Reminders of Heartlessness: Racism in "Huckleberry Finn" and Blackface Minstrel Shows

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Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written in the early 1880’s, persists as an internationally classic novel and a staple in American Literature. However, Twain’s depiction of Jim and use of the most powerful racial epithet in African American history caused ire to many who analyzed it as harsh and unnecessary to the publication of a “good” novel. Literary critics believe the reason behind Twain’s characterizations come from his immersion in the time of Realism, where Black Minstrel Shows were a popular form of entertainment. Mark Twain’s callous treatment of Jim parallels the racism publicized in Black Minstrel Shows. Both Twain’s Jim and Black minstrel shows exemplify blacks alienation from society. Twain represents …show more content…
By using slurred speech, Twain contrasts Jim’s inability to speak with the proper English used by the white characters throughout the novel. Additionally, Jim’s superstitions receive constant dismissals as silly. For example, Huck deceives Jim into thinking a scary separation was all in Jim’s imagination. In Jim’s eyes, “all [Huck] wuz thinkin 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie” (Twain, 1985, chapter 15, para. 47), even after Jim practically fell on his knees to see Huck again. By Huck mocking Jim in this way, their friendship comes second to Huck’s needing to override Jim in terms of intelligence. Another example of this, is when Twain’s racism makes Huck unable to see that Jim argues well, and only views him as brainless. “[Huck} see it warn't no use wasting words – you can't learn a n-word to argue. So I quit” (Twain, 1985, chapter 14, para. 58). Providing all of this, Twain abstractly gives readers hints to the underlying theme of whites intellectual dominance. Black Minstrel Shows offer the earliest publication of blacks displaying idiocy. The storyline behind every show originates from the White man’s stereotypes of slaves with slurred dialect and incoherence in its characters. By utilizing vernacular such as “'Cause Billy Doo was de name of de boy dat brought it”

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