Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn Character Analysis

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During the late 1800’s post civil war, the reconstruction era emerged in the union as a political program aiming to reintegrate the defeated South into the Union as a slavery-free region. However, harsh measures imposed by the North only served to embitter the South and led to the failure of reconstruction. Southern politicians, concerned about maintaining power, began implementing efforts to control and oppress newly freed black men and women. It was during this time that Mark Twain published his novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which tells the story of a young boy named Huckleberry Finn who tries to escape from the South with an escaped slave named Jim.

The novel explores the protagonists’ journey to the north and their relationship. In her critique titled “The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn,” Frances V. Brownell contends that Jim serves as more than just a noble cause or contrasting character, but also as a moral catalyst (Brownell). However, despite Brownell’s persuasive argument, Jim’s true role in the story is that of a paternal figure for Huck.

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Jim’s decision to take on the role of Huck’s father can be attributed to two main reasons. Firstly, Jim is trying to make amends for his previous failure as a father and secondly, Huck’s own father, Pap, has passed away. In addition to these reasons, Jim also has personal motivations for becoming a father figure to Huck. He carries the heavy burden of regret and painful memories from his past mistakes as a father. This becomes apparent when Huck and Jim encounter the King and the Duke. While Jim stays behind to guard the raft, he sits with his head bowed and mourns to himself.

The grown, powerful African American man truly grieves and laments to himself. He mourns for the mistake he made towards his “poor little ‘Lizabeth” because of his own foolishness and impulsive nature. When he struck her on the head, he didn’t consider the consequences of his action or the reason behind her disobedience. This can be linked to the moment when Jim places a cloth on Pap’s lifeless body. This cloth that Jim places on Pap’s face symbolizes the transfer of fatherhood from Pap to Huck. Jim believed that Huck could provide an opportunity for him to redeem himself.

Jim demonstrates his fatherly role during a moment of transition as he protects the old man and acts as the only adult present. This is evident when Jim and Huck stumble upon a dilapidated house containing a deceased individual. According to Twain, “It is an unequivocally deceased individual. Furthermore, they are unclothed and appear to have suffered from a gunshot wound on their posterior side. My estimation suggests that this person has been lifeless for approximately two to three days. Please proceed inside, Huck, but I advise against observing their countenance – it may prove quite distressing” (Twain 56). Following the discovery of the motionless body, Jim permits Huck to enter the premises while cautioning him not to cast his gaze upon the cadaver.

Huck acknowledges that he is disturbed by the dead man, and the next day he becomes curious about the mysterious death. This is out of the ordinary for Huck, who previously mentioned that he doesn’t care about dead people. Twain utilizes Huck’s intuition regarding the strange death to highlight its importance, which Jim also notices. When Jim sees Huck’s father’s ghastly face, he realizes that there is now an available fatherly role for Huck. From that point on, Jim tries to gradually assume the position of a father figure.

In order to establish himself as a strong male figure for Huck, Jim takes several actions. He starts by getting rid of Huck’s previous father and then presents himself as a prominent male figure in Huck’s life. To prevent Huck from discussing the remains of his old father, Jim employs superstitions, stating that it would bring bad luck and that the dead man might haunt them. Additionally, while they are stuck on Jackson Island, Jim initiates a conversation with Huck about how a person with hairy arms and a hairy chest is a sign that they will become wealthy.

Aside from superstition, these characteristics can actually demonstrate that having “hairy arms and a hairy breast” is more common in males, which could be an indication of wealth. Jim’s hairy features are juxtaposed with Miss Watson’s presumably smooth breast. Jim utilizes these traits to prove his ability to serve as a father figure and protect Huck. Additionally, Twain employs this section of the novel to hint at Jim’s future financial success, contrasting it with Huck’s unsatisfactory substitute parents.

Initially, the contrast between Jim’s ability to earn money and Pap’s decision to take his own son’s money highlights the potential for Jim to serve as a much-needed father figure in Huck’s life. Despite the possibility that Jim invented this story as a means of convincing Huck that he would be a superior and more capable parent, Twain allows the notion to unfold towards the end of the novel. When Tom gives Jim $40, Jim promptly brags to Huck that his hairy arms and breast were the reason behind his acquisition of the money.

Now that Jim has firmly established himself as Huck’s father figure, he no longer has to try to persuade Huck with superstitions or bragging. At this stage, Twain clearly portrays the relationship between Jim and Huck as that of father and son. With Jim no longer deeply sorrowful about his past as a father, he can confidently state to Huck that Pap “ain’t coming back anymore” (Twain 323). This is the moment when Huck finally accepts the unspoken acknowledgement of their true father-son bond.

Despite serving as a “Moral Catalyst” at certain points in the book, Jim primarily functions as a paternal figure to Huck. Moreover, he not only fills the void left by Huck’s absent father but also demonstrates his own personal growth and redemption as a father. Through the development of a strong father-son bond, Jim exemplifies a peaceful resolution to the challenges faced by the Southern United States in Twain’s era.

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Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn Character Analysis. (2016, Oct 25). Retrieved from

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