The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin, by Mark Twain, is a book filled with satire, adventure, and much controversy. The book is written during the eighteen forties and takes place before abolition. In the story, a young boy named Huckleberry Fin escapes from his father and goes on an adventure in hopes of starting a new life. During this adventure, Huck witnesses many aspects of the real world and meets many new people as well. One of which is named Jim. Jim is a slave who ran away from his owner to try and become a free man. Huck befriends Jim and they start their adventure together. Mark Twain uses these characters to show how racism, in a society where racism is accepted, can be eliminated. I think his book improved race relations in the past and present. The book was published after slavery was abolished, but many people were still racist.
His powerful themes and messages most definitely had an impact on many people and their thoughts on slavery and racism in the past and present. Some may have thought of this book as just a child’s book or may have thought nothing of it, but after reading this book I think otherwise. There are examples from the book to support this claim. After Huck befriends Jim, they go on an adventure and Huck experiences the real world and its racism. The society in which this book takes places accepts the idea of racism. They think that just because black people are a different skin color, they are inferior and are unequal. However, Huck breaks this race barrier while he is with Jim. Huck sees that Jim is a regular human being just like him, even though they are different skin colors. Jim is said to be somewhat of a fatherly figure and Huck accepts this. Jim is thought of this way because Huck says that he feels comfortable and safe around Jim and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Huck says, “Jim, this is nice,” I says. “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here. Pass me along another hunk of fish and some hot corn-bread”(Twain 37). When Huck says this, it makes things seem like racism doesn’t exist and the racial barrier between blacks and whites no longer exists. Huck is joyous to be with Jim and wouldn’t give it up for the world. This quote becomes an important theme in the book as it reminds the reader over and over that a racial barrier does not demolish the friendship that Jim and Huck share.
In the society that Huck grew up in, whites believed that all blacks were thieves, liars, and were considered as property. This is very hypocritical because there are many of whites who fit the criteria of thieves and liars as well. Mark Twain made sure to add this hypocrisy into his book. He did this by involving two characters known as the Duke and the Dauphin. They are two men who travel from town to town stealing, scamming, and lying to people. It is completely ridiculous if whites judge another race by their skin color and then go do the same things they blame another race for doing. Now for an example to show what I mean. The Duke says, “Because Mary Jane will be in mourning from this out; and first you know the n***** that does up the rooms will get an order to box these duds up and put ’em away; and do you reckon a n***** can run across money and not borrow some of it?(Twain 134). The Duke and the Dauphin made a plan to pretend to be the brothers of a man named Peter Wilks who had died. They would then take the money that was left behind from Mr.Wilks and run. The money left behind by Peter was intended for his real brothers and his family. The Duke and the Dauphin lie about who they are and then steal the money of a random man that they never knew. So it’s ok for whites to say that all black are thieves and liars, but when it comes to a white person it isn’t a big deal. I don’t think that is right at all and it is most definitely unfair. What the Duke and the Dauphin did was very enraging and should never be done.
Later in the book the Dauphin sells Jim to a man named Mr.Phelps. Huck is very surprised and angry that the Dauphin did this. Huck then leaves the Duke and the Dauphin to rescue his best friend Jim. When Huck gets there, an old lady comes up to him and is very glad to see him. Huck later finds out that he is mistaken for Tom Sawyer and he uses this to his advantage. This mistake made by Mrs.Phelps helps Huck because it is now easier for him to find and rescue Jim. Huck says that he has to go get his bags from the boat that he came in and goes by himself. On the way, he finds Tom Sawyer on his way to Mrs.Phelps’ home. Tom is Mrs.Phelps’ nephew and she has mistaken Huck for Tom. Huck explains himself to Tom and this is where something very interesting happens. Huck says, “…And that is, there’s a n***** here that I’m a trying to steal out of slavery – and his name is Jim – old Miss Watson’s Jim”(Twain 170). Huck tells Tom that he is trying to rescue Jim, but Tom’s response isn’t what someone might expect. Tom says, “I’ll help you steal him!”(Twain 170).
This response said by Tom is very surprising, but it shows that the racial barrier is broken and that there is a chance for people to not be racist. Tom was brought up in a society where racism was accepted and Tom was taught to be racist as well. However, Tom decides to help Huck and wants to rescue Jim. Mark Twain used important themes and issues that were present during his time in his book and blended them into the story very intelligently. It made people think about how racism isn’t right and that there is still hope for blacks and whites to be equal. I think that many people who read this book during the time it was published felt very strongly about racism being a problem. There are still many racist people today who would probably think nothing of this book; but those who aren’t racist would think this book has a powerful message and improves race relations.