Books and Movies Reviews

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There is a major argument among literary critics whether
Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, is or is not a racist novel. The
question boils down to the depiction of Jim, the black slave, and to
the way he is treated by Huck and other characters. The use of the
word “nigger” is also a point raised by some critics, who feel that
Twain uses the word too much and too loosely.
Mark Twain never presents Jim in a negative light. He does not
show Jim as a drunkard, as a mean person or as a cheat. This is in
contrast to the way Huck’s (white) father is depicted, whom Twain
describes using all of the above characterizations and more. We see
Jim as a good friend, a man devoted to his family and loyal to his
He is, however, very naive and superstitious. Some critics say
that Twain is implying that all blacks have these qualities. When Jim
turns to his magic hairball for answers about the future, we see that
he does believe in some foolish things. But all the same, he is
visited by both blacks and whites to use the hairball’s powers. This
type of naivete was abundant at the time and found among all races-the
result of a lack of proper education. So the depiction of Jim is not
negative in the sense that Jim is stupid and inferior, and in this
aspect of the story clearly there is no racism intended.
It is next necessary to analyze the way white characters treat Jim
throughout the book. Note that what the author felt is not the way
most characters act around Jim, and his feelings are probably only
shown through Huck. In the South during that period, black people were
treated as less than humans, and Twain needed to portray this. The
examples of the way Jim is denigrated: by being locked up, having to
hide his face in the daytime and how he is generally derided, are
necessary for historical accuracy. So, Mark Twain had to display Jim’s
treatment in this man…