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Growing friendship of Huck and Jim

One of the central themes of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” is loyalty. Twain is able to examine the theme of loyalty throughout many of the associations of various characters throughout the novel. For the most part loyalty, as that which is shown between, say, the King and the duke, is show ironically. Many of the key events of the novel turn on the ironic premise of loyalty, but none so much as the relationship between Huck and the runaway slave, Jim.

The friendship which evolves between the two characters is the sole relationship in the novel where true loyalty and love is demonstrated despite social conventions, rather than because of them. in this regard, the relationship between Huck and Jim, though sincere, is also an ironic relationship because it stands outside of society and in fact, against it. This latter observation forms the key crisis of the novel when Huck must decide whether or not to report Jim as a runaway slave.

From the very beginning of the relationship between Huck and Jim, Twain is careful to place the impending crisis as a central theme in their relationship and in the novel. Because Jim immediately tells Huck the truth about his predicament and Huck chooses to stand by him, a deep bond is formed between the characters (born out of honesty and honest mutual regard). Twain seems to be suggesting that all true friendships must begin this way: with a confession, mutual pact of loyalty. Jim confesses to Huck: “I–I run off. ” ” Jim! “

“But mind, you said you wouldn’ tell–you know you said you wouldn’ tell, Huck. ” “Well, I did. I said I wouldn’t, and I’ll stick to it. Honest injun, I will. (Twain, 1918, p. 60) Huck is entrusted with Jim’s most important secret from the very beginning of their friendship; the reader realizes that the two characters have made a kind of pact in this scene and the underlying question is, of course: will Huck be able to keep his word? Later in the novel, when their friendship is tested by death itself, a deeper bond even than secrecy takes hold of Huck and Jim.

Huck is separated from the raft after a collision on the river and when Jim finally finds him he says: “Laws bless you, chile, I ‘uz right down sho’ you’s dead ag’in” (Twain, 1918, p. 161). Jim’s reference to Huck being “dead again” is a reference to Huck faking his own murder to escape his father’s abuse and the reference also reminds the reader of Huck and Jim’s mutual pact of secrecy and loyalty which has passed its first test: a test against the threat of death itself.

Still, an even more challenging test awaits the friendship which Huck and Jim have grown out of a mutual desire for freedom and individuality. The threat not of mere death, but of everlasting torment in hell, which is what Huck believes may await him should he support Jim who is a runaway slave. because Huck believes in a Christian paradigm of heaven and hell and be also believes that helping a runaway slave is a sin, he believes that if he helps Jim he will be sent to hell.

The ironic nature of Huck’s thought-process is Twain’s brilliant device for showing how true friendship overcomes even the deepest cultural hypocrisies and prejudices. Huck remembers how he loves Jim as he weighs his decision: “I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind” (Twain, 1918, p.

297). Huck’s final decision: to help Jim ” “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” (Twain, 1918, p. 297) is the true climax of the novel and represents the ultimate survival of loyalty in the face of eternal punishment. At the novel’s close, Jim “repays” Huck and becomes his surrogate father in finally revealing to him that Huck’s father, pap, was the dead man in the wrecked ferry they looted together when they began their river trek together: “Jim says, kind of solemn: “He ain’t a-comin’ back no mo’, Huck.

” (Twain, 1918, p. 404) With this simple statement, the friendship between Jim and Huck takes on a father-son connotation elevating what began in socially reinforced racism and a racial hierarchy to a bond, deeper than society can recognize, between two very different people which runs deeper than, blood, color, or culture.

References Twain, M. (1918). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: P. F. Collier & Son.

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