How the Concept of Freedom Affects Huck and Jim’s Choices in Huckleberry Finn
- Pages: 3
- Word count: 641
- Category: Huckleberry Finn
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In Huckleberry Finn both Huck and Jim are searching for freedom. Huck doesn’t want to do what people tell him to do and doesn’t want to be bound by moral thinking, Jim doesn’t want to be a slave. The story revolves around Huck’s inner conflict over who is in need of freedom more, Jim or himself. In the beginning, Huck worries about himself, not the fact that Jim is a slave, or the institution of slavery. As he gets to know Jim better, Huck’s sees Jim as a fellow human and knows that he has to help somehow. Although Huck can search for his freedom without constraint, Jim faces severe consequences if he is caught as a runaway slave. Eventually Huck makes the choice to go against what society thinks is moral in order to save Jim from slavery.
Huck is irritated by the Widow Douglas’ attempts to constrain him with society’s rules and conventions. Falling in line with society’s thinking goed hand-in-hand with ignoring the horrors of racism and slavery. When Huck’s alcoholic father kidnaps Huck, he has to face the threat to his own freedom. Huck decides to fool his father by faking his own death and going to Jackson’s Island. Jim is already on Jackson’s island and Huck sees that Jim’s problems are bigger than his own, in fact there is a $300 bounty on him. They both need to escape and float down the Mississippi River on a raft . Huck and Jim become friends and Huck chooses to lie about Jim having smallpox so he won’t be captured and loose his freedom. Eventually Huck has to decide if it is more moral to help Jim escape or to follow the law.
Huck and Jim meet the King and Duke, who claim to be royalty but are, in fact, criminals who fool innocent people. Huck has a chance to compare Jim to the King, Duke, and other dastardly people they meet and sees that Jim is a better person than they are. Huck realizes the irony of the King and Duke calling themselves royalty, which society says makes them better than others, when Jim is better than them all. Huck wrestles with his own conscience, and feels guilt for his role in the king and duke’s deceptions, especially when they conspire to rob Peter Wilks’ daughters. He tells Mary Jane Wilks the truth about the duke and king, marking the beginning of his moral evolution, as he acts out of compassion for Mary Jane rather than self-interest. After narrowly escaping the Wilks, the duke and king sell Jim, who is captured and held by Tom Sawyer’s aunt and uncle.
The climax of the novel comes when Huck must decide whether to reveal Jim’s whereabouts, guaranteeing Jim will be returned to slavery and implicating himself in breaking the law by freeing a slave. After initially deciding to turn Jim in, Huck feels “all washed clean of sin for the first time,” but then remembers how kind Jim was to him, and reverses his decision, vowing to help Jim escape. Tom arrives and joins Huck in devising an elaborate plan to free Jim, seeing the escape as a chance for adventure like the novels he reads, rather than understanding the moral gravity of the situation. After much delay as Tom creates unnecessary complications to heighten the drama of the escape, Tom and Huck succeed in freeing Jim, and Tom is shot in the leg in the ensuing chase. Jim insists on getting a doctor, and Tom stays on the raft while Huck goes for help and Jim hides in the woods. The doctor returns Tom and Jim to Tom’s aunt and uncle, revealing that Jim gave up his own chance at freedom to help Tom. Jim’s steadfast morality and selflessness demonstrates the absurdity of a society that considers him less than human.