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Analysis On Racism In Huck Finn

Powerful Essays
In July of 1876, a man by the name of Samuel Clemens began writing one of the most important and influential works in America’s literary history. Under the pseudonym of Mark Twain, the work was begun as a sequel to Twain’s popular boy’s adventure novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. As he progressed in the writing of the sequel, Twain, an author already noted for his humor, cynicism, and American social criticism, began to lean away from strictly the boy’s adventure style towards a more serious, critical look at society. By the time Twain had finished writing the novel in 1884, eight years after it was begun, he had produced The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his greatest work and possibly on of the greatest works of American literature. With The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain attempted to illustrate his contempt for certain aspects of specifically pre-Civil War Southern society through the eyes of the innocent Huck Finn. However, his focus was not entirely on pre-War Southern society, for criticism of aspects of modern society as a whole was evident, as well as on aspects of human nature. Although Twain had essential produced a superficial boy’s adventure novel, it’s very themes are not characteristic of such a genre. The themes that are developed throughout the novel include that of hypocrisy, racism, violence, and gullibility. These four themes represent the elements of pre-War Southern society that bear Twain’s main criticisms throughout the pages of the novel. Specifically, much of Twain’s critical focus landed upon the theme of racism. Racism, in all of its ignorance and crudeness, is present in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, from the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson’s attempt to “sivilize” Huck to Tom Sawyer’s startling acclamation that Jim was already free. Huck is confronted with example after example of Southern society’s innate racism, some of which Huck too has inherited. As Jim and Huck journey down the mighty Mississippi, Huck begins to lose those inborn racist sentiments in his through his uninfluenced life with Jim. By closely developing the theme of racism through Huck’s internal struggle with reality and with society’s reality, Twain attempts to illustrate his contempt for the outright injustice of one of society’s most disturbing and irrational aspects.

As the novel b...

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...probes deeper into Jim’s despair, he discovers that Jim feels wholeheartedly guilty about an incident that occurred in his relationship with his deaf and dumb daughter. Jim’s great display of emotion surprises Huck, for he has inherited the belief that a black man is not capable of such a degree of emotion.

“He was thinking about his wife and his children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick; because he hadn’t ever been away from home before in his life; and I do believe that he cared just as much for his people as white folks does their’n. It don’t seem natural, but I reckon it’s so.” (Twain 23)

Society’s belief that the black race was inferior to the white race in every way, including emotion, is illustrated in this sentence. Huck’s surprise that Jim loves his family just as much as white people do is simply a belief that he has inherited from civilized society. Twain demonstrates the inherent racial prejudice of pre-Civil War Southern society in a satirical manner. The notion that black people do not care for the families as much as white people care for theirs seems utterly ridiculous to the reader. However, in the South, this notion was commonplace and accepted.
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