Chapter XXVIII: Jim's Silent Role

George Baughan, Joe Dolan, and Evan Quinn.

Huck's Moral Conflict

Questioning whether to spoil the king and duke's plot, Huck "reckons a body that ups and tells the truth when he is in a tight place, is taking considerable resks" (200)

But at the same time, Huck says that the "truth is better, and actuly safer, than a lie" (200)


So, Huck decides to "up and tell the truth this time, though it does seem most like setting down on a kag of powder and touching it off... (200).

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Huck reveals the crooked plot to Mary Jane. By doing so, Huck finally acknowledges the deceitful ways of the king and the duke publicly. Although silent, Jim's moral innocence seems to help Huck arrive at this decision, even when it wasn't easy to do.
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Critic Cassandra L. Smith discusses Jim's role for Huck


“He is a foil for Huck, designed to bring him closer to his own humanity, and he is an illustration of the kinds of social maneuvers African Americans adopted to navigate a larger hostile world. Most critics have determined that Jim's defining feature is the mask he wears, through which he wits his way to freedom.” (Smith para 2)


Analysis

Smith notes that Jim "brings [Huck] closer to his own humanity," which indeed he does. In this chapter, Huck is swayed by the influences of the king and the duke, but overcomes these pressures to make his own decision. The indirect presence of Jim in Chapter 28 suggests that although silent, Jim's influence on Huck is still prevalent as Huck begins to grow and develop in these various situations. Thus, Jim's influence counteracts that of the king and the duke, and in essence, "brings him closer to his own humanity."
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Excerpt from "The Meaning of the Fourth of July" by Frederick Douglass

"Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs" (Douglass para. 3)

Analysis

Douglass notes that the slaves do tons of work and receive no respect in return. There is no "thankful acknowledgement" of the slaves "priceless benefit." In the novel, Jim plays a huge role for Huck and in some cases, serves as not only a mentor, but a father figure. But still in Huck's and the South's twisted ideologies, Jim is not a person, but property. Douglass's call for respect echoes into this novel with Huck's behavior towards Jim develops as the book goes on. But still, Jim's silence in this chapter, although he still had a factor in Huck's decision, suggests Jim's job, as with millions of slaves, was a thankless job.
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