English 201 book essay
I recently read the book Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. This story deals Mainly with a lost boy escaping his harsh existence, and a slave trying to reach freedom. During the course of this book, the slave Jim, and the Boy Huck Bond with each other. I enjoyed this book immensely for a couple different reasons. While I liked the story, and the plot kept me interested, the real reason I found myself enjoying this book so much, was Mark Twain’s use of the underlying theme of racism.
In this story, I found myself admiring Huck’s innocent approach to slavery, and the treatment of slaves. Is Huck Finn a racist? Now this is a tough question. I would be tempted to say no. He always treats his run away slave-partner Jim equally. Never in this book once did he treat a black any different then he would have treated any white in the same situation. Whether or not Huck was intending to be racist, the fact still remains that he did not think of blacks as equal. In the time period Huck Finn was written white children grew up with the mentality that they were a higher social class then the blacks. . I think Huck was subconsciously racist, but too innocent to understand it’s meaning, or even come to a conclusion about whether slavery was right or wrong.
All his life Huck had lived in an environment in which slavery and racism were perfectly normal. To him questioning the morality of slavery would be like us questioning whether it’s morally right to keep house pets. Huck acquired his racism from his parental figures. When Huck was living with the widow, she had slaves around. Huck became used to slaves tending to his needs. For a short period in the book, Huck went to live with his dad. His dad frequently displayed his dislike for blacks, especially free ones. Even at the end of the book when Huck was good friends with Jim he was still influenced racially.
Aunt Sally asked Huck why the steamboat took so long getting there. Huck said, “We blowed a cylinder-head.” “Good gracious anybody hurt?” “No’m killed a nigger.” “Well it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt” (Twain 199). Whether or not Huck was trying to be racist is irrelevant, the fact is his home life taught him racism as a way of life.
Huck’s innocence severely handicapped his racism. Throughout the book Jim was just about Huck’s only friend, yet Jim was black. Jim looks out for Huck like a father would. On several occasions Huck comes close to turning Jim in. Huck keeps thinking he is doing something morally wrong by helping Jim to escape. He never questions whether slavery is morally right or wrong. He just figures it to be a way of life. Huck never actually got to the conclusion that maybe he was doing the right thing by trying to free Jim, and that slavery might actually be wrong. I think that Mark Twain may be using Huck as an example of the human race as a whole. Sometimes we over look the real problems in life, because we are always so tied up in a bunch of trivial corals.
However, despite Huck’s constant racist personality, some changes did occur in Huck’s feelings about Jim during the course of the book. Until the end of the book, Huck never worried about Jim’s whereabouts. Jim on the other hand was always terribly nervous about Huck’s whereabouts. During the time Huck spent with the Grangerfords, he totally forgot about Jim for at least two weeks. Jim was very worried about Huck’s well being during this time. Another time Huck left Jim for a period of time, was when he went with the king and the duke to play as Peter Wilke’s brothers. This time as before, Huck forgot about Jim. By the end of the book, Huck had begun to change. While Huck was hanging out with the duke and the king, Jim ended up getting sold to a family called the Phelps. Huck became nervous, and decided to go find out what had happened to Jim. Towards the end of the book, Huck decided to go against everything he knew to be right, and help Jim to escape from his owners the Phelps.
Huck was a racist throughout the book, but as he would say, he don’t mean nothn by it. I think Huck’s racism in this book was a pretty evident underlying theme. Throughout the book, Mark Twain portrayed Huck as a racist, yet kind to blacks. Huck’s innocence in this book allowed him to be kind to blacks and yet still look at whites in a superior way. Even at the end of the book when Huck decided that he was going to do what he thought was the wrong thing and free Jim, he never came to the conclusion that slavery and racism might be wrong, and he might be on the right track.
Twain’s use of racism in a child as an underlying theme intrigued me. I believe in order to get a full idea of what I am talking about, you should read this book. I would highly recommend Huckleberry Finn to any college student looking for a good story with a lot of depth.