Racism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Before even beginning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is evident that racism is a distinct and predominant characteristic of this book. Throughout this book, it is clear that the story highlights issues of racism and slavery that were prevalent during the historical setting. These issues are directly portrayed through the way Jim is spoken to or about because he is an escaped slave. Many other clear examples of racism come from Huck’s father Pap. Although he is not very well respected, he is still a white man in a society where having white skin makes you naturally superior. Because he is so often drunk, Pap does not hesitate to vividly illustrate his attitude towards black people. In chapter six, Mark Twain uses strong imagery to exhibit this attitude. Pap describes a “free nigger” (147) of mixed white and black ancestry as a seemingly well-educated and respectful person, probably significantly more than Pap. Twain uses imagery to illustrate a picture of this man being “most as white as a white man” (147) and having “the whitest shirt on you ever see” (147). After drawing an image in the reader’s mind of the whitest-looking black person you could imagine, he continues to recall this man’s respectful and positive qualities. He says that the man “could talk all kinds of languages and knowed everything” (147), which depicts how this man seems significantly smarter than Pap even just through the word choice in the way Pap speaks. Following all of the positive things Pap recalls about this man, the reader is reminded he is still black and undeserving of even having the right to vote in a state where slaves have been freed, no matter how smart or respectful he is. This is a seemingly small example of a very large, widespread view that black people were not appreciated solely because of the fact that they are black. This specific example of racism envelops the much larger issue throughout the book.

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