While reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, it is clear to see that Jim and Huck are both running away from something. Many believe that they are running from slave catchers who are after Jim and detectives who are after Huck, but in reality, Jim and Huck are running away to protect their lives.
Jim is frightened when he overhears Miss Watson telling her sister she is thinking about selling him downriver, upon hearing this Jim fears that he will never escape slavery, so he decides to run away. At a similar moment in time, Huck is being held captive by his father in a secluded cabin deep in the woods. At first, Huck enjoys being away from society but at the same time dreads the return of his drunk abusive father who leaves each day and returns each night with a beating in store for Huck. Eventually Huck gets tired of the same routine and decides to fake his own death to escape. During his escape, he encounters another runaway, Jim.
Although Jim and Huck left their homes under different circumstances, they both left to protect their own lives. Jim ran away due to the abusive system of slavery and how he believed he would not survive if he were sold downriver, while Huck left to escape his inevitable murder by his father. This is a key similarity and detail within the story that is often overlooked by many. Also, this similarity is very important because it may be a factor as to why Huck and Jim eventually build a friendship and mutual respect for each other later on in the story.
Although both Jim and Huck ran away because they thought their lives were potentially in danger, there are also differing reasons as to why each character ran away. Jim ran away to avoid being sold downriver, but he also wanted to escape the entire slave system that was so deeply embedded into society. This differs from Huck’s reason for running away.
At first, Huck wanted to escape his abusive father, but he also sought to escape societal norms that he was pressured into following. This is evident when Huck describes Miss Watson, “Her sister, Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, goggles on, had just come to live with her and took a set at me now with a spelling-book. She worked me middling hard for about an hour, and then for an hour it was deadly dull, and I was fidgety. Miss Watson would say, “Don’t put your feet up there Huckleberry”; and “Don’t scrunch up like that, Huckleberry- set up straight” (Twain 2). Here Huck expresses how he feels about Miss Watson and at the same time expresses his dislike for the constraints of society and what he is expected to conform to.
Although the novel can be interpreted as a fun adventure, it also has another side to it as a social commentary. Mark Twain touches on many issues like racism, greed, narcissism and much more within this novel. When Twain focuses on the aspect of Jim and Huck running away, I believe that he is trying to reflect the element of how naive individuals are in society, Huck is running away from a society that he feels uncomfortable in since he was raised outside the normal way of life.
On the opposite side, Jim was somehow incorporated into the slave system and is fearful for his life while Huck is merely uncomfortable and shows almost no sympathy for Jim when he finds out that he is running away. At first, Huck battles societies impression of how to treat slaves when he first encounters Jim as a runaway, “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn’t do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn’t done that one if I’d a knowed it would make him feel that way.” (Twain.78). This is an important turning point for Huck. After he apologizes, he starts to sympathize for Jim more and more and becomes less naive as he begins to understand the gravity of Jim’s situation. Although many people do not see The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a social commentary, Mark Twain speaks on a variety of social issues and ills through the journey of Huck and Jim down the Mississippi river.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Needham, Massachusetts, Prentice Hall Library, 1884.