Farewell, Old Friend…For Now

At last, it appears, the incredible adventures of Huckleberry Finn have satisfyingly ended; at least satisfyingly so to a reader like myself, which is an oft easily accomplished feat.

In the week since I wrote the last post for this book, I have read from Chapter 11 to Chapter 30, otherwise known as the final chapter; and placed intelligently throughout that large gap are suspenseful conflicts and trickeries I would have never expected from a novel so compact.

So, I will continue to address those with several more posts; this is but a celebratory finale of the reading.

In Chapter 16, Jim and Huck are pleasantly drifting upon the river when a skiff with two armed men comes sailing beside them; they are searching for runaway “niggers”, and so ask Huck if he has seen one around recently. Beside himself with guilt at wanting to give up Jim as they coast into a nearby city, Huck creates an elaborate lie about a family affected with a bad case of “smallpox” sitting inside the raft; this results in the skiff men sailing hastily away, but warning the boy to, if he sees any runaways, to “get help and nab them.”

This is one of the first instances in which Huck openly defends Jim; in fact, he spends the rest of the chapter feeling overjoyed as Jim praises him for being his best friend, saying “…you’s de bes’ fren’ Jim’s ever had; en you’s de only fren’ ole Jim’s got now.”

Phrases like such are the reasons I enjoy reading about Jim so much.

Indicated also is a sampling of the critical theory Gender Studies and Queer Theory, which, for those who are new to the term, examines the cultural and social implications of differing races and gender and sexual orientation in reference to our massive, molding world; the largest example in this novel is Jim, the black runaway slave, and the other black servants they come across in their travels.Seldom a scenario prevalent in the South, and a controversial incident sure to stir frustration through those riverside cities and towns, is the white teen helping a slave escape notice of his captors, which is the main cause of distress in the story.

When Jim says Huck is his “only fren’,” he is telling the complete truth. Unlike white settlers, slaves were not typically social butterflies; actually, they were trapped in a tricky predicament similarly hurting the rising numbers of foreign immigrants into the States. It is only later in the story, when they meet up with rowdy Tom Sawyer, that he has a chance to make a few more connections and expound upon his freedom.

There is no small wonder this novel became controversial following its publication, as the union between Huck and Jim would have been seen as unnatural and perverse to the societal norm. Such a caring and loyal friendship is theirs it almost surprises me so few took a stand to change those norms.

 

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