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In “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” Huck goes through a moral and physical journey which challenges his past beliefs and morals and develops new ways of thinking for himself. Because of Huck’s lack of a father figure, Jim takes the role of an influential role model (despite Jim being black). He teaches Huck many important life lessons, such as being a kind and compassionate human being.
Due to Huck’s upbringing in a family who patronized slavery, it took time for Huck to have respect for Jim. There were different stages to Huck’s moral development. When the novel starts, Huck thinks Jim to be a stupid uneducated slave who had no feelings. The first time that Huck really breaks away from his preconceived notions of Jim is when Huck tries to play the trick on Jim when they’re separated on the river and Huck lies to Jim about what is happening. What Jim says to Huck really lets Huck know how Jim feels about him.
“…When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin’ for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos’ broke bekase you wuz los’…En all you wuz thinkin ‘bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie…”
This is the first time that Huck genuinely feels sorry for something he has done to Jim. Because of this realization, it shows Huck that Jim isn’t just a dumb slave with no feelings, rather that he has very strong feelings, especially for Huck. Consequently Huck feels extremely sorry for what he has done.
“I didn’t do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn’t done that if I’d knowed it would make him feel that way.”
After that incident, Huck not only starts to make real strides towards viewing Jim as an equal, but also makes his own decisions about how he views people. He realizes that the dumb and uneducated aren’t the slaves, but instead are the sleazy scum of society who profit at other’s expense.
Another step in Huck’s moral journey is when he is assigned a slave to wait on him at the Grangerford’s house. Although this would make things easier, Huck doesn’t fall into the habit of using his slave.
“My nigger had a monstrous easy time, because I warn’t used to have anybody do anything for me.”
This is a good test of Huck’s character. By not falling into the habit of using the slave this allowes him to progress in his moral journey.
The climactic incident which completed Huck’s moral journey was when he had to make the decision weather or not to send the letter to Miss Watson disclosing where Jim was, and instead deciding to “go to hell” for Jim.
“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.”
This quote showed how important Jim was to Huck and how far Huck had grown as a free thinker and a compassionate person. This was the pivotal moment when Huck did what he thought to be “the right thing” and went against the conventional beliefs about slavery.
Jim doesn’t act as a father figure to Huck because he doesn’t have the nurturing characteristics needed to be a good father. However he does play the most influential role model in Huck’s life. Jim is the inspiration of not only Huck’s moral growth but also his attitudes and behavior.
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Huckleberry Finn, Huckleberry no Bken, Jim, Huck, Big River
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