Mark Twains Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a story about change. It is a story about a boys journey; a journey during which he has many adventures, but also learns lessons and matures. One of the biggest changes that occur in Huck Finn is in his views towards African-Americans, specifically his traveling companion, Jim. The affects of society on Hucks views grow less obvious as he begins to listen to his conscience rather than what he has been taught. As their friendship progresses, Hucks views change, and he grows less racist. At first, influenced by society, Huck does not respect African-Americans and views them as inferior. As the book progresses, however, so does Hucks maturity and his ability to think for himself, resulting in his lessening racist views.
Hucks racism in the beginning of the novel is demonstrated through his actions and his quotes. Within the first pages of the book Tom and Huck played a trick on Miss Watsons slave, Jim. In the trick the boys put Jims hat on a tree branch, which he, not knowing any better, blames on witches and the devil. The slave grows very proud of this story and soon becomes a legend among the slave community as he retells it many times. Huck does not consider Jims popularity a positive result of the trick, however, and sees a darker consequence. Jim was most ruined, for a servant, because he got so stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches. (8) Huck and Toms actions alone demonstrate much of their racist feelings, treating Jim like an inferior and without respect, even though he is an elder to them. This quote further illustrates their racist views by giving the impression that besides being a servant, there was little importance for Jim now that he was popular and stuck up. The fact that Huck and Tom play a trick on Jim, in addition to how Huck reflects on the issue, clearly represent the racist views he holds at this point in the novel.
This opinion of Hucks changes, however, as the book progresses and Huck and Jim grow closer as friends. A landmark in their changing relationship and Hucks resulting lessening racism is when Huck apologizes to Jim, a result of Hucks tricking his companion once again. After encountering a fog, Huck tries to convince the escaping slave that he merely dreamt the whole experience. Jim soon sees the debris on the boat, however, and realizes that Huck tried to trick him, upsetting Jim. Huck apologizes, saying, It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger-but I done it, and I warnt ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. (87) The fact that Huck humbles himself means he feels bad about his actions, and at this point recognizes Jims feelings for the first time in the book. Huck now regards Jim as more than property, seeing him as a real person. At this point Huck has grown from viewing African-Americans as inferior and practically worthless, to viewing them as equal and worthy of his concern.
Hucks relationship with Jim reaches its pinnacle when Huck rips up a letter written to Miss Watson, notifying Jims former owner of his new location. At this point Huck finally decides between two things: following what society has taught him or following his gut. While he rips up the letter, Huck proclaims that he would be willing to go to Hell for Jim, choosing freeing the slave over societys ways (215). Although this decision turns out to be completely irrelevant to Jims fate, the boys proclamation is nonetheless one of the most important quotes in the book. At this point Huck goes above and beyond anything he has ever decided before. Huck says that he is willing to do for Jim something he is not willing to do for anyone else This shows that Huck not only views Jim as an equal, but also as his closest friend.
One can track Hucks changing opinion towards African-Americans through the milestones reached in Huck and Jims relationship during the book. At first it is easy to tell that Huck houses racist views based on his actions and quotes in the beginning of the novel. But not long after does Huck humble himself to a nigger, demonstrating the equality he now feels with Jim. Finally, when Huck proclaims his willingness to go to Hell for Jim, he recognizes Jim not only as an equal, but also as a close friend. Hucks growing relationship with Jim, however, does not concern only the two of them. The change in Hucks behavior also represents his views towards all African-Americans. As Huck begins to view Jim as a friend, Hucks racist views lessen correspondingly. Once he realizes that African-Americans are real people and not just possessions, Huckleberry Finns views towards them all, not just Jim, change.