“Jim, he couldn’t see
no sense in the most of
it, but he allowed we
was white folks and
knowed better than
 Like Huck, Jim has
been so conditioned
by a slave-holding
society, he never
questions the morality
of slavery.
Only the threat of
permanent separation
from his family
compels him to run
 Since he believes the
lowliest white person is
still his social superior,
it seems logical to him
that Tom Sawyer must
also be his intellectual
While funny, all of this escape
material is very cruel to Jim, who
has the status of a stage prop in
Tom’s mind.
Jim doesn’t know the escape is a
charade; he goes through all of
these complications because he
thinks they are necessary to
gaining freedom.
Twain is making fun of Tom and
by extension, people who think
like Tom.
The coat of arms scene is Tom at
his worst. This is a parallel to the
Duke’s rendition of Hamlet.
What’s more, it’s not even
rebellious: Tom knows all along
that Jim is a free man: He is not
trying to help a slave escape.
The escape is indeed splendid
from an adventure point of view.
Jim’s refusal to leave Tom
untended is extremely noble,
especially given how badly Tom
has treated Jim over the past
three weeks.
Huck sees Jim as “white inside.”
Huck’s definition of blacks as
property hasn’t changed, and he
has barely given any thought to
the larger social issue.
What has changed is his attitude
toward an individual black man,
who has evolved in Huck’s mind
from a piece of property to an
admirable human being.
As much as these people
seem to care for Huck, he
isn’t at all sure he belongs
with them – or any other
people, for that matter.
He’s had some good
glimpses of civilization on
his journey, and most of
what he’s seen hasn’t been
very pretty.
So the last thing he says is
he intends to light out for
the territory – that part of
the country that hasn’t yet
been “blessed” with
In the 20th century, critics
angry about Twain’s
realistic language and
impatient with his ironic
condemnation of racism,
have accused him of it,
confusing the messenger
with the message.
Lost in the serious issues
is that Huckleberry Finn
is a very funny book, told
in deadpan. Huck is
entirely humorless: only
Twain and the reader
“get it.”
Readers lulled by Huck’s voice
just talking his story, and lulled
by Twain’s loving evocation of the
sights, sounds, and smells of
idyllic life on and along the river,
are sometimes jolted by the
discomfort they feel at Huck’s
language, and at the people and
incidents Huck encounters –
including the violence of Pap
Finn, the feud between the
Grangerfords and Shepherdsons,
the murder of Boggs, the bilking
of the orphan Wilks girls, and the
betrayal of Jim.
They all belong to a world
profoundly flawed and
uncomfortably real.
Because in its plot and its
narrative details the book brings
up issues of class , violence, and
racism in American society, and
because these issues are still with
us, the book remains almost as
controversial as it is celebrated.
In the 19th century, critics were
shocked at Huck’s “low”
language, his rationalization of
lying and stealing, and his
undisguised skepticism toward
such things as prayer and
religious doctrine. They sought to
ban the book, lest it set a bad
example for children.
Initial reviews were equally
mixed: Some “got it,” and others
• “It deals with a series of adventures
of a very low grade of morality; it is
couched in the language of a rough,
ignorant dialect, and all through its
pages there is a systematic use of
bad grammar and an employment of
rough, coarse, inelegant
expressions. It is also very
• Others called it the crowning
achievement of a “literary artist of a
very high order,” a “tour de force,” a
“minute and faithful picture,” and
hailed its evocation of the “lawless,
mysterious, wonderful Mississippi”
and of the “startlingly real” riverside
people who “do not have the air of
being invented, but of being found.”

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn