Jim's Role in Chapter 23

Sydni Stovall & Jaeda Mattis


In chapter 23, Huck’s realization of Jim’s true character and feelings emphasizes on Jim’s role as a father, as well as the reality of limited point of view and lack of understanding.

Literature Criticism

He has been recognized by critics as a complex character, at once a superstitious and ignorant minstrel-show stereotype but also an intelligent human being who conveys more depth than the narrator, Huck Finn, is aware of. As their journey progresses, however, Huck does grow to see Jim as more than a stereotype......But other critics have seen a consistency of character in Jim throughout the book, as a slave who wears the mask of ignorance and docility as a defense against white oppression, occasionally giving Huck (and the reader) glimpses behind the mask...... But according to Chadwick Hansen, Jim is never a "fully-rounded character" in his own right; rather he serves the function of making Huck confront his conscience and overcome society's influence.

Throughout the book, Jim helps Huck to go against the societal norms. Huck helps Jim to be a free man, although that is against the rules in society. This portrays the societal norms in the south back then with racism and ignorance. In chapter 23, Huck begins to see Jim as more of a person, than a piece of property, or “stereotype” (Baetzhold 1). He notices that Jim can actually have feelings for other people, and can have a family. Critics still see Jim as a slave that defends himself by acting ignorant, though, but he does show the “real him” to Huck.

Literature Criticism (Blooms)

“Throughout the bulk of the narrative, Huck develops a growing affection and admiration for Jim that makes him eventually realize that he and Jim—and by extension, white and black people—share a common humanity” (Davis 9)

Huck’s growing relationship with Jim brings him to the realization that he and Jim have a lot in common, despite their different races. Huck begins to come out of the societal blindness that he has been put into by society.

Jim in the Book

Chapter 23 pg 167 “he was setting there with his head down betwixt his knees, moaning and mourning to himself. I didn’t take notice, nor let on. I knowed what it was about. He was thinking about his wife and his children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick; because he hadn’t ever been away from home before in his life; and I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their’n. It don’t seem natural, but I reckon it’s so…. He was a mighty good n***er, Jim was.”

Not only racism is strongly prominent in this chapter, but the relationship between Huck and Jim, as well as Jim’s role as a father figure and Huck’s view of Jim is portrayed in this section. Huck is realizing that Jim can truly have feelings and love for his family (which Twain emphasizes to capture the reality of the limited point of view and racism in society).

Jim’s fatherhood is shown when he feels terribly sorry after telling the story about beating his deaf daughter.

Toni Morrison Essay

“Consider the void that follows the revelation of Jim as a responsible adult and caring parent in chapter 23. Huck has nothing to say. The chapter does not close, it simply stops...The hush between these two chapters thunders. And its roar is enhanced by Huck’s observation on the preceding page: that although Jim’s desperate love for his wife and children ‘don’t seem natural,’ Huck ‘reckons it’s so’ (201). This comment is fascinating less for its racism than for the danger it deflects from Huck himself. Huck has never seen nor experienced a tender, caring father--yet he steps out of this well of ignorance to judge Jim’s role as a father.”

In this chapter, Huck’s perspective of Jim expands. He seems surprised to find out that Jim has feelings for other people. Huck judges Jim as a father although he himself, has never had a real father figure in his life.