The Racism In Huckelberry Finn Essay Research

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The Racism In Huckelberry Finn Essay, Research Paper Twain a racist? The answers to these questions lie in the examination of Mark Twain?s life and historical era, incidents and character comments throughout Huckleberry Finn, and reviews by critics of many races. Researching the life and times of Mark Twain led to various facts that negate the popular opinion that he was racist. Born Samuel Langhorn Clemens on November 30, 1835 in Missouri, Mark Twain witnessed an era of accepted slavery and racism (Roberts, 5). Growing up in the slave state of Missouri, Twain’s father was a slave trader several times in his many occupational ventures. After his father’s death Twain spent several summers with his uncle, John Quarles, who owned twenty slaves which provided Twain with an up

close view of slavery in action. Twain was deeply affected by witnessing the brutal murder of a slave by a rock-throwing white man for the crime of “merely doing something awkward? (Smith). Twain completed Huckleberry Finn in 1884, at a time when black identity in American society was undefined. Even though blacks had been granted citizenship in 1870 by the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, Southern white society still looked upon them as sub-human creatures without souls or feelings. ?However, for his time Twain was liberal on racial issues.? The themes of Huckleberry Finn portray Mark Twain?s unrelenting belief in the equality of all races. (Mark Twain, 530) Although Huckleberry Finn is primarily a novel about freedom and the quest for freedom, through the portrayal of the

characters, Twain depicts the human qualities of all, regardless of color. It details the story of a slave, Jim, who breaks the law and risks his life to win his freedom and be reunited with his family. Jim is accompanied by a white boy, Huck, who befriends him and aids in his escape. This storyline of a white boy helping a runaway slave, and in the process, perceiving Jim as an equal, in no way depicts racism and, in fact, lends credence to Twain?s argument for the equality of all, whether black or white. In order to change Huck?s initial misconception of ?nigger? Jim, Twain reveals Jim?s humanity in a profoundly moving story about a time when Jim struck his four-year-old daughter, ?Lizbeth. ?One day she was a-stannin? around?, en I says to her, I says: ?Shet de do?!? She never

done it; jis? stood dah, kiner smilin? up at me. It make me mad . . . Jim tells her again, but she still does not respond, so he ?fetch? her a slap side de head dat sont her a?sprawlin?. Jim is unaware that his daughter?s recent scarlet fever has made her deaf. He orders her to get to work one more time, but she still does not respond. Just as he is about to strike her again, Jim notices that she does not react to their cabin door slamming shut from a gust of wind: ? ?de chile never move!?. ? Jim finally realizes that his daughter never heard him. He knows now that she could not respond to him because ? ?she was plumb deef en dumb?. ? Overcome with deep remorse, Jim tells Huck: I bust out a-cryin? en grab her up in my arms en say, ‘Oh, de po? little thing! de Lord God Amighty

fogive po? ole Jim, kaze he never g wyne to fogive hisself as long?s he live!’ (Twain, 337-338) Huck is silent at the end of Jim?s story, leaving the reader to acknowledge Jim?s humanity on their own. But, nowhere in the novel is Jim?s humanity more apparent than when he offers the ultimate sacrifice, his freedom, to save Tom?s life. Huck and Tom help Jim escape from the Phelps? Farm, and in the process, Tom is wounded. It soon becomes apparent that his injuries are serious. Jim volunteers to stay with Tom while Huck fetches a doctor, even though he knows that he will probably be captured and forced back into slavery. Believing that Tom would do the same for him if he were in that situation, Jim says: Ef it wuz him dat ?uz bein? sot free, en one er de boys wuz to git shot,