Twain’s Use Of Jim As An Argument Against Slavery In ‘Huckleberry Finn’

Book Analysis

Mark Twain, a dedicated abolitionist, used the book as a platform to argue against the racism and hypocrisy of the south during the 1800s. Twain’s book was used by the abolitionist to criticize the racism and hypocrisy that characterized the south in the 1800s.

Mark Twain used many tools to illustrate his argument about racism, the hypocrisy and flaws in American society. For example, Pap’s drunken lecture scene, Huck’s meeting with Mrs. Phelps or Jim’s involvement and character throughout Huck’s adventure. Jim’s portrayal of the character in this book has caused controversy. Some think Twain used Jim to show that he was a racist, because he depicted him as an idiot who only cares about money. Twain, however, used Jim to make a point about the racism that existed in American society during the 1800s.

Twain reaches his goal by making Jim the most morally superior character. He does this by showing him to be a caring, kind and loyal person. This contradicts southern views of the time which held that African Americans had no value as people and were only property.

Mark Twain’s book was published in 1880s. This was more than 10 years after the end of the Civil War, and the emancipation for all slaves. But racism continued to be prevalent up until the Civil Rights Movement. Huck’s morals in the south show that many Americans still believed blacks to be inferior, for a variety of reasons. They thought they were stupid and lacking emotions. Mark Twain uses Jim’s affection and emotions for his family as a way to show that these stereotypes are false. He also attacks the reasons that Whites believe they are superior and can be racist toward African Americans. Jim feels sad that he is separated from Huck during the fog scenes and relieved to see him again. When I was tired from work and hearing you calling, then went to bed, my heart was broken because you were gone.

Jim describes in this quote how he searched for Huck tirelessly and was deeply hurt when Huck left him. Twain tries to prove that Jim can, like other African Americans, have feelings and emotions towards others in the quote. This evidence that Jim has emotions is contrary to the racial myth that African Americans have no feelings. It supports Twain’s anti-racism argument. Jim’s emotional side is also revealed when he describes his family. Jim’s emotional state was affected by his separation from his daughter and wife before the book.

In the end of the book, we can see that his family is very important to him. His separation from them causes him great emotional distress. Huck would watch out for the Duke and King on the raft while Jim kept the raft on track. Jim weeps for his family, which he has missed dearly. When I woke up at dawn, he had his head between his knees and was moaning. I did not notice nor tell anyone. I knew what was going on. He was worried about his wife, and his children up there.. I believe that he cared for his people the same way white folks care for theirs. It’s not natural to me but I’m sure it is. (Twain 161).

The quote is essential to Twain’s case because it refutes the idea that was prevalent at the time: blacks couldn’t love their families or care for others. The reader can understand the racism in American society when Huck says that he doesn’t believe blacks are capable of caring and loving their families.

Twain uses Huck’s lines and Jim’s feelings about his family in order to show that African Americans are no different than whites. He also shows that the racist values and beliefs that Huck, along with millions of other people had learned as children were completely wrong. Jim thanks Huck for all the work he did to help Jim become free. This happens before the King and Duke scene. Jim declares, “Pooty Soon I’ll Be A-South’n For Joy, En I’ll Say, It’s All On Accounts Of Huck. I’m A Freeman, And I Couldn’t Ever Been Free If it Hadn’t Ben For Huck. Huck Did it.

Jim won’t forget you, Huck. Twain adds this line in order to say that Jim Huck are both equals. Twain says in this line that Huck is equal to Jim and that they can have a relationship.

Twain was also critical of racism by pointing out the hypocrisy of racist societies. Twain’s second angle of his attack on racism is how hypocritical the ideas of the racist society were. Jim is a loyal, compassionate and generous character throughout the book. In contrast, most Caucasian people are evil, selfish, and backstabbing.

The idea that Caucasians, in particular morally, are superior to other races is untrue. The book shows a strong contrast between Jim Pap. Pap, on the other hand, represents evil. He is even linked to the devil.

Jim’s compassion and selflessness towards Huck is the biggest difference between him and Pap, who is selfish and neglects Huck. Jim takes care of Huck when they discover the floating house in which Pap is dead. To protect Huck against the grief of a loss, Jim refuses to show him the face. Huck told the story “Come inside, Huck. But look at that face. It’s too horrifying” (Twain 62).

Jim’s simple act shows his kindness, which sets him apart from Pap as well as other whites from the story including the king, the duke and others. Jim shows that he cares for others, including Huck. He tries to save Huck from his father’s death. Pap’s selfishness and lack of care is evident when he finally sees Huck again after a few months, but is concerned more with his money. “Looky there — mind the way you talk to, I’m already standing as high as I’m going to be able to stand. Don’t give any sass. Since I arrived in town, I haven’t been able to hear anything else but that you are rich. It’s not just me. It’s the reason I came. You give me that money today — I’m coming.

Twain uses this line to show that Pap, despite being white, was selfish and careless. Huck has not seen his son for some time. Huck decides to go to Huck to “rightfully claim” the money. Twain draws a parallel between Jim’s character and Pap’s to demonstrate that African Americans don’t always have a superior morality. Jim also shows loyalty to Huck and other characters, as shown by his refusal to leave the boat despite many opportunities for escape. His desire for freedom was strong. Jim’s loyalty to Tom is shown when he sacrifices his freedom so that he can stay and help heal Tom. Huck’s retelling of the story is “No, sir — I won’t leave dis place, without a physician; not if it has been forty years! I knewed he had a white interior” (Twain 279).

Jim claims that he’ll stay with Tom for however long it takes until the doctor arrives. This line is important because it shows how loyal Jim is. He would give up his freedom, which he has been waiting years to get just to ensure Tom’s safety until the doctor arrived. Huck’s reaction to Jim’s act is also important because it shows racism that only Whites are capable of loyalty, compassion, and care. Huck, who believes that Jim was white on the inside, is not the only one to believe this. Miss Watson broke a promise she made never to sell Jim. King and Duke were also unfaithful by selling Jim.

Twain introduces these incidents into the novel as a way to show how, contrary of what people believed in his time, one’s character is not determined simply by race. It shows how, despite the stereotypes of African Americans as being sneaky or disloyal held by hypocritical white Americans at the time, all races are capable of being disloyal.

Twain created Jim to be gullible, unintelligent, and support Twain’s argument about discrimination against blacks. Twain was of the opinion that African Americans and whites are both equal. Twain also thought that racism towards blacks is hypocritical.

Twain uses Jim as an example of kindness, compassion, loyalty, unselfishness to demonstrate that white characters are selfish; lack compassion; and disloyalty. Twain also uses other whites as examples of their own hypocrisy. Jim’s relationships and emotions are important, because they prove that African Americans can have real relationships and emotions.

Works Cited

Twain, Mark. Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn: An Authoritative text Contexts And Sources Critique. Thomas Cooley edited the 3rd edition, Norton & Company 1999.


  • camdynelliott

    Camdyn Elliott is a 35-year-old educational blogger and school teacher. She has been writing about education for nearly a decade, and her work has been featured on sites like The Huffington Post and The New York Times. Camdyn is the founder of the education blog Education Week, and she is also the author of the book "How to Teach Like a Pro: A Guide to Effective Teaching Methods for College and Career Students."

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