Jim feels all the deep emotions of the most sensitive of human beings.  And, without completely realizing it, Huck loves Jim equally, for he feels terrible after Jim tells him how distraught he has been about Huck's safety.  Henceforth, he treats Jim as an equal for he knows that Jim loves him.  From spending time intimately with Jim, Huck learns that although Jim is a slave, he is yet a man with all the yearnings and feelings of a man.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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