Huckleberry Finn: Jim as Father Figure

An analysis on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.

Jim as a Father Figure to Huck

Throughout the satiric novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Jim’s fatherly feelings toward Huck express Jim’s humanity and symbolize the humanity of all slaves in general. Huck’s journey down the Mississippi River with his compatriot, Jim, symbolizes Huck’s own moral growth and understanding of Jim’s equality and societies fallacies that was a direct result of Jim’s fatherly influence.

Jim has a tremendous role in the novel to act as a father to Huck. He has a lot of experience in nature, which he is able to teach Huck and allow him to learn. With Jim teaching and mentoring him, Huck looks up to him for advice and guidance and sees him as a normal boy would see his father. Since Huck’s has no real family, “Huck replaces his missing family with his friends”, like Jim and Tom, allowing Huck to grow up with a strong emotional connection with people instead of growing up as an orphan boy (Shmoop).  Jim has a lot of lessons and stories to tell Huck that help develop the relationship that they have and allow Huck to learn more about the world and of its problems. Richard K. Barksdale, the author of “The Irony of an Uncivilized Friendship”, pointed out that “on the river, Jim became a surrogate father, as well as a friend, to

Huck”, which shows how even though Jim is a black slave and Huck is a white boy, Twain places Jim in Huck’s life a guide for him and as a father. Jim is always there to nurture and care for Huck and worries when Huck gets lost on the river. Jim cooks for him and shelters him from some of the horrors they encounter on their journey, such as the sight of his father’s corpse, and for a while, the news of his father’s death (Barksdale 93). Jim also guides Huck into acting more mature and teaches him lessons about life and the world.

Huck’s maturity level progresses through the novel, especially when his pranks don’t go as planned and he feels terrible afterwards. This helps to build up his character and show that even after he’s done something wrong, he feels the guilt of it and apologizes. Barksdale writes that “There is no better revelation of their relationship than the sequence ending from Huck’s apology to Jim after deceiving Jim about the fog”, which shows how Huck really had to be mature for him to apologize to Jim, especially in a time when black people were severely inferior to white people. Huck also matures when he learns not to judge a man by his color but by his loyalty; “He [Huck] values loyalty most highly, and that leads him to stick with Jim (who proves his loyalty to Huck several times) to the end”, which shows how Huck demonstrates his ability to judge Jim, not by his color, but by his loyalty (Shmoop).

Huck and Jim are very dependent on each other, and are very symbiotic relationship; one simply cannot exist without the other. Huck needs Jim because Jim

provides Huck with a positive role model and mentor as he grows up. He is able to support Huck and teach him how to survive, and also teaches him moral lessons. Jim needs Huck because Huck is his passport to the Free states. Huck even protects Jim from runaway slave finders when “he makes up a story about a smallpox outbreak in order to protect Jim”, showing how loyal Huck is to Jim and how they have become friends and even family (Shmoop). As long as Jim is with Huck he can’t get caught and returned back home. Huck also provides him with company and a friend to travel with that he can care for.

Although Jim is way below the social status of Huck in this time, Jim acts as a father figure to Huck by providing him with the essential needs of a growing boy. It allows Jim to become a better father for when he finds his family and allows Huck to learn and grow up with a positive father figure. They need each other and could not survive without each other; without one the other could not exist.


“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Theme of Friendship.” Shmoop: Homework Help,        Teacher Resources, Test Prep. Web. 14 May 2011.         .           

Barksdale, Richard K. “The Irony of an “Uncivilized Friendship.” 1998. Greenhaven       Press, Inc. Print.

Bloom, Herold. “Modern Critical Interpretations.” 1986. Chelsea House Publishers. Print.

“Sparknotes: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Analysis of Major Characters.”           Sparknotes: Today’s Most Popular Study Guides. Web. 12 May 2011.             .

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