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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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Why does Jim run away from Miss Watson in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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In Chapter Eight of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck bumps into Jim on his fourth day on the island. Although Jim initially thinks that Huck is a ghost, he is eventually able to settle down and confess why he has run away from home: he had overheard Miss Watson planning to sell him to a slave trader for $800. Jim did not want to be taken away from his family and shipped off to New Orleans. 

Ultimately, both Jim and Huck have fallen into a state of feeling alienated from the society that is trying to mold their lives in an unfavorable way. Their escape offers them a sense of freedom from the expectations of their previous lives and those who wish to control them.

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Jim ran away because Miss Watson was going to sell him down South.

Huck runs away from his abusive father, and soon runs into an escaped slave.  While he lived with Miss Watson, Huck got to know Jim and appreciate him.  When Jim told Huck that he had run off, Huck was surprised, but he promised not to tell anyone.

“Well, you see, it 'uz dis way. Ole missus—dat's Miss Watson—she pecks on me all de time, en treats me poorty rough, but she awluz said she wouldn' sell me down to Orleans. But I noticed dey wuz a nigger trader roun' de place considable lately, en I begin to git oneasy. (ch 8)

One of the worst things about being a slave is not having any control over your life, and being sold away from your family.

The question of whether to turn Jim in or not plagues Huck for much of the book.  His conscience tells him to, because that is the law.  It’s what is societally acceptable.  Yet Jim is Huck’s friend, and he is a good person. Huck never does turn him in, and even tries to free him once he gets captured.

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

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.

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