Huck and Jim Relationship in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Also Read

      The circumstances that bring Huck and Jim close: To make an assessment of Huck and Jim's relationship, it is, first and foremost, imperative to take into account the circumstances under which they come close to each other.

      Huck is an orphan; he doesn't have a family to call his own, but Jim has a loving family. The latter's profound love and concern for his family members are the chief spheres of dissimilarity between the two. Despite their social status and circumstances of upbringing, Huck and Jim have a shared purpose. Both the boys are skeptical about the objectives of society, though for different reasons. Huck abhors the acceptable social code of conduct and feels the constricting influence of the so-called civilization. He is not very receptive to Widow Douglas' efforts to refine his or her interference that comes in the way of a carefree life. Nor is he tolerant of the domineering attitude of Miss Watson. To Huck, the latter is the epitome of double standards and hypocrisy. But the most significant reason that he runs away from home, by faking his murder, is his father, Pap's brutalities. The old drunkard is just after his money wealth and would go to any lengths to get his hands on it. There is not an iota of love, empathy, or respect between father and son. The father can provide no emotional, moral or financial support to his son, thus further widening the chasm between the two.

      On the other hand, Jim's reasons for leaving home are entirely different. He is a slave in Miss Watson's house. Though he is well looked after and cared for, he is not content with his lot. Miss Watson plans to sell him off to some slave traders from New Orleans, in exchange for a sum of eight hundred dollars. This transaction means severance of all familial ties between Jim and his family members who work for the owners of a nearby farm. This is the biggest jolt to Jim and he cannot endure it.


      As both, Huck and Jim run away to secure their freedom, they chance upon each other and realize that their motives, though poles apart, could be accomplished along the same path. They are quick enough to realize that their needs are mutually dependent. Huck needs Jim because the latter is almost a father figure to him. In the absence of any real familial attachment with Pap, Huck desperately needs an anchor; he needs someone who can shield him from the ruthlessness of the world around him. He needs a friend whom he can trust because the others, who form a part of conventional society, are simply not dependable. He'd rather run away from them than expect any loyalty from them. Jim proves to be the anchor that Huck hankers after. In chapter 9, while Jim shows his protective attitude by not letting Huck see the dead body of the man (Pap) in the woodhouse because it might upset him, Huck makes Jim lie down in the canoe so that nobody can identify him as a possible runaway slave.

      On the other hand, Jim's reliance on Huck stems from the fact that the latter is the only person who knows how to protect Jim from slave traders, slave hunters, or the likes of Miss Watson. Owing to his agility of mind, Huck can cook up stories, on the spur of the moment - stories that prove to be life-saving for Jim. In chapter 11, when Huck, disguised as Sarah Williams, goes to the nearby village, he gets acquainted with the fact that the villagers are contemplating exploring Jackson's island looking for Jim. The lady, Mrs. Judith Lottus, can see through Huck's disguise and demands to know his real motive for having come to her house. Huck pretends to be a runaway apprentice of a mean old farmer. He makes her believe that, in order to escape the latter's rough treatment of him, he has been forced to run away. On leaving the lady's house, he quickly runs to where Jim is and succeeds in helping him.

      Later, in chapter 16, when two armed men in a skiff, who are looking for runaway slaves, summon him, he can cook up a story. Huck makes them believe that the man in the raft is his father who is suffering from smallpox. The men give him two twenty-dollar gold pieces and move on.

      Many such incidents in the novel bring to light the act that Huck is instrumental in saving Jim's life.


      Just like any relationship, the bond between Huck and Jim also takes time and effort to get to the juncture that it does. It is not that their attachment with each other takes place in a jiffy. It is nurtured with a lot of patience, love, emotional sensitivity, and respect for each other.

      (a) Huck's Racial Attitude - At first, Huck is not too sure about his action of protecting a runaway slave. Miss Watson is, after all, the "rightful owner" of Jim and deserves to do with him what she pleases. This is what the social order and social conditioning have taught Huck. He is brought up in a milieu that considers slavery as a part of the natural social order; it is something absolutely acceptable. Because of the above, anyone who shields a runaway slave is doomed to have sinned and is guilty of a misdemeanor.

      Huck's racial stance is also evident from a myriad of incidents. He is surprised that Jim should be so concerned about his family. The latter's emotional outbursts, when he remembers how he had been cruel towards his daughter, Lizabeth, are enough to astound Huck. Huck has learned that only the "superior whites" are capable of such sentimentality.

      Chapter 14 is also replete with incidents that betray Huck's racial inclination. At the end of the chapter, when they argue over the actions of King Solomon, Huck acknowledges the futility of arguing with Jim because "it wasn't no use wasting words - you can't learn a nigger to argue". Through this assumption, Huck tries to uphold his superiority as a white man and make up for having lost the argument. Later, after the "Fog-incident", even after realizing his mistake, Huck needs a good "fifteen minutes" to gear himself up "to go and humble" himself to Jim because he is a "nigger". It is below his dignity to concede to Jim merely on grounds of skin color. Huck says, "It made me feel so mean I could almost kiss his foot to get him to take it back. It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger, but done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterward, neither".

       In chapter 16, when the two of them assume that they are quite close to Cairo, and hence Jim is close to his much sought-after freedom, Huck confronts a guilty conscience for helping a slave escape. This incident shows that even though Huck has physically escaped the society that he detests, he is not completely emancipated from its social conditioning Huck's contemplation, when he says, "Give a nigger an inch and he'll take an ell" is bursting with his racial stance.

      (b) Huck's Ultimate Moral Evolution - It is Huck's "deformed conscience", as some critics put it, which leads to a daunting mental tussle that Huck goes through. There are times when he is almost tempted to "turn him in". He feels enticed at the prospect of freeing himself from this mental conflict when he, temporarily, decides to betray Jim to the two slave traders. In chapter 31, when Huck gets to know that Jim has been taken prisoner at the Silas' farm, he writes a letter to Miss Watson. In this letter, he tells her everything about Jim's whereabouts. Eventually, Huck realizes the baselessness of society's concept of "right" and "wrong" and decides to stand by Jim, even if his stance makes him submit to the "everlasting fire".


      The Huck - Jim relationship forms the most sturdy and dependable relationship in the novel. It fortifies our belief that it is not only the educated, socially superior lot that can boast of culture and earnestness in relationships. Rather, from our reading of the novel, we sense that they are the ones who can only pride themselves on attributes such as hypocrisy and superficialities. Not a single "white" character in the novel, from the crudest Pap to the most gentle, Grangerfords and Shepherdsons (or, for that matter, the most religious lot, consisting of the Widow, her sister, and the Phelpses) is sincere enough to encourage the two runaway boys to shed their garb. We realize that genuine emotions do not acknowledge boundaries of skin color, education, or age. The camaraderie between Huck and Jim surpasses these considerations.

University Questions also can be Answered:

Write a critical note on Huck - the Jim relationship.
How does the relationship between Huck and Jim develop in the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?
Discuss how Jim is instrumental in bringing out the best in Huck, in terms of the latter's maturity - moral and spiritual?

Previous Post Next Post