A Journey of Growth The Old South’s way of life deformed the consciences of the people living there, convincing them of the humanity of slavery. Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn tells the story of Hack Finn, a young redneck’s boy, who finds friendship in a runaway slave named Jim, despite his own racist background. Though Hack and Jim bond throughout their Journey, Hack struggles to overcome the way he was raised and see Jim as a person capable of feelings and emotions.
Throughout his Journey down the Mississippi, Hack is faced with challenges where he must decide Jims fate, UT as his bond with Jim grows stronger, he begins to unlearn the racist views he was taught. He begins to mature and follow his heart when he apologizes to Jim, decides not to turn him in, and when he finally has the epiphany that he would rather rot in Hell than turn in his best friend. Hack, who grew up playing tricks on others with Tom Sawyer, realizes for the first time that African-American slaves are capable of feeling pain, and he learns that true friends do not try to hurt each other.
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After being separated from Jim all night in the fog, Hack finally finds him asleep on the raft, and he decides that it would be funny to lay a trick on the less intelligent man. After making up a story and trying to convince Jim that the entire night was Just a dream, Hack Jokingly comes clean and tells Jim the truth, but he does not expect Jims serious reaction. Jim stares Hack right in the eye and says, “When I wake up en fine you back aging, all safe en soon’, De tears come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss’ you’ foot Xi’s so thankful. En all you wiz thinking ’bout wiz how you could make a fool up ole Jim wide a lie,” (Twain 95).
Jim storms off, leaving Hack to contemplate his decision. For the first time in his life, Hack has it brought to his attention that his actions can cause emotional pain to others, and he sees his first glimpse of how much Jim cares for him. Hack reflects to himself, “It made me feel 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 too Niger- but I done it, and I warrant 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 owned it would make him feel that way’ (95).
Hack sees the pain he has caused Jim, and he begins to understand that even black slaves have feelings. His friendship with Jim has grown, and though he was taught his whole life that slaves were inferior and incapable of real human emotions, he does something that no young white boy would imagine doing during this time; he apologizes too “Niger. ” This action shows Husks first steps at unlearning the racist ideals he was taught growing up and how he is willing to accept the friendship off black man despite the southern way of life.
In his criticism “Introduction to Huckleberry Finn,” T. S. Eliot writes, “What I find still more stubbing, and still more unusual in literature, is the pathos and dignity of the boy, when reminded so humbly and humiliatingly, that his position in the world is not that of other boys, entitled from time to time to a practical Joke; but that he must bear, and bear alone, the responsibility off man” (351). T. S. Eliot discusses how this is the event that opens his eyes to the fact that his reason for living is much greater than that of other boys his age.
Though Hack learned a valuable lesson about friendship, he has trouble viewing Jim as a human worthy of being free because he is stuck in the mindset that African- Americans are only three fifths a person and that they are property of their white owners. His heart tells him that saving Jim is the right thing, but his conscience continues to convince him that he is breaking the law and committing a horrible sin. Husks conscience pesters him constantly and says, “What had poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her Niger go off right under your eyes, and never say one single word?
What did that poor old woman do to you, that you could treat her so mean” (Twain 110)? Husks southern mentality dictates his life, and he honestly lives that Jim is not his own person but Just a piece of property that Hack has helped steal from Miss Watson. He tries to put these feelings out of his mind, but when Jim confides in him that once he is free he plans to buy his wife out of slavery and together they can steal their children, Hack is again faced with the challenge of deciding between right and wrong.
He thinks to himself, “Here was this Niger which I had as good as helped to run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying he would steal his children-children that belonged to a man I didn’t even know; a man hat hadn’t ever done me no harm” (1 11). As well as viewing Jim as Miss Watson property, he sees Jims children as the property of their slave-owner. He has trouble handling the idea that Jims children are actually people Just like Hack who deserves to be with their family and live lives free from slavery.
As Hack paddles away to meet the two men coming on a boat, Jim says, “Xi’s a free man, en I couldn’t ever Ben free fee it had’ Ben for Hack; Hack done it… Yoga’s De bees’ free’ Jims ever had; en Yoga’s De only free’ ole Jims got now’ (1 11). At first, this seems to make Hack feel even guiltier for eloping a runaway slave, but when the two men begin asking about Jim and whether he’s a white man or a runaway slave, Hack lies and saves Jim from being captured.
It’s obvious from this that Hack is starting to accept the fact that he and Jim are friends and that even if society says it is wrong, he will do whatever he needs to in order to protect his companion. When Hack learns that Jim has been captured and is being held at a local farm, he faces his biggest challenge- whether to fight to save Jim or to write a letter to Miss Watson and tell her Jims whereabouts. He honestly believes that if he does not turn Jim in, he is committing a vulgar sin and will be sent to Hell for eternity, so he decides to sit down and pray.
He tries and tries, but he believes so strongly that helping Jim is a sin that he is unable to make himself say the words. He says, “l endowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warrant right; it was because I warrant square; it was because I was playing double” (222). His fondness for Jim has grown so much that he knows he is unable to turn him in no matter how wrong he thinks it is. He continues to make an effort to do the right thing, so he writes out the letter to
Miss Watson, but then he begins thinking of Jim and their Journey down the Mississippi River. He looks at the letter and says, “l was trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I endowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’- and tore it things he had learned about slaves and start living his way even if it meant that he would go to Hell. His chooses to follow his heart rather than let the deformed society dictate his thoughts and actions. Leo B.
Levy states in his criticism, “The triumph of agency is the shedding of conventional morality; immorality, paradoxically, is the source of virtue” (388). This is ironically true because what society sees as right is wrong and what it sees as sinful is moral action. Hack is able to let his decency triumph and ignore society view of him. This final moment of realization ends Husks Journey because at this point he decides Jims and his own fate for good. The Journey down the river symbolizes Husks Journey to maturation, which he ultimately wins. He conquers society’s idea of how he should be raised and chooses his own fate.
Hack learns to see past the corrupt racist views of the South, and he moves out to the Indian Territory, which has not yet been corrupted with slavery. The maturation that Hack experiences far outreaches that of other people in the South because while Hack was battling to save a runaway slave, many people continued to take part in the practice of slavery. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn shows a young, uneducated Husks Journey because only a boy, still untouched by the taint of the world, could learn what generations of people in the South could not: that even a black man deserves freedom.