Huckleberry Finn Racist or not?
Uploaded by Boming on Nov 26, 2007
Although the word “nigger” is now considered rude and offensive, it was not so during the time period in which Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck grew up in a slave-holding town in Missouri, so racism was planted in him from a very young age, yet he manages to overcome it throughout the novel. Although many characters in the book are racist and have no respect for blacks, Huck Finn, when taken as a whole, preaches tolerance and shows that slavery is wrong.
Before one can fully understand the novel, one must understand the time period and culture in which it was written. Throughout Huck Finn, African Americans are constantly referred to as “niggers.” Although some characters, such as Huck’s father, are racist and complain how the government must “set stock-still for six whole months before it can take a-hold of a prowling, thieving, infernal, white-shirted free nigger and ...,” (p. 36) other, such as Mary Jane, are very attached to blacks. She was crying, “and it was the niggers” (181) that were causing her to cry, because they were being sold and the family was going to be separated. These events show that the word “nigger” was merely part of the vernacular of Southern culture during the 1800's and not strictly a racist term. It further illustrates that Twain recognized the evils of racism, as shown in the drunken, child-beating, illiterate, racist character that is Huck Finn’s father, Pap.
As shown in the aforementioned example, Mary Jane did not view blacks as mere property, but as human beings with feelings. When her “uncles” (the king and the duke) decided to sell her slave family, she and her sisters were crying and hugging the slaves. None of them could believe that the family was going to be split up. Although they all felt that it was wrong, they did not dare do anything to remedy the situation because of the culture in which they were raised. Much later in the book, Jim shows an even more powerful example of black humanity. When he and Tom are on the island with the doctor, Jim gives up his freedom to help the doctor save Tom’s life. Even though Tom had never been kind or fair to Jim, Jim could not stand for a child to be hurt, no matter the personal consequences.
In stark contrast to the humanity which Twain illustrated in...