Friday, January 26, 2007

I'll Go to Hell (Annotation G1-3/Goddard)

On the river friendship and adventure are nearly synonymous with Huckleberry Finn and Jim. A wide array of plot points, social commentary and downright old fashioned American adventure lace the pages of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; however, in discussion of friendship and love chapters 16 and 31 are the richest.
“’Good-bye, sir,’ says I, ‘I won’t let no runaway niggers get by me if I can help it.” (Twain 101) Huck tells runaway slave hunters while floating on the river toward Cairo, toward freedom. Of course Huck has withheld information of Jim who at this instance is on the raft some distance away from the conflict, and indeed a safe distance.
The relationship between Huck and Jim through the end of chapter 15 is established as camaraderie of two runaways. Both are running from the establishment, Jim from slavery and Huck from his Pap and the ol’ widow. The scene: the Mississippi Valley; the time: forty to fifty years ago (the original publication date being 1884). The social implications are many even in 1884 with slavery still very fresh in the minds of people.
Huck has runaway from his Pap, and indeed from a sum of money, conversely Jim is worth eight hundred dollars down river. In an essence, Huck is an unwanted child, and Jim is not a human being, he is property. Each is looking for freedom, Jim from slavery and Huck from the imprisonment of his Pap, and worse still, the training of the widow and the judge. Unlikely stow-aways the sum of their situation and friendship is the one event in chapter 16.
“It hadn’t ever come home to me before, what this thing that I was doing. I tried to make out to myself to myself that I warn’t to blame, because I didn’t run Jim off from his rightful owner;…’But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could have paddled ashore and told somebody’” (Twain 97) This Huck’s inner dialogue was echoed by Jim who spoke of nothing but his freedom, and the shinny hope of Cairo. “Every time he danced around and says, ’Dah’s Cairo!’ it went through me like a shot and I thought if it was Cairo I reckoned I would die of miserableness. “ (Twain 97) plenty of conflict which makes the change of character exciting. They are forging ahead on the river which is dangerous enough, and they both stand punishment or reward if caught. Huck knows letting Jim go would be wrong, and becomes determined to turn him in. Only moments later when Huck is separated from Jim alone in the canoe and confronted two men in a skiff with guns he can bring himself to it. Not answering prompt the men finally drag it out him that there is another man on the raft behind them. Black or White? Again he is unable to answer prompt. Finally, after a challenge from the men with guns Huck returns the challenge to them to go see “pap”.
As Huck leads them to think that pap on the raft is sick, they jump to the conclusion of small pox. Huck is able to garner sympathy instead of challenge and not only gets away from the men but is able to accept help in the form of money as well.
“I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me…” (Twain 235) Despite the obvious age difference between Jim and Huck, Jim being old enough to be a father to Huck the two have a more equal friendship. This relationship is comfortable to Huck, Jim treating him in a tender sort of way calling him ‘honey’ which he does throughout the book. The protection and company of a good friend is something that Huck lacks in all other adults in his life: Pap, the widow and Judge Thatcher. As Huck realizes the depth of his friendship with Jim, he’s already decided to write a note to Miss Watson to tell her when her runaway slave can be found. “I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell.” (Twain 234-235) How simple it seems to have the ability to pray and find the redemption of doing the right thing Huck has abided by law. Huck has told Miss Watson the whereabouts of her property and has saved his own soul from hell. However, this young man knows the right thing to do isn’t what he thinks is right. “I was trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then I says to myself:
‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’ –and tore it up” (Twain 235)




Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York. Penguin Books, 1986

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