You Dont Know Me
In Chapter 1 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck spoke for Mark Twain
when he made the statement, You dont know about me…but that aint no matter. The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was not a sequel to his other adventure stories but a
literary statement questioning how civilized our American society really was. Twain was
not a racist but a realist. The perception of racism in the novel should be attributed to the
historical setting and the effect it had on its characters. The story took place in the South
before the Civil War. The Souths economic structure depended on keeping the Negro in
servitude. Many white Americans accepted slavery and believed the Negroes were inferior
which resulted in racist attitudes and behaviors. Twain used the character development of
Jim and Huck to demonstrate how these attitudes could change once Huck was able to see
past the cultural stereotype of Jim being a Negro and recognize he was a person who was
both noble and decent and deserved to be free like any other man whether he was black or

Twains early development of the character Jim has been controversial because of
the apparent racism. In the early chapters, Jim was portrayed as a typical slave stereotype:
superstitious, ignorant, and naive. On two separate occasions Huck delighted in
exploiting Jims superstitious beliefs to play a joke on him. In Chapter 10, Huck put a
dead snake in Jims blanket after Jim had warned him that, it was the worse luck in the
world to touch a snakeskin. Then Huck realized Jim wasnt really the fool he thought
him to be when the dead rattlesnakes mate returned and bit Jim. Huck felt bad. Huck
played his last trick on Jim after they passed Cairo and got separated by the currents. At
first, Huck thought it was funny to pretend that they had never been separated, but he was
humbled by Jims reactions which showed both dignity and his strong sense of value.
Hucks viewpoint of Jim was changing, but his former upbringing was evident when he
openly admitted, It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to and humble
myself to a nigger.

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It was statements like this that have made many dispute Twains intentions. Did he
have to use the word nigger over two hundred times? Throughout The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn, Twain used dialect and the word nigger. The use of the word was
not purely racist, since it was not used in a derogatory manner but as a term meaning black
person. The real racism was in the way the characters viewed niggers. After the
steamboat explosion in Chapter 32 Aunt Sally said, Good gracious! anybody hurt?
Then Huck casually replied, Nom. Killed a nigger. Relieved Aunt Sally said, Well its
lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt. Twain was being ironic and wanted his
reader to see the real truth behind the Southern perception of humanity. Neither
considered the death of a Negro worth noting.

As the novel progressed, Huck had to wrestle with the former values instilled in
him by this culture. During Huck and Jims adventures down the river, Huck learned the
real difference between hypocrisy and prejudice and friendship and values. The senseless
killing between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons made him question civilized ways
that perpetuated a feud where basically good people foolishly follow old customs rather
than changing tradition. Huck was further angered that a whole town could be duped by
the king and duke. The town symbolized society. Even though some of the townspeople
disagreed with the king when he inhumanly separated and sold the Wilks familys slaves,
no one interfered. Although many could interpret this incident as racist, Twain used this
incident to show how Hucks viewpoint and values had changed. Huck realized that Jim
and other niggers were not just someone elses property but human beings and should
be treated accordingly.

Twain was not a racist. Throughout the book, he did not make one derogatory
remark about the black people but instead characterized some of the members of the
civilized society which had enslaved them to be religious zealots and hypocrites, fools and
liars, robbers and murderers, and rogues and scoundrels. Twain had satirized the pre-civil
war American society and its institutions to make his reader question their present actions.
If the reading public had taken a closer look at The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, they
would have realized it directly opposed the current Jim Crow laws. Twain had
purposefully denied that there was a moral or motive in the story fearing they would not
see his point or would turn him off like Huck and Toms friends did when Tom Sawyer
outlined the rules he found in adventure books. Instead, Twain hoped his reader would
view the world through Hucks eyes to realize if they were open and honest they too
would be able to do what was right. Then they could develop a deeper understanding or
sympathy for other human beings and be able to recognize racism.

English Essays