Jim’s Nobility in Huck Finn
Houlihan 1 Mike Houlihan Ms. Fledderman English H April 15, 2013 Nobility at the Bottom of Society Someone who is noble is defined as a distinguished person noted for feats of courage and heroism. The character of Jim in Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain certainly fits that description. He risked his life in order to free himself from slavery, and in doing so, helps Huck to realize that he has worth. Huck becomes aware of Jim’s sense of love and humanity, his basic goodness, and his desire to help others.
Jim faces discrimination based on the color of his skin and is faced with the challenges of racist stereotypes. Twain characterizes Jim as a sincere yet naive character, representing the runaway slave as a fatherly figure who maintains his integrity as being one of the sole characters of the novel who wouldn’t be described as hypocritical, despite the fact that Jim also retains a childlike mentality. Throughout the novel Jim expresses nobility through his selfless nature, his strength to good while resisting evil, and his ability to bear with any misfortune that may befall on him or his loved ones.
Mark Twain allows Jim to break racist stereotypes by showing more human qualities of him when he expresses his selfless nature. by assuming a role as a father figure to Huck, who he watches over throughout the bulk of the novel. Jim protects Huck by shielding his view from the dead body that turned out to be Huck’s father Pap. “I went in en unkivered him and didn’t let you Houlihan 2 come in? Well, den, you kn git yo money when you wants it kase dat wuz him” (320).
This show of consideration and paternal care for Huck makes Jim out to be more humane. Jim demonstrates his humanity by not only caring for Huck physically, but also mentally and emotionally in shielding him from a sight that could have been mentally or emotionally strenuous on someone like Huck. Jim’s actions are partly a result of his inability to distance himself from the society which he has been conditioned. There are countless opportunities for Jim to leave Huck during the story, yet he remains by Huck’s side.
When Huck and Jim are separated in the fog, Jim says “When I got all tired out wid work, en wid de callin you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz most broke because I was los, en I didn’t kyer no mo what became er me or der raf” (85). Jim’s freedom is then not worth the price of Huck’s life, and let’s people know that he would readily risk his life for Huck. Twain represents Jim as a paternal figure who maintains his integrity as being one of the only sincere characters of the novel, while contrasting this quality with the typical stereotypes of an uneducated slave during the American slave era.
Jim is one of the sole characters of the novel who wouldn’t be described as hypocritical, for he has the integrity to do what’s right when everyone around him choose not to. After Jim and Huck decide to travel together on the Mississippi river; the pair has to depend on each other for survival as they encounter people who cause obstacles and jeopardize Jim’s freedom. For example when Jim is forced to accompany the king and the duke during their scams he says “But Huck dese kings o ourn is jus reglar rapscallions; dats what dey is deys reglar rapscallions” (153).
Although Huck is simply putting on an act and appeasing them in order to prevent turmoil. Jim thinks that it is ridiculous for someone to be entitled to a servant and recognizes that this is wrong by calling them “rapscallions”. This could also be twain making a jab at slavery, which is Houlihan 3 ironic because Jim has been a slave all his life without asking questions. When Jim talks about his family, he mentions his daughter whom he had hurt due to the misunderstanding that she was deaf and dumb; this proves to be pivotal point in the novel to see what kind of man Jim truly is. Oh, she was plumb deaf en dumb, Huck, Plumb deaf en dumb en I’d ben a treatn her so” (156). Jim, like most fathers wanted his child to have manners and due to his ignorance of his daughter’s condition hurt her, for he believed she was just being rude. After coming to the realization of her condition, he begins to feel guilt for being unintentionally cruel. By being simple minded and at the very bottom of the social order, Jim is able to see right wrong, while others who claim to be above him cannot see this. Jim continues to show his nobility by enduring the hardships that he is faced with throughout the novel.
He talks about how he feels to Huck to the extent where he forces Huck to stop and think over how he treated Jim. After talking down to Huck after playing a trick on him, Jim tells Huck how he feels and Huck even thinks that “I wouldn’t done that one if I’d a knowed it would make him feel that way” (142). After thinking this, Huck himself subverts the racist stereotype by humanizing Jim and acknowledging that the black man has the capacity to feel, and Huck allows his mood to be negatively influenced by the thought that he hurt the feelings of a man he considered his friend.
Jim’s condition as a human being is improved even more when Huck considers Jim as his friend, making him equal to a white boy. By making Jim equal to himself, Huck is able to humanize Jim and break the cultural perception that Jim is bound to. Another example of how the book illustrates this theme is when Tom kept Jim locked up as a slave when he clearly could have been set free at any moment. Tom was aware Jim was freed from being a slave but decided to keep it a secret. This caused Jim unnecessary poor treatment. Houlihan 4
He was forced by Tom to do things he didn’t want to do. This is shown when Tom forces Jim to have rats, spiders, and snakes in his room. Tom says to Jim “But Jim, you got to have ‘em- they all do. So don’t make any more fuss about it” (263). This was cruel because Jim was forced to live with the creatures that traumatized him in his past. Though Mark Twain breaks some racist barriers with Jim, other stereotypes about blacks in the era are reinforced throughout the novel and Jim still maintains the strength to endure.
Throughout the novel, Mark Twain both reinforces and disputes racist stereotypes of the time period through the portrayal of Jim as a noble character. Jim is depicted as a genuine yet unsophisticated character. Twain represents Jim as a selfless, paternal figure that is able to see right from wrong and maintains his integrity as being one of the only sincere characters of the novel. Twain contrasts this quality with stereotypes typical of an uneducated slave during the American slave era.
Though he is a stoic character, Jim is able to p the entire novel as a father figure who protects Huck both physically and emotionally and, even after Huck plays tricks on him, forgives Huck and continues to protect him. Nobility is reinforced when Jim’s simple nature is revealed in various parts throughout the novel. Jim’s gullibility and his language relay the stereotypes of the antebellum south that blacks were somehow not people and were much lower than whites. These ideas become relinquished in the end, for readers are able to see the distinguished human being that Jim characterized.