In the first 20 chapters of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, many themes occur. As expected, racism, as defined by today is very present. Huck, the main charecters friend, is a slave named Jim. Jim is a prime example of the role of slaves in Huck’s time. Jim is uneducated, due to white supremacy and paranoia of the saying ” ‘give a nigger an inch and he’ll take and ell’ ” (170) The whites, especially of the south feared an uprising from the slaves, if they gave them the “inch” of education. The whites treated the slaves as animals who if they were given just enough, they would take it all, when really this reflects upon themselves.
Even if Huck considers Jim a friend, he still thinks of himself as higher. This is also due to Jim’s ignorance and the society that Huck grew up in. When Huck hurts Jim’s feelings by using his knowledge to make Jim look foolish. Huck of course feels bad, but “it was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger” (160). Huck’s remorse shows that he does care about Jim, but the pride and white supremacy holds him back from apologizing immediately. This is interesting because Huck views Jim as a friend, but unconsciously does not view Jim as his equal. Huck does take advantage of Jim’s ignorance for his own entertainment, but eventually feels remorse. The remorse shows that Huck does care about Jim, but he cannot undo something that he doesn’t really know exists.
Another theme that occurs is gender roles. When Huck dresses up as a woman to disguise himself from the woman. The first example of gender roles is when the widow refuses to let Huck leave because she doesnt want her to go without her husbands company: “She said she wouldn’t let me go by myself, but her husband would be in by and by, maybe in an hour and a laf, and she’d send him along with me” (142) In Huck’s time women were seen as something that needed to be protected and were basically helpless.
Society in Huck’s time was patriarchal, which means that it was dominated by men. “women not working outside but men did, so men were the moneymakers while women were homemakers and mainly responsible for the family and home” Also, when Huck tries to pick up a needle and thred, he further exposes his lie to the woman. She is immediatly able to see that Huck is a boy due to his looks and the fact that he cannot sew. ” ‘Bless you child when you set out to thread a needle, don’t hold the thread still and fetch the needle up to it; hold the needle still and poke the thread at it- thats the way a woman most always does; but a man always does ‘tother way.’ ” (145) This passage can be seen as metaphorical for gender roles. Women and Men have defined ways of doing things that are set by society. Like sewing, women do it a certain way, and men do it the other.