One way racist beliefs are reinforced in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn is through the stereotypical portrayal of Jim and other black characters. The first scene Jim is introduced in, he is referred by Huck as, “Miss Watson’s big nigger named Jim”(4).
During this scene, Huck is attempting to leave Miss Watson’s home and to do that he has to get past Jim. Jim overhears Huck and says, “Who dah?”(4). Whenever Jim speaks, his English is scarcely coherent, and it’s challenging to read and comprehend. When Jim hears another noise when Huck is trying to escape he asks, “Say who is you? Whar is you? Dog my cats ef I didn’ hear sumf’n.
Well, I know what I’s gwyne to do: I’s gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it ag’in”(5). Jim’s English is unnecessarily exaggerated, and this exaggeration is maintained consistency throughout the novel. There is a distinct difference between how Jim and Huck speak. Huck’s English is proper and understandable, whereas Jim’s is not. Jim is also characterized as superstitious and “Niggers would come miles to hear Jim talk about it”(6). Not only was Jim superstitious, but according to Huck, so was every other black person. Huck claims, “Niggers is always talking about witches in the dark by the kitchen fire”(6). First impressions are influential and crucial, and they are what most readers use to assess characters.
We are given the first impression that Jim is childish. Many critics speculate that the depiction of Jim and other blacks are defamatory, including critic Peaches Henry. She states there are “scenes that depict blacks as childish, inherently less intelligent than whites, superstitious beyond reason and common sense, and grossly ignorant of standard english”(Henry 368).
We can unquestionably observe all these characteristics in Jim. He is portrayed as superstitious, unintelligent, and not well spoken. Not only is Jim depicted with these bad traits, but so is every other African American in Huck’s society.Conversely, many people believe that the deception of Jim at the beginning of the book was essential to expose Jim’s genuine nature. According to Henry, “Some view Twain’s depiction of Jim early in the novel necessary backdrop against which Huck’s gradual awareness of Jim’s humanity is revealed.”(370).
Henry believes that some people view Jim’s stereotypical portrayal necessary for “‘Jim’s dignity and human capacity’ to emerge from the behind this stereotypical mask”(369). Jim can be seen as caring and kind during a few moments in the novel. However, these qualities are not uniform with the book as a whole. For instance, stereotypical views come back during the evasion sequence, when Huck concedes to Tom Sawyer and lets him take charge, and toy with Jim.
The racist characteristics that are presented in Jim and other black characters make them substandard, and it provokes the readers to view them in a racist fashion.