A Literary Emancipation

There are strong controversial matters tied to Gender Studies and Queer Theory in the last few chapters of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;  controversial of course at the original time of publication in 1844–years before the initial reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln.

The controversy: treating a black slave with respect and granting him freedom.

Mark Twain was by no means a closet abolitionist. Still, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is  by far the heaviest criticized novel in his literary career–some states went so far as to ban the book from their libraries because of his divergence from the then current racial views–and many have been especially critical on the matter of freeing Jim at the end of the novel, says Huck, “[w]e had Jim out of the chains in no time…and fixed him up prime…and gave him all he wanted to eat…” (Twain. 292).

The controversy begins when the villagers recapture Jim; and at first they do not want to grant him his deserved freedom, as to them the racial rules of society are to be strictly followed; and a black person should remain a slave until the end of his days. They are  eerily described while gathered in the sitting room at night “…and every one of them [with] a gun[…]” (Twain. 273). Their views start to change when the doctor tells them of Jim’s caring nature towards his friends: “I liked the nigger for that…gentlemen…a nigger like that is worth a thousand dollars–and kind treatment, too.” (Twain. 286); so they then “…softened up a little…” (Twain. 286).

Now, while in the States softening up to slaves was frowned upon, and if someone was pleasant it was a miracle, in the novel it is written as if it is a commonplace event and those who enacted his release are as much unaffected as the boy narrating the novel.

As said before Mark Twain had no deeper interest in abolitionism than what is written in the book, and so his attitude towards the topic is expressed mundanely; however it takes nothing away from the historical implications of freeing a slave twenty years before the Emancipation Proclamation–double points for Mark Twain.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

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