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Is Huckleberry Finn Racist?

Example 1

Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn – Racist or Not? The book Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn is not a racist book. The main arguments against it are the characters’ personalities and the dialect they used. This novel is criticized by Twain critics and on the top ten ban list for school reading material. If people just concentrated on the main plot of the story, instead of the fine details that makes the novel realistic, they would agree that the accusation of this novel being racist is ridiculous. Huck Finn was abused by his father all throughout his childhood. He lived in constant fear of his surroundings and didn’t lead an exactly normal life.

When he finally decides to get out of his predicament and stages his own death, he meets up with Jim on Jackson’s island. As Jim’s quest for freedom and a better life continues he and Huck become closer. Huck’s conscience is leading him to believe different things throughout the novel, like whether him helping Jim to freedom is the right thing to do. But, in the end, Huck realizes he could never betray his friend, Jim, who has risked his life for Huck and who has become the closest friend Huck ever had and will ever have. The language is the major argument against this novel. The use of language is not Mark Twain’s viewpoint or the way he speaks but is the way people actually talked back then in the South. Like when Huck Finn says, “Miss Watson’s big nigger, named Jim.”

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He is just referring to Jim that way because that’s how he was raised and that is how everyone spoke back then. Even when Huck thought of Jim as a friend he still used the word “nigger,” but he didn’t use it in a harmful way, as of to insult anyone, but just as an everyday reference to black people that weren’t exactly uncommon. Jim is in no way portrayed as a bad character in this novel. Huck even believes Jim is a good person. You can see this when Huck states, “I thought he had a good heart in him and was a good man the first time I saw him.” Huck manages to look through Jim’s race and his own racist background and become his friend and helps lead him to freedom. Huck looks at the good qualities of Jim and not his skin colour.

Even if this novel did display Mark Twain’s viewpoint, I believe it wouldn’t be a racist one. Huck shows friendship towards Jim as well. The novel shows that Huck has feelings for Jim when Huck says, “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 do that one if I’d‘a’ knew it would make him feel that way.” The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn is in no way a racist novel. Jim is displayed as a very strong character and his skin colour is of no affect in this novel. The main plot of the novel has nothing to do with racism at all. It is just a young boy’s quest to find the life he wants to live and his growing friendship with a runaway slave. Huck looks up to Jim throughout the novel and they constantly help each other out. Back then, it would have been very uncommon for a young white boy to develop a friendship with a slave. Mark Twain looks past this and shows Jim as a human being and as Huck’s best friend.


Example 2

The book, Huckleberry Finn, explores the ideas of racism and slavery through the eyes of a young white boy during slave times. Throughout the book, Huck is confronted with people and ideas that force him to question the morals with which he was raised. Twain expresses his anti-slavery views through the use of satire, to show how slavery is wrong, and through Huck’s search for a moral truth to demonstrate the need to question existing societal values.

Huck learns to question his values based on events that occur as a result of his friendship with Jim. An example of these conflicts occurs when Huck is confronted by runaway slave catchers. He is forced to decide whether turning Jim in is the right thing to do. The law tells him that he must betray his friend, but his conscience tells him to question this law. He chooses, as he does many other times in the book, to continue helping Jim to obtain his freedom despite the fact that it seems immoral to him. He is driven by his friendship with Jim to challenge the rules of morality in his society. Clearly, Twain is using Huck’s choices in these circumstances to express what he thinks about slavery. He shows how societal values are incorrect in this case. If one thinks for themselves they will realize that slavery is wrong and that it is every human’s duty to continue to question the status quo when matters of conscience are involved.

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Another time Twain demonstrates the immorality of slavery is during Huck’s moral crisis after Jim is recaptured. The friendship between the two proves to be more important to Huck than his moral system. “All right then, I’ll go to hell.” (207) Huck decides that he would prefer to suffer extreme consequences rather than desert his friend. The idea is very clear that, although Huck has no problem with slavery, he considers Jim his equal and a friend. Twain is trying to convey those ideas of equality through Huck’s actions and thoughts. Huck converses with Jim as if Jim was a parental figure. Jim proves himself to be Huck’s caretaker when he refuses to let Huck see the dead body in the river in order to protect Huck at a time when he was most vulnerable. These actions demonstrate that Huck and Jim’s relationship is on a human-to-human basis with no bias related to Jim’s status as a slave.

There is a connection between the corrupt and criminal society that Huck experiences and the acceptance of slavery. The same people who condone slavery are murderous, stealing, criminal drunkards. For example, the Duke and the King, the deceiving criminal Huck and Jim meet on the river, try to trick Huck and turn Jim in simply to collect the reward money. This demonstrates Twain’s opinion that slavery existed in this society because of greed and corruption. In another example, Twain uses satire to demonstrate that slavery was kept in practice by corrupt people. Miss Watson is an educated, and self-proclaimed religious person, but also a slave owner. He shows how hypocritical people can be as they espouse religious beliefs that condemn their own actions. In this case, Miss Watson felt that slavery was an acceptable practise despite her religious background because slaves were not considered eligible to have the same rights and privileges that religion allowed others to enjoy.

The way Huck’s father, Pap, is portrayed in this book makes a strong connection between poor moral character, racism, and the acceptance of slavery. Pap is portrayed as, not only a racist but also, a rude, self-absorbed drunkard and child abuser. “It was ‘lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn’t too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let a nigger vote, I drawed out.” (35) This quote shows there is a connection between Pap’s crude behaviour and his racist beliefs. Twain uses this strong example to demonstrate that there were many such people in the society that was of similar character and held racist opinions.

Overall, this book demonstrates anti-slavery beliefs through the use of Huck’s moral struggle, ironic events, and connections between corrupt people and racism. Twain shows that slavery is acceptable only to immoral people in a self-absorbed society. He demonstrates how narrow-minded the people of his time were because they did not challenge the practice of slavery, but simply adopted it as morally correct because preceding generations believed it to be acceptable. By showing that the young boy chose more wisdom than most adults in his society, Twain challenged people to think about their choices. All these ideas converge to demonstrate Twain’s method of correcting an immoral society. He shows that people must break the cycle by asking questions and listening to their conscience and to not take everything they’re raised with as absolute truth.


Example 3

Throughout Mark Twain’s Novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, there have been many examples of Mark Twain being a racist with his constant degrading of Jim’s character and his incessant use of the word “Nigger”. He also illustrates Jim to be very gullible with the way he believes in many superstitions. As the novel progresses, however, twain brings the status of Jim’s character higher and closer to the status of whites. At the end of the novel, Twain finally shows that black should be given their freedom thus proving that Twain was not a racist.

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In Jim’s first appearance at the beginning of the novel, Huck and Tom snuck out at night and are hiding from the “night watchman,” Jim. Jim asks “who goes there” and falls asleep, thus proving that Jim the “typical nigger” is lazy and is an example of how Twain degraded Jim. Another way Jim was degraded at the beginning of the novel was his language use. Jim uses very poor English, so poor that it is quite difficult to read and comprehend. Jim also tells Huck about the time when he was captured and taken to New Orleans by a bunch of witches. These are examples of the degrading of Jim and showing how ignorant and gullible he is.

Right, when one thinks that Jim is so ignorant and uneducated Twain introduces a worse character by the name of Pap. Pap is portrayed as a sort of useless character, in the sense that he has no life, no education and is more ignorant than Jim. Pap is also the father of Huck which means he is white. When one reads about the character of Pap, one realizes that that’s how educated people were at the time. As a result, Jim’s status as a character, a black man, is raised higher than Pap, a white man.

When Huck and Jim decide they must leave Miss Watson and Pap and runaway, Twain writes about how Jim has a dream on how to save his family. He thinks that if he reaches the free side of the Ohio River, then he will work for enough money to free his wife. After she is freed, they together will work to free their kids. Twain exemplified how Jim had a purpose in life and was going to use his hard-earned money for something beneficial. Pap, on the other hand, gets almost all of his money from begging from Huck and Judge Thatcher. When Pap does have money or fish that he caught, he would trade them for something useless like whiskey. Once again Twain raises the status of a black man by illustrating how Jim has a dream and Pap, a white, is lazy and has nothing really to live for.

Finally, Jim is also known as a very gullible person because of all of the times when Huck lied to Jim in the fog and told him that it was a dream. Jim actually believed in what Huck told him. From this one may infer how gullible Jim is, once again leading to Twain being a racist. Twain then introduces two characters who are known as The Duke and The Dauphin who are frauds. They are known for tricking the community into giving them money, such as a fake tooth formula. With this, Twain epitomizes how gullible the communities are. Again Twain brings the status of blacks closer to the white community showing how they are both gullible and uneducated. Thus they should be treated the same and in the end, Jim is rightly given his freedom.

As one can see, Mark Twain, the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is clearly not a racist. At the beginning of the novel, one may infer that he is a racist because of his constant illustration of blacks being uneducated, gullible, and very superstitious. As the novel progresses, however, he uses the degrading of other white characters to bring the status of black up. The status gets so high, that it is equivalent to those of whites, and as a result, Jim is finally given his freedom.


Example 4

Racism is an issue that has been around for a very long time. From way back to the time of the Egyptians and Hebrews to the Middle Passage, to right up until the American Civil War, slavery has existed, and we still feel the effects of it today. Mark Twain wrote a controversial book about slavery and racism, called The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Many believe that it is racist, but, after further examination, the book is the opposite. When the book starts out, the character Jim does seem to be portrayed from a racist view, but as the story goes on, he is shown to be more complex and round. The King and the Duke, who are the antagonists of the novel and are kind of flat, but they are disliked and racist. A racist author would most likely have made the antagonists anti-racist. Huck, as well, was not really racist and a racist author would have made the protagonist racist. Despite the fact that Mark Twain was alive during a time when racism and slavery were common, events and dialogue in his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn suggest that he was not racist and he disagrees with slavery.

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Jim starts off as the stereotypical, lying superstitious, a foolish black slave. Twain paints the picture of a superstitious slave when he writes about Tom and Huck tricks Jim into thinking he was “ridden by witches” by moving his hat while he was asleep: “Jim was monstrous proud about it, and he got so he wouldn’t hardly notice the other niggers… Jim always kept that five-center piece round his neck with a string and that it was a charm the devil gave him…” (16). However, as the story progresses, Twain shows the reader that blacks are not inferior. He shows that Jim is kind and caring after losing Huck in the fog: “…is dat you Huck?… It’s too good for true, honey… de same ole Huck, thanks to goodness!” (87). In that same scene, Jim figures out that Huck tricked him and scolds him: “…I’s so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin’ ‘bout wuz how you could make a fool uv old Jim wid a lie. Dat truck duh is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren’s en make ‘em ashamed” (88). Jim knows the difference between right and wrong. Twain shows Jim’s softer side when he tells Huck the story of he deaf and mute daughter: “Oh, de po’ little thing! De Lord God Almighty forgive po’ ole Jim…” (154). A racist author would not show the deep, complex, true Jim and would just portray Miss Watson’s slave as a stereotype.

The antagonists of Huck Finn, the King and the Duke, are both somewhat racist. They dislike Jim and sell him, treating him like property. After the King sells him, the Duke explains it to Huck: “That old fool sold him, and never divided with me… Well you can’t get your nigger, that’s all…” (209). A racist author would not have made the antagonists with views like his own. Also, the King and the Duke are not liked. In fact, they end up getting tarred and feathered by an angry mob: “…and as they went by I see they had the King and Duke astraddle of a rail…they was all over tar and feathers…” (223). Most of the time, antagonists have the opposite view(s) of the author. So, it makes sense that the King and the Duke are opposite of Twain, or, racist.

The protagonist of the story, Huck grew up around racist people like Miss Watson and his father. But despite this, Huck knows what is right and what is wrong. Huck does not see Jim as a stupid slave but as a friend. His view and love of Jim is especially evident when he tears up the letter to send to Miss Watson and decides he would rather go to hell than turning his friend in: “But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind…and how good he always was…and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world… I’d got to decide…’All right then, I’ll go to hell!’” (207). In addition, Huck apologizes…

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Is Huckleberry Finn Racist?. (2021, Feb 28). Retrieved January 28, 2023, from