Huck Finn: Racist or Not?

Based on the perpetual use of the “N” word throughout the book, any sensible being would consider Huck Finn to be a racist novel. With Jim being a main character, and the only man of color in the story, we only can look towards Jim to decipher whether the book is racist or not. From the beginning to the end Huck, and others, refer to Jim using solely racial slurs. However, the depiction of Jim and Huck’s treatment to Jim suggests that the novel is not prejudiced.

Firstly, Jim is portrayed as an all around good person. In the second half of the book, Huck calls Jim a “good nigger” multiple times. Jim always would always let Huck sleep while ” it was his turn”(211) to keep watch. Towards the end, Jim helped Tom after he got shot and nursed him. Jim even sacrificed his freedom to help Tom. Jim performed the ultimate sacrifice for Tom: a chance at relapsing into slavery. He also protected Huck by “never let[ting] on to know me [Huck]”(289). Yet, Jim requests the bare minimum, only “bread and water”(289). To put these things in other terms, Jim is a stand-up man. He is fair; caring; and doesn’t cede anything if it will hurt others.

http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/wilson/slavery/hfslav16.jpg

Furthermore, the friendship Jim and Huck develop crushes any thoughts of racism. Although he didn’t realize until later in the book Huck comes to find that he values Jim a great deal. In chapter 31 Huck is unsure whether he should turn Jim in or not. He learned in sunday school that anyone who helps “nigger[s] goes to everlasting fire”. However, Huck refuses to turn in Jim he would rather “go to hell”(246) than hurt Jim. This shows the significance of Jim in Huck’s life. Huck, willingly, would bear eternal pain instead of turning in Jim. Another example of their friendship is when Huck thought that Jim had been sold. Upon hearing this information, Huck “begun to cry”(248). The reason as to why the friendship has so much importance is because Huck is the protagonist of the novel. Due to this, the mere fact that Jim is a great friend of Huck puts down the thought of racism; the entire novel contains a story of a runaway slave and a white boy.

Nevertheless, the book is not racist. Once one looks ” beyond the word ‘nigger'” it is glaring that the novel, actually, involves a great deal of satire towards slavery. In many different scenes Twain describes how horrible it would be for Jim to go back to slavery, multiple scenes talk of how great Jim is. Fittingly, the book ends with Jim being “prime” and treated excellently. Twain did this to leave a lasting impression that Jim is good, in fact, excellent.

 

Sources:

http://vc.bridgew.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1166&context=br_rev

 

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