Huckleberry Finn Chapter 16 Analysis Essay
I just finished reading chapter 11 of my book The Adventures of Huckleberry fin. The woman lets Huck into the shack but thinks that he’s up to sometimes. Huck introduces himself as “Sarah Williams” from Hookerville. The woman chatters about a variety of subjects and eventually gets to the topic of Huck’s murder. She reveals that Pap was a suspect and that some townspeople nearly hanged him. Then, people began to suspect Jim because he ran away the same day Huck was killed. Soon, however, suspicions again turned against Pap, after he bought alcohol with the money that the judge gave him to find Jim. Pap left town before he could be lynched, and now there is a $200 reward being offered for him. Meanwhile, there is a $300 bounty out for Jim. The woman has noticed smoke over Jackson’s Island and has told her husband to look for Jim there.
He planed to go there and fin him that night with another man and a gun. The woman looks at Huck suspiciously and asks his name. He replies, “Mary Williams.” When the woman asks about the change, he tries to cover himself by saying his full name is “Sarah Mary Williams.” She has him try to kill a rat by throwing a lump of lead at it, and he nearly hits the rat, increasing her suspicions. Finally, she asks him to reveal his real male identity, saying she understands that he is a runaway apprentice and claiming she will not turn him in to the authorities. Huck says his name is George Peters and describes himself as an apprentice to a mean farmer.
She lets him go after quizzing him on several farm subjects to make sure he is telling the truth. She tells Huck to send for her, Mrs. Judith Loftus, if he has trouble.Back at the island, Huck built a decoy campfire far from the cave and then returns to the cave to tell Jim they must leave. They hurriedly pack their things and slowly ride out on a raft they found when the river flooded. Because Huck lied to the women giving her his fake identity, allowed him to potentially save Jim’s life. After the lady let him go he set up a fake campfire so the people that were going to kill jim went to a different place, which allowed Huck to find Jim and escape safely before anyone could kill either of them. His lying saved Jim’s life and even though he’s not the best kid he’s a genius.
We see in these chapters that Huck, though open-minded, still largely subscribes to the Southern white conception of the world. When Jim assesses their “adventure,” Huck does admit that he has acted foolishly and risked Jim’s safety, but he qualifies his assessment by adding that Jim is smart, for a black person. Huck also genuinely struggles with the question of whether or not to turn over Jim to the white men who ask if he is harboring any runaway slaves. In some sense, Huck still believes that turning Jim in would be the “right” thing to do. Over the course of these chapters, as he spends more time with Jim, Huck is forced to question the facts that white society has taught him and that he has taken for granted. The arguments Huck and Jim have over Huck’s stories provide remarkable mini-allegories about slavery and race. When Huck tells the tale of King Solomon, who threatened to chop a baby in half, Jim argues that Solomon had so many children that he became unable to value human life properly.
Huck’s comments lead me to compare Jim’s assessment of Solomon with whites’ treatments of blacks at the time as infinitely replaceable bodies, indistinguishable from one another. Later, Huck tells Jim that people in France don’t speak English. Huck tries to convince the skeptical Jim by pointing out that cats and cows don’t “talk” the same, and that, by theory, neither should French people and American people. Jim points out that both are men and that the theory is not fair. Although Jim is misinformed in a sense, he is correct in his assessment of Huck’s analogy. Jim’s argument provides yet another subtle reminder that, in American society at the time, not all men are treated as men.
We see the moral and societal importance of Huck and Jim’s journey in Huck’s profound moral crisis about whether he should return Jim to Miss Watson. In the viewpoint of Southern white society, Huck has effectively stolen $800—the price the slave trader has offered for Jim—from Miss Watson. However, Jim’s comment that Huck is the only white man ever to keep his word to him shows that Huck has been treating Jim not as a slave but as a man. This newfound knowledge, along with Huck’s guilt, keep Huck from turning Jim in. Huck realizes that he would have felt worse for doing the “right” thing and turning Jim in than he does for not turning Jim in. When Huck reaches this realization, he makes a decision to reject conventional morality in favor of what his conscience dictates. This decision represents a big step in Huck’s development, as he realizes that his conscience may be a better guide than the dictates of the white society in which he has been raised.
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