The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: the Value of Human Life

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is set in 1885 America, roughly twenty years before the Civil War. Although slavery had been abolished by the time the novel had been published, racism was still a major issue in the country. The black Americans were belittled and termed as “niggers”. According to Grogan the derogatory term nigger or negro is believed by etymologists to have derived from “… a Northern English word neger that was itself derived from Negro, the Spanish word for black. Despite stemming from fairly neutral root words, they were manipulated specifically to provoke and hurt.” (1) This label was also given as a way to dehumanise black Americans as it places them in an inferior category within society and establishes the superiority of white Americans over them. In the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, there are several accounts of different characters in the novel with different examples of the value of human life. In this essay I will explore and closely analyse the value of human life as detailed in the novel. Right at the beginning of the novel we can see how demeaning Tom and Huck are towards the “nigger” Jim. Tom comes up with the plan “… to tie Jim to the tree for fun.” (Twain 6) after he falls asleep during his stake out, after hearing a noise which was Huck and Tom trying to escape the house. Huck only objects because he does not want Jim to wake up and make a disturbance and allow them to discover that he was not in his room, but not because such an act is inhumane. Pinksker states that the “social conditioning” ever present in the novel, “… puts layers of fat around the soul and… covers the eyes with motes.” (Pinksker 1) Evidence of this immorality appears during Jim’s conversation with Huck when he describes how he plans on regaining ownership of his own children and wife, he goes on to say that if he does not have enough

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