Huck Finn is miles weightier than Tom Sawyer, and it's almost the Great American Novel it's called. Tom Sawyer was all fun and games - Don Quixote, as he points out himself, "all adventures and more adventures." Huck Finn's a different person; he's concerned with doing the right thing. He spends most of the novel helping a runaway slave escape, and he brilliantly represents a person judging the morals of society against the morals he's come up with himself, and ending up in the right place. That's why Huck Finn isn't a racist novel: Twain means to show us how a person who approaches life honestly will come out against racism. He's not subtle about it.
And Twain pulls off this wonderful reversal near the end of the book: Sawyer suddenly (view spoiler)[reappears on the scene, pulling the same hijinks he always has, but now we see it through Huck's and Jim's eyes, and it's maddening. Huck wants to find the most direct solution to the problem of freeing Jim, who's been recaptured. Tom wants to complicate things, as he always does; rather than just pulling a loose board out and making off, Tom insists on digging under the wall, and loosing bugs into Jim's prison so he can be properly prisonerish, and finally warning the family about the impending escape to make the whole thing more dangerous. (hide spoiler)]
While Sawyer did horrible things in his own book - most notably faking his own death so his Aunt Polly could about die of sadness - we forgave him then because the book was a lark, told through his eyes, and we understood that it was all about fun. Twain takes a leap in Huck Finn, showing us an adult world and then showing us what real stakes look like when Tom Sawyer gets a hold of them, and it's devastating to watch Tom toy with Jim's life this way. This radical flip is one of Twain's best moves, and it elevates Huck Finn considerably.
But Jim, for all his humanity, is still problematic. He never drives anything forward himself, and his passivity makes me uncomfortable. He's certainly shown to be kind, and we're allowed to see him weeping for his separated wife and children, and we get to see his heavily allegorical refusal to allow Tom to throw rattlesnakes into his prison to make it more realistic. We're allowed into Jim's humanity, yeah, but he never gets to drive the plot. At the end, when he realizes that he'd been a free man all along, and Huck didn't know it but Tom did and Tom was just playing...I wanted a moment of anger
from him. Didn't he deserve it? Shouldn't Jim have had a moment when he said, "What about my wife and children?"
Toni Morrison says that "the brilliance of Huckleberry Finn is that it is
the argument it raises." As great as this book is, I'm uncomfortable in parts. In making Jim the co-lead but giving him no action, Twain failed Jim; so while this is an anti-racism book, it's not totally an enlightened one.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>