The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is about the unlikely friendship between Huck Finn, a poor white boy, and Jim, a slave searching for freedom. Their adventures together throughout the book showcase the failings of society at the time, but also show that a friendship between an African American and white boy can flourish. Over the course of the book Huck begins to become more conscious of Jim as a person and an equal, rather than someone who is beneath his class. Huck begins to make decisions based on the wellbeing of his friend Jim, instead of only focusing on his own interests.
In the beginning of the book Huck makes decisions based on this own wellbeing and does not consider how he could help Jim. After their escape from the island Huck and Jim come across a steamboat that has wrecked on the rocks and have an argument on whether to board it or not. Huck tries to reason with Jim by saying, “I can’t rest, Jim, till we give her a rummaging. Do you reckon Tom Sawyer would ever go by this thing? Not for pie, he wouldn’t. He’d call it an adventure—that’s what he’d call it; and he’d land on that wreck if it was his last act. ”(P. 62)
Huck knows that Jim is an escaped slave and if he is captured there will be little hope of him escaping again, or seeing his family. Despite this, Huck still demands that they rummage the steamboat just for the adventure of it. He fails to realize the uncertainty and peril of Jim’s situation and the consequences that could occur if he was captured. Later on, Huck becomes torn between two sides of his moral conscious. On one hand he feels like he needs to turn Jim in, but he know that if he did he would feel guilty.
He feels stuck between his thoughts, but ultimately decided “I wouldn’t bother no more about it, but after this always do whichever come handiest at the time. ” (P. 85) While Huck decides not to turn in Jim, he decides this based on his own survival. If it was advantageous for him to keep Jim around he would, but he would also turn Jim in if he got himself into a tight spot. This shows that Huck is still absorbed in his own needs and is not considering what he could do for Jim.
However, overtime Huck begins to care for Jim as a friend, and starts to make decisions to help Jim even if it means making personal sacrifices. At one point when Huck and Jim are separated Huck considers sending a letter to Mrs. Watson informing her of the whereabouts of Jim, but he is torn between his feeling of friendship, and the guilt he feels about helping a slave escape (which will ultimately result in an afterlife in hell, according to society at the time. ) “It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed 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 up. ” (P. 193) Huck consciously makes the decision to go to hell in order to help Jim obtain his freedom. This marks the point in the book where Huck no longer doubts his friendship to Jim, but intends to help him not matter the cost, even if it means going to hell. Huck’s loyalty to Jim goes further when he tells Tom Sawyer of his plan to steal Jim out of slavery. “I know what you’ll say.
You’ll say it’s dirty, low-down business; but what if it is? I’m low down; and I’m a-going to steal him” (P. 204) By confiding his plan to steal a slave to another white boy, Huck embraces his friendship to Jim, even if it means becoming a social outcast in the process. These two situations show that Huck has become more conscious of Jim’s needs, not only putting them before his own needs, but also seeing Jim’s dream of freedom as his dream as well. Throughout the book Huck is forced to decide between helping Jim achieve freedom or turning him in.
This moral struggle shows the conflict between Huck’s true feelings of friendship towards Jim, and society’s belief that African Americans should be slaves. Mark Twain continually refers to the relationship between personal beliefs and society beliefs and it becomes a major theme of the book. This is especially apparent when Huck is confronted with sending the letter to Mrs. Watson with the whereabouts of Jim. As soon as he finishes writing the letter he feels “good and all washed clean of sin for the first time” (P. 192)
By writing the letter he is attempting to conform to society’s beliefs, giving him a feeling of relief. He now no longer has to consider the right and wrong of turning Jim in or helping him be free, he can just go with the flow of society. However, Jim does tear up the letter after recollecting on the experiences he and Jim shared, the resulting friendship, and “never thought no more about reforming” (P. 193) The word choice of “reforming” clearly shows that Huck will not take the easy route and do as society dictates. He realizes his friendship with Jim is more important than what society believes is right.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn gives a glimpse into a society where African Americans were enslaved due to the belief that they were different and less human than their white counterparts. But this story also shows how a young white boy can overcome the stereotypes of society, as well as his own misguided beliefs, to begin to care about and form a friendship with an African American. Huck and Jim’s friendship is proof, that even in a time of extreme racial racism, that people who are perceived to be different can form a connection.