Huckleberry Finn - Racist Novel? Essay

This essay has a total of 950 words and 4 pages.

Huckleberry Finn - Racist Novel?

There is a major argument among literary critics whether The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, is or is not a racist novel. The question
focuses on the depiction of Jim, the black slave, and the way he is treated
by Huck and other characters. The use of the word "nigger" is also a point
raised by some critics, who feel that Twain uses the word too often and too
loosely. Mark Twain never presents Jim in a negative light. He does not
show Jim as a drunkard, as a mean person, or as a cheat. This is in contrast
to the way Huck's (white) father is depicted, whom Twain describes using all
of the above characterizations and more. The reader views Jim as a good
friend - a man devoted to his family and loyal to his companions.
Jim is, however, very naive and superstitious. Some critics say that Twain
is implying that all blacks have these qualities. When Jim turns to his
magic hairball for answers about the future, we see that he does believe in
some foolish things. But all the same, he is visited by both blacks and
whites to use the hairball's powers. This type of naivete was abundant at
the time and found amongst all races - the result of a lack of proper
education. So, the depiction of Jim is not negative in the sense that Jim is
stupid and inferior, and this aspect of the story is clearly not meant as a
racial slight.
Next, it is necessary to analyze the way in which white characters treat Jim
throughout the book. Note that what the author felt is not the way most
characters act around Jim, and his feelings are probably only conveyed
through Huck. In the South during that period, black people were treated as
less than humans, and Twain needed to portray this. The examples of the ways
Jim is denigrated include being locked up, having to hide his face in the
daytime, and being mercilessly derided. These examples are necessary for
historical accuracy. So, Mark Twain had to display Jim's treatment in this
manner, even if it was not the way he felt. Huck, however, does not treat
Jim as most whites do. Huck sees Jim as a friend, and by the end of their
journey, disagrees with society's notion that blacks are inferior. There are
two main examples of this in the story. The first one is where Huck is
disgusted by Jim's plans to steal his own children, who are "someone else's
property." While Huck still seems racially prejudiced at this point, Twain
has written the scene in a way that ridicules the notion that someone's
children can actually be the property of a stranger just because the father
is black. The second example is where Huck doesn't reveal Jim's
whereabouts, so as not force Jim to return to slavery. Huck instead chooses
to "go to hell" for his decision. This is again Twain making a mockery of
Southern values that considered it a sin to be kind to black people.
Twain's critics consider the novel to be racist, and quite outwardly so.
They cite the common use of the word "nigger," as the most obvious instance
of the book's racism. This, however, is not a good example because this is
how blacks were referred to then. To have used the words Negro or
Continues for 2 more pages >>

  • Charles Dickens
    Charles Dickens Charles Dickens Dickens has always presented problems for literary criticism. For theorists whose critical presuppositions emphasize intelligence, sensitivity and an author in complete control of his work the cruder aspects of his popular art have often proved an insurmountable obstacle, while for the formulators of traditions his gigantic idiosyncrasies can never be made to conform. If difficulties such as these have been overcome by the awareness that Dickens sets his own stand
  • Catcher in the Rye Vs Huckleberry Finn
    Catcher in the Rye Vs Huckleberry Finn J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye Compared to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn All famous American authors have written novels using a variety of characters, plots, and settings to illustrate important themes. Throughout literary history many of the same themes have been stressed in different novels. In J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, each author writes about the common theme of coming of age. The
  • The spain cervantes lived in
    the spain cervantes lived in The Spain Cervantes Lived In Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra, writer of the world famous novel Don Quixote, was born in Spain in 1547. He was the son of a practical doctor, and although they were "hidalgos," a title of lesser nobility, they were relatively poor. Cervantes\' life can be described as somewhat chaotic. Coincidentally, the time period when he was alive was also considered chaotic in Europe, and particularly in Spain. Europe as a whole was going through the
  • Regionalism and Humor in Huck Finn
    Regionalism and Humor in Huck Finn Effective message through dialect, regionalism, and humor in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Some writers use dialect, regionalism, and humor in their literary works to enhance their themes. Mark Twain’s ability to write in the vernacular allows him to capitalize on humor and dialect. In the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the author conveys an effective message through dialect, regionalism, and humor in southern cultur
  • The Scene of the Screen Envisioning Cinematc and E
    The Scene of the Screen Envisioning Cinematc and Electronic Presence This essay is published in Materialities of Communication., eds. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and K. Ludwig Pfeiffer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994): 83-106. A much shorter version also appeared in Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanties 10.1 (Fall 1990): 50-59, under the title "Toward a Phenomenology of Cinematic and Electronic Presence: The Scene of the Screen." It is used here with the permission of the author. I
  • Handmaids Tale
    Handmaids Tale In the course Y2k and The End of The World, we\'ve studied apocalyptic themes, eschatology, and for some, teleology. Apocalypse, which is to unveil or reveal, eschatology, which is a concept of the end, and teleology, the end or purpose to which we are drawn, are all themes used in Margaret Atwood\'s The Handmaid\'s Tale. The book is apocalyptic in that it revolves around dystopian ideals. Atwood creates a world in which worst-case scenarios take control and optimistic viewpoints
  • Use of Language in Catcher in the Rye
    Use of Language in Catcher in the Rye The Language of Catcher in the Rye The passage of adolescence has served as the central theme for many novels, but J.D. Salinger\'s The Catcher in the Rye, long a staple in academic lesson plans, has captured the spirit of this stage of life in hypersensitive form, dramatizing Holden Caulfield\'s vulgar language and melodramatic reactions. Written as the autobiographical account of a fictional teenage prep school student, Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in th
  • Grapes of Wrath: Biblical Alusion
    Grapes of Wrath: Biblical Alusion John Steinbeck always makes it a point to know about his subjects first hand. His stories always have some factual basis behind them. Otherwise, he does not believe that they will be of any value beyond artistic impression. Therefore, most of his novels take place in California, the site of his birth and young life. In preparation for writing his novels, Steinbeck would often travel with people about whom he was going to write. The Grapes of Wrath was no excepti
  • Lucky Jim
    Lucky Jim Characters There is more than a touch of the picaresque rogue in Jim Dixon. Jim perpetrates a succession of practical jokes, tricks, and deceptions on other characters in the novel, especially those who offend his democratic sensibility. He has a talent for pulling faces and projecting voices gestures Amis uses to enhance Jim\'s social commentary. He is sometimes aided and abetted in his roguery by his fellow boarder, the salesman Bill Atkinson. On campus, in addition to Welch, Johns,