Racism In Huckleberry
Racism in Huckleberry Finn research papers show how the topic of racism is prolific in many of the writings of Mark Twain. Twain is known for his satirical look at some of the most despicable of social ills that were present in the mid to late 19th Century. Through the research papers on racism in Huckleberry Finn, our writers can illustrate to you how Mark Twain examines racism in contrastingly different manners, both with a great amount of pessimism but one far more palatable than the other. Huckleberry Finn uses lighthearted satire through the youthful narrative of Huck Finn to illustrate compassion towards an African American slave named Jim. Research papers on racism in Huckleberry Finn illustrate society's attitude towards racism in the 19th Century.
Huckleberry Finn is a great American classic that remains relevant to readers today. There are still hypocrites in civilized society as there were in the time that Huckleberry Finn was written. People in the civilized society were not kind to Jim and other blacks in the society although they pretended to be religious people. There is still racism in our society today and people who pretend to be religious but are racists to others. There are still conmen like the duke and the dauphin who take advantage of other people in the society. There are people today like the Grangerfords who appear to be civilized yet they turn to violence to solve their problems. Also, like the Grangerfords, there are people who cannot overcome grudges and cause problems for others because of their emotional problems.
Convincing evidence of Twain's indictment of racism comes from the text of Huckleberry Finn. From the outset, Twain's own words and descriptions place the book firmly within the tradition of social satire. The novel's epigraph sets the tone: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." Here, Twain admonishes the reader to avoid from over-analyzing the text and just enjoy the local color. However, he also cleverly highlights the text's motive and morals of society by mentioning their presence, however playfully. He uses a similar incident to demonstrate this technique in the text itself: "at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which said: LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED.
These characters, because they are so intrinsically racist, make today's readers cringe. Readers want to reeducate the doctor and Miss Watson about justice and explain to Huck that color does not make the man, nor unmake him. It cuts readers to the core and makes hearts ache.
If problems of racism no longer existed, readers would have a different, more detached reaction to this racial prejudice. They could discuss it as a purely academic exercise without getting emotionally involved. Racism, however, still exists, and as long as it exists, readers will have a deeply personal, emotional response to these characters.
Twain uses these very characters to establish his anti-racist views throughout the book. The following are examples:
- When Jim thinks Huck has been lost from the raft, and Huck reappears but plays a trick on him, Jim's feelings are hurt, and he rebukes Huck for hurting him. Huck is forced to confront the fact that this black man does have human feelings.
- One may see Huck as just as much the victim of his society as Jim.
- Huck has been taught all his life that black people are not human in the same way as whites.
- Huck is largely uneducated, so he has little if any critical thinking skills and therefore takes everything that he has been taught at face value, even racism.
When confronted with a different idea, however, he is thoughtful enough to change his mind. Although in the novel he struggles with the idea of apologizing to a black man, he does, because Jim is his friend, and he has hurt Jim's feelings. In this case, Huck's humanity as well as Jim's overcomes the racism that they have been taught by society.
When Huck decides to help free Jim, he says that he's willing to risk going to hell to help this friend that he loves. Huck actually believes that he will go to hell if he helps free a slave. Again, Huck is victimized by the racist culture that led him to this horrific belief. Again, Twain inserts criticism of nineteenth century America with the ridiculousness of an innocent, good-natured boy going to hell.
Modern readers might scoff at this poor child's thought process, shaking heads and sighing over his uneducated naive nonsense. It is another place where the modern reader's emotions are set on edge by this lovable yet misguided boy.
The power of this novel lies in this ability to involve readers both emotionally as well as mentally. It not only creates an entertaining story with characters that the reader grows to love, it exposes the grittiness, the darkness, and the soft underbelly of nineteenth century American society. By exposing racism as a societal-wide problem and not simply a result of mean-spirited monsters, Twain chides all of his readers to examine their own ways, their own beliefs, challenging them to root out the injustices that they might unthinkingly act upon every day, just as the doctor, Miss Watson, and Huck do.
Unlike the white figures that do not conform to stereotypes, Jim does display stereotypical characteristics, and this is yet another way that Twain skillfully attacks racism and slavery. Twain creates Jim in such a way that he embodies the "child-like", overly humble, superstitious qualities a white racist might expect of him. Then, over the course of the novel Twain reveals Jim's unmistakable and undeniable humanity, even in the face of the stereotype. By doing so, especially because Jim is a stereotypical black man, Twain finds another inarguable avenueby which he criticizes racism. White people of his time reading this novel would recognize Jim as exactly who they expected him to be, and then Twain turns it on them, and by the end, Jim is nothing like they thought, for he is as human as any one of them. Those who condemn The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as racist would have the literary world believe that because these characters say and do racist things, the book as a whole should be condemned. What these critics miss is that the book, despite its racist white characters, indeed because of these figures, is as fervently anti-slavery and anti-racism as its author.