In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, We have two characters trying to become free. Huck, who is running away from society, which he views as oppressive and controlling, and Jim, an escaped slave running to freedom down the Mississippi River. Through chance, they meet up, and our unlikely duo travel down the river, with various misadventures along the way. However, their two journeys are fundamentally different. First, in the way that they are oppressed, and second, in the result of their shared journey
Firstly, Huck’s oppression is not nearly as real as Jim’s. His problem with society is that there are too many people telling him what to do. From Miss Watson and the widow Douglas to his father, even though they are on opposite sides of society, they are both seen as forcing him to do things. Miss Watson, who forces him to go to school, learn religion, and be proper. Pap, on the other hand, is forceful since he physically abuses Huck, extorts him for drinking money, and locks him inside the house while he is gone. To Huck, these are equally bad, and he deals with these problems by running away from them down the river. However, these are not really problems, as what Miss Watson is doing is actively good for Huck, even if he doesn’t see it that way. His father on the other hand, is clearly bad, but not something that cannot be dealt with. If Huck just waited for the custody settlements to be worked out, then he could have gone back to Miss Watson. Jim, on the other hand, as a slave, is actively beaten and forced to work. He is excluded from society, and is not treated as human. Rather, he is treated as property, as a tool to be used, or a farm animal to do work. Even though his owner, Miss Watson, is a kind and godly woman, she still keeps him as a slave, as well as his family. Under her, he felt that he was treated fairly, but once the idea of the unknown came about, when he overheard that he might be sold, he was afraid, and ran away. At the most basic level, Huck is escaping from the known, although twisted through the eyes of a child, and Jim is escaping from the unknown, as well as from forced bondage.
Jim and Huck also differ in the result of their journey. At the end of the book, we learn that in Miss Watson’s will, Jim was set free, so he is now a free man. His goal now, is to become a part of society and earn enough money to set his family free. Huck on the other hand, refuses to integrate into society, and reject’s Aunt Sally’s offer, claiming that “I can’t stand it. I been there before.” (Twain 260) He shows that even though he goes on a huge journey, and sees so many distinct aspects of humanity, he is still the same rebellious child that he was at the beginning of the book. Jim, on the other hand, has not changed internally either, but his relationship to society has changed greatly. He goes from being excluded altogether, to being considered a member of society, albeit one that is racially targeted and excluded. This is a massive change in how he is part of society. Huck, on the other hand, makes the exact opposite change. He starts as a part of society, although he does not want to be, then leaves society for the Territory, which is implied to be the West. In the end, they both find freedom in their own way, from their own oppression by society. Huck is free from any civilizing forces, as he will most likely be living out west on his own, and Jim is no longer a slave, and his new goal is to free his family.
These two characters are remarkably different, and were both excluded from society in separate ways. However, they both end up going on a journey together, and experience changes that will affect them forever. Although they share many experiences, and even kindle a deep friendship for one another, they differ fundamentally in the nature of their oppression by society and their freedom from it.