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Finding a Friend Behind the Mask

Essay by   •  May 12, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,613 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,580 Views

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Throughout the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, the word 'nigger' is used regularly and loosely. In current society the word is one of the most derogatory, evil and hated words known. The word is hardly used now a day but back during the time that this novel was written, racism was as evident as leaves on trees. The word has caused many people to fear the issues surfaced in the novel, and therefore it is not surprising that the novel has been banned in numerous cities and states across North America. The use of the word in the novel however should not be looked at as a sin, but rather a word that places a value on how far society has come in regards to opening people's eyes to the fact that there is only one way to spell human. H-u-m-a-n. Not b-l-a-c-k or w-h-i-t-e. Just h-u-m-a-n. A reoccurring theme in this novel is slavery and all of the dedicated believers that come with it; all of them with blood plagued by cruelty, and eyes blind to humanity. Mark Twain does a great deal throughout the novel to prepare the reader to create his or her own opinions and realities about slavery. Subtle but obvious enough to notice, Mark Twain is able to convince the reader that his views are proper and because of that he is very successful at proving that 'niggers' are humans too. By making Jim a main character in the novel, Mark Twain expresses his personal views on slavery through the encounters of Jim. Mark Twain creates fictitious realities about the equality of all men in several different ways, all expressed through Jim. One of the ways, is how he includes passages dedicated solely to Jim's 'human' emotions. Another way results from how he shows Jim as a caring and loyal friend to Huck. The final way that Mark Twain shows Jim, a 'nigger', as human is when he describes Huck's feelings and reactions towards Jim. By doing all of these things, certain images are painted in the reader's head that allow them to look through the eyes of Mark Twain. Through the eyes of a man who went against everything he was taught to believe, and a man who revealed the truth, to essentially the world, about slavery. He has proven through this novel that everyone deserves an equal chance and everyone deserves to be treated like the human they are.

Back in the times when slavery was as present as a horse at the racetrack, 'niggers' were so un-human that they didn't deserve to have feelings or emotions. They were placed solely on the earth to work as slaves and to satisfy their owners. Or at least that is what the world was forced to believe. Mark Twain had anything but a conventional mind however, and was willing to challenge the beliefs of not only the people of America but the church as well. He chose to write about the journey of a black man and a white boy, connected through the river. He created the notion that Jim was just as human as everyone else, and to help him portray the, at the time impossible, characteristic he allowed Jim to have feelings and emotions. One specific example is when Jim starts thinking about his family, which he so dearly misses.

"[Jim] was thinking about his wife and his children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick; because he hadn't ever been away from home before in his life; and I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n." (Twain 155)

A common emotion in humans is that of longing when something of value is lost. Whether that something be as simple as the family van, or as complex as a loved one, there is always that internal feeling of emptiness. If a black man weren't a human he would be numb to the feelings of emptiness and the general rush of emotions experienced when a loved one is lost. When Jim was on the raft, "...with his head down betwixt his knees, moaning and mourning to himself." (Twain 155) he must have obviously been feeling those heart-wrenching pains. The reader is able to relate to these moments that Jim encounters because everyone is human, and everyone has the same cycles of mourning, perhaps with a few slight discrepancies in severity. Mark Twain also introduces the innocence of a child to further promote the idea that Jim has feelings equally as real as any other character in the novel. When Jim's daughter was only four years old, she developed scarlet fever and it took a vicious toll on her young, fragile body. When she simply stood staring and smiling up at Jim one day after he had asked her numerous times to shut the door, he got so frustrated that he hit her. That first of all shows that Jim feels paternal instincts to discipline his children and that he gets frustrated sometimes. Although what he did while frustrated was wrong, it still shows that he is not just a robot that acts on command, he can act upon instinct as well. The major 'human' quality that Jim shows however, is the extreme regret and remorse that he expresses after he has hit his daughter.

"My, but I wuz mad! I was a-gwyne for de chile, but jis' den - it was a do' dat open innerds - jis' den, 'long come de wind en slam it to, behine de chile, ker-blam! - en my lan', de chile never move'! My breff mos' hop outer me; en I feel so - so - I doan' know how I feel. I crope out, all a-tremblin', en crope aroun' en open de do' easy en slow, en poke my head in behine de chile, sof' en still, en all uv a sudden I says pow! jis' as loud as I could yell. She never budge! Oh, Huck, I bust out a-cryin' en grab her up in my arms, en say, 'Oh, de po' little thing! De Lord God Amighty fogive po' ole Jim, kaze he never gwyne to fogive hisself as long's he live!' Oh, she was plumb deef en dumb, Huck, plumb deef en dumb - en I'd ben a-treat'n her so!" (Twain 156)

By having Jim upset over his child, the effect of the grief and terror on Jim's part was enhanced. Jim proves that he isn't simply an emotionless slave, but that he is a rather compassionate and loving human being.

Being compassionate will get you far in life, however being a friend will take you down a road much more pleasantly pursued. Jim develops a very special bond with Huck on the raft. They turn from two people aching to break free, into friends willing to do anything for each other. Back in those days, it was an extreme rarity to see a black person socializing with any white person, never mind traveling down the river like old pals with a young, white boy. Seeing as Huck and Jim were both non-conformists at heart, it isn't a surprise that they got along so well, to create this magical story. "And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight,

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