An essay analyzing and interpreting the three different relationships existing between Huckleberry Finn and the runaway slave, Jim.
In Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” the relationship between protagonists, Huck and Jim, may be classified in many different ways. The correlation between the adolescent, premature boy and the runaway slave is a brotherly, paternal, and racially tolerant bond. Huck and Jim’s relationship exhibits brotherly qualities in the way and the extent to which they care and look out for each other. The boy and man’s relationship exhibits father-son qualities in the way that Jim, although sometimes acting like just another one of Huck’s immature friends, teaches Huck about life just as a father would teach his son. The trouble-making duo’s affiliation exhibits racially tolerant qualities in the way that the two reverse the common social ladder of society and completely overlook the master-slave relationship.
The bond between Huck and Jim displays fraternal elements. The component of brotherly protection and care shows itself when Huck defends Jim from the men on the raft by telling them that no black men are with him.
“‘Is your man white or black?’ I didn’t answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn’t come. I tried for a second or two to brace up and out with it, but I warn’t man enough–hadn’t the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was weakening; so I just give up trying, and up and says: “He”s white’” (Twain 89).
The magnificent level of trust within a fraternal connection is reflected in Huck and Jim’s relationship when Huck assures his companion that he will not tell anyone about Jim running away. “Well, I did. I said I wouldn’t, and I’ll stick to it. Honest injun, I will” (43). The repetition of the promise that Huck will not tell anyone and keep Jim’s secret, further emphasizes the trust between the two and the genuineness of their brother-like relationship.
The anti-institutional boy and the runaway slave’s affiliation exhibit some father-son features. The quality of eternal love present in a paternal relationship comes through when Jim describes his feelings when Huck was lost out in the river. “When I got all wore out with work, en wid de callin’ for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos’ broke bekase you wuz los’, en I didn’t k’yer no’ mo’ what become er me en da raf’” (85). Jim uses a common image of a “broken heart” to describe the emotional tear he felt throughout this confusion. The image of the “broken heart” is a powerful one and the love behind it could only be expressed in a paternalistic correlation. The protection and safety sought out by fathers for their sons is a magnificent part of any fatherly relationship. Jim mocks this struggle to keep Huck safe when the two come across a dead body in the floating house. Jim tries to protect Huck from the sight of the body, fearing Huck’s emotional and psychological disposition just like a real father. “It’s a dead man. Yes, indeedy; naked, too. He’s ben shot in de back. I reck’n he’s ben dead two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan’ look at his face–it’s too gashly” (50). These elements of a paternal relationship are present and shown within the relationship of Huck and Jim.
The interracial connection between Huck and Jim is nothing like that of the time, as both Huck and Jim are tolerant toward each other at the least. The reverse of societal rolls as master and slave reverses when Huck “humbles himself” to Jim. At this time in history, a white male no matter how old would never feel this way towards a black person. Huck essentially states that he cares about Jim no matter what color his skin is. “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn’t every sorry for it afterward neither” (86). Also within the same passage, Huck mentally apologizes to Jim and feels sorry for the emotional stress Huck put over Jim. “I didn’t do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn’t done that one if I’d “a” knowed it would make him feel that way” (86). Huck realizes that Jim was very scared and detached over Huck’ trick; Huck is sorry for the grief and states that he would have never done it if he knew Jim would feel this way. Huck’s simple, guilt-stricken thoughts toward Jim reflect the tolerance the two show toward each other’s skin color. The generalization and common ethics of society do not influence the way Huck and Jim feel about each other.
Different types of relationships, fraternal, paternal, and tolerant, show through in the close bond between Huck and Jim. Many may argue that the relationships between Huck and Jim go only as far as that of two traveling companions escaping to the same place and nothing deeper. However, Jim graciously fills the absence of a true friend and an authoritative, paternal figure throughout Huck’s life and the runaway slave is perfect for the missing characters. Jim, lacking a brother and a trusted friend in his life, unites well with Huck because the two desperately need each other. Their relationships are mutual; the two men give each other exactly what the other needs most.