Scorning Slavery Essay

1899 words - 8 pages

Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist who worked to gain legal equality for African Americans in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1963, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. King believed that blacks and whites are equal and yearned for social justice. Nearly 100 years earlier, Mark Twain shared similar beliefs; he also agreed that blacks and whites are equal. In Huckleberry Finn, Twain criticizes the assumption that whites should control blacks, as well as the Southern belief that blacks are not as smart whites, or as capable of feeling human emotions.
Twain criticizes the belief in the South that blacks are naturally unintelligent. In the beginning of the book, as tom sawyer is introduced, tom plays a prank on Jim by hanging his hat above his head. Tom and Huck find it funny when superstitious Jim, the next day, recounts that witches put him in a trance. Huck explains that “Niggers would come miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than any nigger in that country.” Both Huck and Tom find this ridiculous, knowing that it wasn’t witches who played the trick, but themselves. Jim’s gullibility is comedic to them. They think that they duped Jim, but Jim benefits from their trick. Jim is no longer focused on his work, and instead, cleverly, creates a diversion from his responsibilities. Jim is still fed and given shelter, yet he no longer has to perform manual labor. Jim, without his owners noticing, takes advantage of them. It is clear through the irony of Jim’s gullibility, that Twain is criticizing the belief that blacks are dumb. Jim proves himself to be intelligent when he uses the prank to his advantage. Although Huck laughed at Jim’s superstitious belief in witches, Huck later consults Jim when he sees pap’s footprints in the snow. He asks Jim what pap is going to do. He consults Jim’s ox hairball. At first the hairball doesn’t respond. Jims attributes this to that fact that “ sometimes it [wont] talk without money” Jim hesitates to accept counterfeit money, but gives in. Jim proceeds to provide Huck with a vague interpretation of his future. Although it may seem humorous asking a hairball to predict one’s fortune, as its an inanimate object that came from the stomach from a cow. The hairball is not magical, but a rather disgusting object. The hairball has no powers, but yet, Jim profits from his fortune telling business. Once again, Twain through Jim’s superstitions, makes the point that blacks are intelligent. On the surface, Jim appears foolish and gullible, when in fact the hairball allows Jim to quickly make money off Huck without doing any manual labor. On several occasions Jim profits from his superstitions.
Although Jim is superstitious, at the same time he is quite practical. After finding a book aboard the Walter Scott, Huck reads Jim stories to pass the time. Huck and Jim discuss Louis the sixteenth’s son, the dauphin. Jim is astonished to learn that...

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