In Toni Morrison’s essay about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, she discusses the racial problems and the use of the word “nigger” in the book. Morrison talks about the word embarrasses, bored, and annoyed her, but that “name calling is a plague of childhood”. She also talks about how there is a fatherhood issue throughout the book. She talks about how Huck can’t settle down anywhere. He is almost afraid to be alone because simple things seem to frighten him.
But then when Jim and Huck are together all those feelings of being afraid and lonesome aren’t there as much. She kind of refers to Jim as a kind of father/ older brother figure to Huck. Morrison says, “What does Huck need to live without terror, melancholy, and suicidal thoughts? The answer of course, is Jim”(387-388). Morrison plainly says that Jim is that person in Huck’s life that takes away all those feelings and fears. But the problem is both Huck and Jim know that they will soon have to separate from each other because of their white/black childhood friendship.
Morrison also says, “Huck’s desire for a father who is adviser and trustworthy companion is universal, but he also needs something more: a father whom, unlike his own, he can control”(390). Jim is the perfect person to fill the father position for Huck, because Huck can control him and begin to feel responsible for him. But also, Jim is a “father-for-free” which means they don’t have a life long debt that is owed to them like real fathers. Huck and Jim’s friendship is rare for that time period because blacks where slaves to whites.
However, even though they are two different races in a time where it is socially wrong for them to be friends, Huck is willing to take a chance on this friendship. It also shows that Huck has an open mind to all possibilities, even its being friends with a person of another race. “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn’t 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 a knowed it would make him feel that way” (95).
This quote is another example of racism in the book, however, no matter what color Jim may be Huck knows that what he did to Jim was wrong. He struggled with apologizing to Jim because of the way society is and his upbringing. But he overcomes his upbringing and the ways of society and apologizes to Jim because they are friends and he sincerely feels bad for what he has done to him. To Huck, Jim is his best friend and a “father” figure, which makes the bond between them that much tighter and closer to each other.
Like in Morrison’s essay, she talks about how Huck hates being alone so much that he is almost suicidal, but when he is with Jim his loneliness isn’t a scary knowing that he isn’t alone. Huck feels less afraid and more comfortable with Jim around because he knows that Jim is a “father” figure. “Pap he hadn’t been seen for more than a year, and that was comfortable for me; I didn’t want to see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on me; though I used to take to the woods most of the time when he was around” (24). This quote shows how Huck felt towards his father and how he was afraid of his father.
I agree with Morrison’s essay where she talks about how Huck has father issues. In this one quote, Huck talks about how he didn’t care that he hadn’t seen his father in a while and how he didn’t want to see him anymore anyways. He talks about how his father use to beat him and that he would run and hide in the woods when ever his father was around. Huck spent most of his time running away and hiding from his dad, because he was afraid his dad would come get him and beat him. I do agree with Morrison that Huck doesn’t want to admit that he and Jim are going to have to one day go their separate ways.
Huck makes up reasons of why they don’t land in Cairo just so he and Jim can stay together. But in Morrison’s essay she questions whether Huck will be able to make it without Jim when he goes into new “territory” and goes on adventures without him. I do believe Huck can do it without Jim. One, because he now knows that his father is dead and won’t be coming after him. Two, because he has learned a lot from being on his own even though Jim was with him. He still had a big responsibility for both himself and Jim and making sure they made it through all of their adventures.
I think that Huck has grown as a boy and matured more than most boys his age, because he is living on his own and not only having to look after himself, but also Jim. Morrison said, “Name calling is a plague of childhood and a learned activity ripe for discussion as soon as it surfaces” (386). I fully agree with Morrison on this point. Growing up you tend to follow what others do, whether it be your family upbringing or friends that have been brought up different than you. When you are a kid, if your friend calls some one a name normally other kids will join in just because that is the way children and even adults today work.
No one wants to feel like the outcast so one person who starts name calling can eventually turn into a whole group of kids/adults, its like what Morrison calls it, “a plague”. However, a child’s upbringing has a lot to do with how a child reacts to name calling. Back in that time period, it was like name calling and feuds where a normal part of the daily life. Family’s that had had feuds going on for generations would keep it going by convincing the next generation that that other family was no good and so then the feud would continue, along with the name calling.
Morrison’s overview of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are very easy to agree with, because she explains and goes into detail about how she believes what she does. She backs up all the things she talks about such as; Huck having father issues, Huck’s issues of loneliness and suicidal thoughts, and the racial politics. After reading Morrison’s essay on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I understood so much more of the book, because she explained some of the deeper themes and problems in the book.
Courtney from Study Moose
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