One of the most controversial books ever written, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been banned and censored by several groups due to the apparent racism of its author, Mark Twain. However, when one looks closely at the characters and their situations, it becomes increasingly obvious that Twain is not displaying, but attacking, racism. To come to understand this, one must consider the fact that the book is a work of realism. Paps character must be examined. Also, it is important to look at the development of Jims character throughout the novel. Finally, one must recognize how Huckleberry Finns character matures as he learns about life, and how he, at the end of the novel, rejects society.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a perfect example of realism. Very little is idealized; things in the novel are depicted just as they were in actuality. People spoke in various dialects, drunken fathers beat their children, and blacks were seen as inferior. Realizing this is an essential step in understanding the novel and the messages behind it. It is an entirely invalid argument to say that because nigger is used in the book, the author is undoubtedly racist. That is simply how people talked in pre-Civil War America. In fact, Mark Twain doesnt even use the word. His character does, and only because its what society has taught him.
Mark Twains treatment of Paps character makes it evident that he is against racism and slavery. Absolutely no one likes Hucks father; he is truly one of the ugliest characters in the book. He is a violent alcoholic who robs Huck of his potential and abuses him both physically and emotionally. The reader is automatically made to hate the man. In Chapter Six, a drunk Pap throws a tantrum about the government allowing a free black professor to vote: ...but when they told me there was a state in this country where theyd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says Ill never vote agin as long as I live. As it would be totally absurd for Twain to convey his views through a universally hated character, he must not be expressing racism of his own. He is attacking societys racism by speaking of it through a ridiculous drunk.
At the beginning of the book, Jim is depicted as an ignorant and gullible slave who is played tricks on by young boys. However, as the story progresses, the reader is made to challenge this original description of Jim. When Huck is separated from Jim on the river, Jim thinks that Huck has drowned and shows deep affection. At other times as well, Jim is shown as a caring father figure towards Huck. For example, he keeps watch on the raft for Huck when Huck is too sleepy to do so himself. Another incident that shows a more positive image of Jim is when he cries while thinking of his own family and how he misses them. He is shown to have genuine feelings for other people. Since a racist author would not render a black slave to be a very real, caring, deep, affectionate person, Mark Twain must not be racist. He is contesting societys racism by showing how black people really are human.
Huckleberry Finn can definitely be described as having racist attitudes at the beginning of and throughout the novel. However, they are the attitudes of an unexperienced juvenile who knows nothing about life beyond that which has been taught to him by society during his childhood. The events that take place in the novel, though, very much change the person that he is. He is forced to evaluate what he has been taught and come to personal conclusions based on his own experiences. At the storys climax, he ultimately decides that he will stand by his black friend Jim, even if it means he will go to hell. At the very end of the book, Huck decides to run away and says, ...Aunt Sally shes going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I cant stand it. I been there before. In this statement, both Huckleberry Finn and Mark Twain reject society and the racism that it has taught them.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a great work of realism in which society is scrutinized. Mark Twain combats societys racism by creating the contrasting characters of Pap and Jim. Huck ultimately rejects racism. One must look at the novel in a broader way to understand the message that it carries. When this is done, it is clear that Mark Twain is definitely not racist, but quite the opposite.