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Free Huckleberry Finn Essays: Challenge to Slavery

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Challenge to Slavery

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn In recent years, there has been increasing discussion of the seemingly racist ideas expressed by Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn. In some extreme cases the novel has even been banned by public school systems and censored by public libraries. The basis for these censorship campaigns has been the depiction of one of the main characters in Huckleberry Finn, Jim, a black slave. Jim, is a "typical" black slave who runs away from his "owner," Miss Watson. At several points in the novel, Jim's character is described to the reader, and some people have looked upon the characterization as racist. However, before one begins to censor a novel it is important to separate the ideas of the author from the ideas' of his characters. It is also important not to take a novel at face value and to "read between the lines" in order to capture the underlying themes of a novel. If one were to do this in relation to Huckleberry Finn, one would, without doubt, realize that it is not racist and is even anti-slavery. Through society, Huck’s father and Huck, Mark Twain reveals a challenge to slavery.

On a superficial level Huckleberry Finn might appear to be racist. The first time the reader meets Jim he is given a very negative description of Jim. The reader is told that Jim is illiterate, childlike, not very bright and extremely superstitious. However, it is important not to lose sight of who is giving this description and of whom it is being given. Although Huck is not a racist child, he has been raised by extremely racist individuals who have, even if only subconsciously, ingrained some feelings of bigotry into his mind. It is also important to remember that this description, although it is quite saddening, was probably accurate. Jim and the millions of other slaves in the South were not permitted any formal education, were never allowed any independent thought and were constantly mistreated and abused. Twain is merely portraying by way of Jim, a very realistic slave raised in the South during that time period. To say that Twain is racist because of his desire for historical accuracy is absurd.

Despite the few incidences in which Jim's description might be misconstrued as racist, there are many points in the novel where Twain through Huck, voices his extreme opposition to the slave trade and racism.
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