Jim

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”He is sometimes slave who should be master; and sometimes master who should be slave.” [Lat., Fit in dominatu servitus, in servitute dominatus.]

Oratio Pro Rege Deiotaro (XI) by Marcus Tullius Cicero

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered to be possibly the Great American Novel by many scholars and is certainly the best known of Mark Twain’s works. These scholars both powerfully praise and powerfully depreciate Twain’s artistic judgment in relation to Huck’s character, themes, and political statements, but Jim’s place is often ignored or overlooked. Jim’s character is very important in his roles in supporting Huck as a father figure, his example for Twain’s portrayal of slavery and racism, and in his own right as a multifaceted, moving, and developing individual.
Jim plays the role of the father by providing for Huck's physical, personal, emotional, and moral well-being. He begins by simply supplying necessary food and shelter for the “dead” boy. Jim continues in this role throughout the novel. He seems to always be out hooking fish or cooking make-shift meals for Huck. He takes it upon himself to build "a snug wigwam [on their raft] to get under in blazing weather and rainy, and to keep things dry." (48). On the other hand, when Huck is at his real father's (Pap’s) cabin, he has to stop up the holes "to keep the wind from blowing through the chinks and putting the candle out" (18-19). Jim also advises Huck about his personal life. From the very beginning of the novel when he sees his father's boot prints, Huck establishes a precedent of going to Jim for advice. Despite the slave's fearful superstitions, his advice is mostly sound, as seen when he advises against boarding the Walter Scott and against looking at “Pap’s” face. Huck's physical well-being is consistently under Jim’s protection. He passively protects Huck from the villains and nice old ladies of civilization and town meetings by keeping the raft always ready to dash back to the protection and solitude of the might Mississippi river. By lying to the King and Duke for him after they catch up with Huck on the river and threaten him, Jim actively risks himself to physically protect Huck. Where Huck had no one to shield him before, now he has big Jim to advocate him against people that are like Pap or the King and Duke, as a father should. Although Jim'...

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...significance of the role Tom Sawyer plays in the novel. Cox analyzes Huck's initiation into society, comparing and contrasting it to Tom's initiation into society in Twain's previous novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Cox finishes the essay by discussing the role of Jim in relation to Huck's moral values and emotions. This source offers valuable insights into the role of Jim as "the central figure of the book" (73).

Marks, Barry A. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Boston: D.C. Heath, 1959.

Marx, Leo. "Mr. Eliot, Mr. Trilling, and Huckleberry Finn." Marks 53-64.

Trilling, Lionel. "The Greatness of Huckleberry Finn." Marks 44-52.

Trilling discusses the greatness of the novel in its "truth of moral passion" (45). He places a great deal of importance on the river as a god. He also emphasizes Huck's moral virtues. The only negative comment is about the length of the ending, but other than that, Trilling gives a whole-hearted endorsement of Huckleberry Finn. This essay provides a few good observations regarding Huck and Jim, but on the whole, it lacks a critical edge.

Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Dover, 1994

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