Essay on Slavery and Racism in the Book “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”



Racism and slavery are a common theme in the book, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. In this essay, I will discuss the life of a slave, the mindset of adults, and the mindset of children during this time period. 

The first topic I will discuss is the life of a slave. The slave that this book focuses on is named Jim. Jim belongs to Miss. Watson who is also Huck Finn’s teacher. After Huck fakes his death, Jim overhears Miss. Watson talking about selling him down to New Orleans. This made Jim run away. When Jim finds Huck alive, he celebrates and they both decide to help each other run. While on the run, Jim continually has to hide from white people to avoid being caught. Some of these instances included, jumping into the water and hiding underwater when white men approached and not replying to Huck after the raft was “smashed”. As you read through the book, you find the horrors of how slavery has ripped his family apart. According to Jim, he has a wife and two kids. He plans (once he is free) to raise some money to buy his wife and kids back. If the kid’s owner refuses to sell them, Jim plans to hire abolitionists and steal them back.

You also find that Jim has no reading or writing capability whatsoever. During their journeys, you hear of Huck reading to Jim. During their journey, Huck and Jim picked up two more white men to travel with them named, the Duke and the King. The three white men had to come up with creative ways to make sure Jim was safe. Some things they did were, making a wanted flyer and tying Jim up so it looked like they’d captured him, hiding him in the teepee on their raft, and dressing him up like a sick Arab. Another instance slavery affected Jim poorly was when the King sold Jim to the authorities for petty cash. Jim was locked up at a farm nearby. Huck had to rescue Jim with the help of Tom Sawyer. In the end, Jim had a happy ending. Miss. Watson had died a while back, but before she did, she set Jim free in her will. 

The next topic I would like to discuss is the mindset of adults in this time period. Most adults in Mississippi were slave owners and believed slaves were property. They did not believe in the equal treatment of slaves. In fact, when Huck faked his death, and Jim ran away the same night, the townspeople immediately assumed that Jim has murdered Huck. They did not accept that his alcoholic and abusive father could have murdered his son, even though they had seen abuse with their own eyes.

They had no faith whatsoever in the slaves. When Jim was locked up after the King sold him out, his escape with Huck and Tom did not go as planned. He was captured and put back into captivity, but by much more brutal means. Instead of blaming “whoever” had let him out, they were quick to put him under harsher conditions. Even in the instance where the King sells Jim out, you can see where their mode of thinking was not correct. The King thought (and was brought up by society to think this way) that it was okay to sell Jim out for petty cash. 

The last topic I would like to discuss is the mindset of children during this time period. As you read the book, you continually see Huck conflicted by right and wrong in the instance of slavery. In the beginning of the book, Huck describes himself as an abolitionist. Later in the book, he is conflicted for the first time with his decision to help Jim run away. During this time, Jim is talking about his plans for the future as they head to Cairo. Huck is suddenly overcome by guilt for taking Miss. Watson’s property.

He resolves to tell the first white man he sees about Jim to bring the guilt down. When he comes by a white man, he ends up chickening out and resolves something new, “What’s the use in learning to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same.” The last time Huck is conflicted is after Jim is sold to the authorities. Huck begins to think that God told the King to turn Jim in. Huck begins to think to write a letter to Miss. Watson. When he did, he began to think about how Jim had always been there for him and loved him.

Before these thoughts, Huck was afraid he would go to Hell if he helped Jim. After he thought, “All right then, I’ll go to Hell.” Then Huck tore up the letter. This quote is, in my opinion, the most important quote of the book. This quote is allowing Huck to throw out the conformities of society’s beliefs on slavery. Through Huck’s actions, you can see that children of this day were not sure what to believe about slavery. If they did, they were raised to believe what that opinion. 

In conclusion, slavery and racism were core parts in this book. You can see it in every page you turn. Slavery was something seen as normal during the time period this book was placed. We can see how the slaves were treated and how they deserved to be treated. The topics I discussed in this book were the life of a slave, the mindset of adults, and the mindset of children in this time period. Racism and slavery in this book remind us to think about what we believe in and why we believe in it. Through this careful thought process, we can better ourselves and continually remind ourselves to not repeat the past, but to continue toward a better future.