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Is "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" a racist novel? It certainly does not portray Jim in a very favorable light in the last few chapters especially after he had been portrayed as a warm, loving human being in the middle of the novel. But just because the book seems to fall apart after Chapter 31 doesn't make it a failure and it certainly is not a racist novel. Just consider Twain's use of Pap, of all the people he could have chosen, as the spokesman for white superiority as he denounces the black college professor from Ohio; who looks ridiculous? Pap, of course; the drunken, child abusing bum who contributes nothing to his society except bad breath after he drinks, who considers himself superior to Jim solely on the basis of his skin color. There are also many other instances in the novel that clearly show how Twain uses Huck's willingness to test things out early in the novel (remember his testing out of Miss Watson's ideas about prayer and also Tom Sawyer's story about the genie and the lamp?) to prepare us for his growth in love for Jim the black slave, whom he comes to love enough to go to hell for rather than allow him to remain in captivity.


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Huck gradually learns to have feelings for Jim, feelings that his society told him were wrong, and he also learns to accept the fact that Jim has the same feelings for his own family as a white person does. Huck says, "It don't seem natural, but I guess it's so." Is he grudgingly admitting this here? No, no more than Twain himself is grudgingly writing about it. Is the book a racist book? Hardly. It is a book about the stupidity of racism, a major problem still in our society today, but one that hopefully one day will be wiped away just as Huck's was by the time Twain wrote Chapter 31. What happens after that chapter is a disappointment perhaps, since Jim reverts to the subservient slave he had been early in the novel, and Huck lets Tom take over, but at the end, when Huck rejects Aunt Sally's offer to adopt him and 'sivilize' him, he decides to light out for the territory; if what he has experienced in the white adult world is civilization, he wants no more of it. He is probably a lot like Biff Loman at the end of Death of a Salesman, who, having recognized the falseness of his father's dreams, rejects the crazy city of New York and heads out for his own territory. Both characters are reborn at the end of the respective works. But Tom Sawyer and Happy Loman have learned nothing from their experiences; Happy is going to stick it out in the big city and show them that Willy Loman did not die in vain; Tom Sawyer even gets shot in his game of escape but he wears the bullet around his neck as a badge of honor. Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" calls for us to reassess our values and to know who we are; but Mark Twain had Huck do the same nearly a century before