Jim is Huck's "true father" in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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      The beginning of the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, makes it apparent that Huck is an orphan. There is no mention of his mother and we assume her to be dead. Huck has a father, Pap who is a drunkard and a good-for-nothing fellow. Extremely racist in his attitude, all that he is capable of is getting drunk, beating up his son, and "cussing the government". He represents the failure of the concept of family. None of his actions serve as a model for his son. With his unkempt appearance and gauche ways, he gives his son no reason to emulate him. Pap is uncouth and repulsive - physically as well as morally. "A body would a thought he was Adam, he was just all mud."

      Far from offering any moral or emotional support that every child craves from his parents, Pap goes as far as pinching his own son's pocket. He just wants to own Huck for the latter's money. "He said he would show who was Huck Finn's boss." It is indeed preposterous when, in chapter 6, Pap claims that he wouldn't let the government take his son away from him because he has spent years nurturing him, giving him all the love. "Here's the law a-standing ready to take a man's son away from him - a man's son, which he has had all the trouble and all the anxiety and all the expense of raising." It is not loving, but sheer money-matters, which buoys Pap to fight for Huck's custody.

      Pap resents the fact that Huck goes to school and beats him for it. He admonishes him saying, "You've put on considerable many frills since I been away. I'll take you down a peg before I get done with you. You think you're better'n your father, now don't you, because he can't? I'll take it out of you. Who told you you might meddle with such hifalutin foolishness, hey? - who told you you could". Although for Huck, school-going is not a blissful exercise, nevertheless, out of sheer malevolence towards Pap, he continues it. Therefore, we can see that, as a result of his meanness towards his son, Pap invites the latter's umbrage. Huck's first impressions of society come from his experience with Pap whose brutal treatment of his son makes the latter view society in a negative light. "But by-and-by pap got too handy with his hickory and I couldn't stand it." (chapter 6). Huck loathes his father's presence to the extent that he contemplates killing him with the loaded rifle.


      Pap's wicked handling makes Huck seek love and support elsewhere. All through the story, Twain implies that Jim is more of a father figure to Huck than Pap could ever be. Pap's brutal treatment of his son is also in sharp contrast to Jim's tenderness for his four-year-old daughter, Lizabeth. Remembering his past, he feels remorseful for having been harsh towards her.

      The two of them come from entirely different racial and social backgrounds. Yet Jim offers him all the moral and emotional support that should have come from the biological father. While Pap is instrumental in the weakening and degeneration of Huck's fortitude, Jim is responsible for Huck's moral evolution and emotional dynamism. When Huck escapes "sivilization" and Jim runs away from Miss Watson's house, they meet on Jackson's island from where they begin their journey - both, physical as well as moral. Jim acquaints him with his knowledge of the supernatural. He uses his ingenuity to safeguard Huck from the weather by building a "wigwam" on the raft. "Jim took up some of the top planks of the raft and built a snug wigwam to get under in blazing weather and rainy, and to keep the things dry. Jim made a floor for the wigwam, and raised it a foot or more above the level of the raft, so now the blankets and all the traps were out of reach of steamboat waves. Right in the middle of the wigwam, we made a layer of dirt about five or six inches deep with a frame around it to hold it to its place; this was to build a fire on in sloppy weather or chilly; the wigwam would keep it from being seen" (chapter 12).

      He also shows his concern for him on several occasions. In Chapter 9, they come across a broken frame house floating in the water. When they go inside to have a look, Jim notices Pap's dead body. His protectiveness towards Huck. comes to the fore when he does not let Huck see the dead body as it is "too gashly". In fact, he doesn't want Huck to get upset over his father's death. This is the first major instance that shows the former's protective side for the latter. So, we can say that not only does Jim provide physical companionship to Huck. He also offers him moral support and shields him not only from the weather conditions but also from the ruthlessness of emotional pain. In this sense, he is a father figure to the latter.

      Jim's affection towards Huck also gets highlighted during the 'Fog- incident'. In chapter 15, when Huck and Jim get separated in the tog, Jim tells Huck that his "heart wuz mos" broke because you wuz los', en I didn k'yer no mo what bcome er me en de raf'." We are persistently reminded that Jim's fondness for and tenderness towards Huck is there to stay. He doesn't leave the young boy's side even though, at times, the latter forgets about him, momentarily. When Huck gets to the Grangerfords' mansion, in chapter 17, he is quite intrigued by the happenings in that house. The feud with the Shepherdsons, Miss Sophia's love story, and the friendship with Buck Grangerford hold his attention. He forgets about Jim who is constantly waiting in the swamp for him.

      A 'Father-Son' relationship also means having respect for each other. It is this element of respect that drives us to believe the bond that Huck and Jim share with each other. Huck shows his empathy for Jim when, in chapter 10, the latter gets bitten by a rattlesnake. Huck, at this point, feels an extreme sense of remorse and vows never to be the cause of pain to Jim. Does he ever feel the same compassion for Pap? I don't think any occasion, throughout the novel, that Huck demonstrates any such emotion towards his biological father.

      Even though Jim is "black", Huck deems him a fine fellow and the most "good-natured nigger". The protective instinct is mutual. Huck thinks it is his responsibility to save Jim from the two slave hunters. Therefore, he lies to them saying that he has a "white" man, his father who is suffering from Smallpox, onboard the raft. By tearing Miss Watson's letter in chapter 31, Huck has proven that he really cares for and respects Jim. This is significantly contrasted to the former's fierce dislike towards Pap to spite whom he decides to go to school in Chapter 5. In the following chapter, Huck says, "I didn't want to go to school much before, but I reckoned I'd go now to spite pap".


      Although the initial incidents in the novel prepare us to believe that above everyone else, Huck considers Tom his role model. Tom is another adolescent and leads a more "sivilized" life. He possesses all that is needed for a "respectable" upbringing. "He goes to school and has a lot of (bookish) knowledge. Huck looks up to him as his ideal and wants to emulate him in the way he does things. In chapter 7, when Huck fakes his own murder, he yearns for Tom's presence. He says, "I did wish Tom Sawyer was there; I knew he would take an interest in this kind of business, and throw in the fancy touches. Nobody could spread himself like Tom Sawyer in such a thing as that". He has steadfast faith in the latter's knowledge and decisions. He holds Tom in high esteem for his education and the broader exposure that the latter has received.

      At the beginning of the novel, it appears as if Twain were trying to prepare grounds for a profound and extremely sincere relationship between the two boys. Huck is, no doubt, quite friendly with Tom. However, he can see through the childishness of several Tom's adventures. pursuits. The former might acquiesce to most of them but that doesn't mean that he subscribes to them whole-heartedly.

      Despite his admiration of Tom, Huck does, in no way, look up to him as a father figure. Banking upon his judiciousness, he'd rather have an "unrespectable" "black" man who would offer him a willing ear. Jim is that shoulder. He is the only grown-up male who understands Jim. It is only he who understands Huck's situation and how he has been tortured - physically as well as emotionally by his father. Jim would do all that he can to save his son from any kind of pain.


      Besides being a father figure to Huck, Jim is one to Tom as well. In chapter 40, when the latter suffers a bullet injury, Jim puts his aspiration of freedom on the back burner. He insists on waiting with Tom until Huck goes and gets a doctor to help. The fact, that this could mean the loss of freedom as well as that of his life, is no deterrent to him. As a result of his insistence, he does get recaptured but the humanity within him would not abandon Tom. He cares for him the way he would probably have cared for his biological son or, for that matter. Huck. No wonder, then, that this gesture on Jim's part spurs Huck to comment in chapter 40, "I knew he was white inside".

University Questions also can be Answered:

Some critics claim that Jim is Huck's "true father." Defend or refute this statement.


Discuss the similarities and differences between Jim and Pap, as a father?


Do Huck and Jim constitute a family? Support your answer from your reading of the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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