Who is more Heroic - Huck, Tom, or Jim: in Huckleberry Finn

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      The conventional view of the novel brings forth Huck Finn as the hero of the novel. He is the protagonist as well as the first-person narrator of the story. Huck Finn has always been in a quest to find his identity. Though he has been brought up within certain strictures of society, he doesn't accept its tenets unquestioningly. He wants to find his moral scruples and abide by them. This leads to the moral dilemma that he has a tough time contending with.

      Huck decides to help the runaway, nigger, Jim, get his freedom. He is fully aware of the disapproval of society but he decides to go ahead with his resolve. Such self-assurance and self-reliance are characteristics of a hero. Huck is a hero not only through his bravery and loyalty towards Jim. He is a hero also by virtue of the intelligence that he displays on various occasions. Despite being a young teenager, he displays more sagacity than do the older characters in the novel. He questions the invalidity of racial inequalities in a world that upholds the same. His approach is more cerebral as compared to that of Tom who, though literate, reveals his foolhardiness and lack of common sense through some of his actions.

      Huck's heroic self-confidence also comes to the fore when, in Chapter 33, he tells Tom about his decision to save Jim. Huck anticipated Tom's disapproval when he divulges the fact that he wants to help runaway slaves escape. He speaks out his heroic thoughts when he tells Tom, "All right; but wait a minute. There's one more thing a thing that nobody doesn't know but me. And that is, there's a nigger here that I'm a-trying to steal out of slavery, and his name is Jim old Miss Watson's Jim" Despite his apprehensions of a negative reaction from Tom, Huck is not scared to voice his thoughts.

      Huck is the most responsible and dependable character in the novel. Ostensibly, the Duke and the King also show some semblance of assisting Jim, but the hard fact is that they are worried about nothing but their ulterior motives. Even Tom is more worried about living out his Romantic dreams and adventurous feats and not really about helping Jim. Huck is the only person who can be relied upon for this. Like a true hero, he takes responsibility not only for his actions but also for his decisions. When, in Chapter 31, he comes to know of Jim's capture and confinement at the Phelps' farm, he contemplated writing to Miss Watson all about the latter's whereabouts. After a tough mental tussle, he decides to tear the letter up and says, "It was a close place. I took it up and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knew it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself... "All right, then, I'll go to hell" and tore it up.....and never thought any more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other wasn't. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog". This is the culmination of his journey towards maturity.

      Another viewpoint says that Jim is also the hero of the novel. After all, it is Jim who brings Huck towards moral development. Without Jim, Huck wouldn't have had any reason to test his own abilities. He would never have known how much he is capable of raising the bar for himself and exploring his capacity. Jim, therefore, helps Huck rise to heroic proportions. By being a support system to Huck, Jim gives him emotional and moral support and is his guiding light.

      Jim is also the hero of the novel because he shows all positive characteristics in a human being. In absolutely none of the other "white" and "sivilized" characters in the novel do we discern such humanity, compassion, and purity. Besides being a father figure to Huck, Jim is equally compassionate towards Tom as well. In Chapter 40, when Tom gets hit by a bullet in his leg, Jim is ready to forego his freedom and resolves to stay beside Tom until Huck gets a doctor to help. He fully understands the implications of this decision - it might have cost him not only his much-awaited freedom but his life as well.

      Tom is also a hero but only in Huck's eyes. He makes his reappearance at the end of the novel when he comes to visit his Aunt, Aunt Sally. He is a hero in so far as he agrees to help Huck in his mission of saving Jim. But as reality dawns on the readers, we realize that his ultimate aim is to go in pursuit of adventurous exploits. Extending help to Jim is only a pretext under the garb of which Tom can realize his ambition of pursuing adventure. He is merely after fulfilling his indulgence. His efforts become even more meaningless when, at the end of the novel, it is revealed by Aunt Polly that Jim has already been freed by Miss Watson her death-bed Will. Tom has been cognizant of the is fact all through his adventure. This revelation makes Tom more of a villain than a hero. He doesn't give any consideration to Jim's feelings, be it at the beginning of the end of the novel; he thinks he can make up for all the trouble by giving Jim forty dollars.

      Huck looks up to Tom. He describes Tom in Chapter 34 and says, ".....respectful, well brung up; and had a character to lose; and folks at home that had characters; he was bright and not leather-headed, and knowing and not ignorant, and not mean, but kind; and yet here he was, without any more pride, or rightness, or feeling, than to stoop to this business...

      Huck always looks for Tom's approval in all that he does. When the former fake his murder, he misses Tom's presence for his touches of style. "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" (Chapter 7).

      Both, Huck and Jim demonstrate certain characteristics that can be considered heroic. On the other hand, it wouldn't be incorrect to state that Jim's influence over Huck is instrumental in bringing out the best in the latter. In so far as Tom is concerned, he only appears to be a hero especially on such occasions as when he says, "...there's more honor in getting him out through a lot of difficulties and dangers..." Tom may be a hero in the sense of a bookish definition but not so in the real sense of the word. His heroism is quite meaningless and impractical - almost ridiculous at times.

University Questions also can be Answered:

Who, in your opinion, is the hero of the novel - Huck or Jim?
Who is more heroic - Huck, Tom, or Jim. Explain your answer from your reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Do you think that Tom deserves to be regarded as the hero of the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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