February 25, 2019
In the book “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, slavery is a relevant part of society because during this time slavery was deemed a God given right. However, the cause of nearsightedness of scripture has led a conflict in the society during the time this book was written. People often take the Word of God out of context, and they use whatever “scripture” for their cause to justify their actions. However, one is to suspend judgement and look into the context of why the testimony was written, so the precept can influence the person rather than the person influencing God’s Word. At the time this book was written, I doubt anyone had ever read the book of Philemon. In a nutshell, the book of Philemon is about a runaway slave, Onesimus, encountering the apostle Paul and becoming born again. Paul would send Onesimus back to his owner Philemon; however, Philemon would receive Onesimus not as a slave but as a dear brother in Christ per Paul’s request. For the majority of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the main protagonist Huck is in company with a runaway slave named Jim.
In 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published. Unfortunately, at the time this book was written slavery was a prevalent part of American society. According to Judith Weisenfeld in her book review of Hell without Fires: Slavery, Christianity, and the Antebellum Spiritual Narrative, “Yolanda Pierce uses antebellum African American spiritual narratives to explore how conversion to Christianity functioned for many African Americans as a means of refuting religious justifications of slavery, resisting the institution’s various means of dehumanizing black people, and extending beyond the individual experience of conversion to evangelize others.” Somehow these “Christians” at the time this book was written, believed that they were saving black people by putting them into slavery. No one can make a person become a Christian. The decision is up to the person whether or not they want to give their lives to Christ, and it is up to them to receive Him as Lord and Savior. One has to respect the decision the person makes. Jesus said “if anyone desires to come after me, let him first deny himself and pick up his cross daily and follow me.”
Then the group of people who practiced Christianity would be more educated and well-off people like that of Miss Watson. On the other hand, characters like Huck and Jim who were deemed less “sivilized”, and would disregard Christianity because they believed Christianity took more precedence in the expired than the living. Throughout the book, Huck would dismiss the necessity of Christianity because of constantly failed prayer request. Conversely, at the end of the book, Huck would pray to God to condemn his soul to hell if anything happened to Jim. As he tried to pray, Huck was wavering because he felt his heart was not right. In the 31st chapter of the book, Huck would state, “So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and I says, I’ll go and write a letter- and then see if I can pray…All right, then, I’ll go to hell”. Huck tried to send a letter to Miss Watson concerning Jim whereabouts, but he could not follow through.
Also, the binaries of good and evil are prevalent in this book; however, good and evil differ in the eyes of different characters. The white colored “Christians” were deemed “good” people. On the other hand, the colored people were deemed “evil” people. For example, when heaven and hell were being discussed, Huck would imagine “good” people like Miss Watson to end up there. Huck believed that well-off, important and stringent people went to heaven. In contrast, Huck believed that hell was where all the cool people went. This too has also made Huck less interested in Christianity. In chapter 1 of the book Huck would state, “All I wanted was to go somewheres; she was going to live so as to so to the good place. Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.”
In addition, when the opportunity presented itself to turn Jim back into slavery, Huck would be torn within himself. For instance, when Huck was pretending to be contaminated with tuberculosis while being interrogated by two slave owners. Huck decided to hide Jim rather than turn Jim back into slavery. At this moment, Huck had an inward conflict because he believes he did the wrong thing. Huck considered the slave owners to be “good” people, and slaves as being evil people. The influence of slavery helped form Huck’s perspective on colored people. At the end, Huck would say that he knew Jim was a white person inside after staying with a wounded Tom. This is implying that white people are good and colored people are bad. According to Cassander L. Smith in her “Niggers” or “Slaves”, Literary Criticism states, “Even though Jim has done the right thing, illustrating that he can think rationally and compassionately, it does not do much to change his social status. The other characters still refer to him as “nigger,” unable—or unwilling—to read his selfless act in terms of his humanity.”
In conclusion, we discussed some of the causes of why slavery was a prominent part in society at the time this book was written. Also, we discussed some of the groups of characters whom Christianity influenced in this book. The shortsightedness of scripture has led to slavery in society during this time. Does The Bible condone slavery? One would state that slavery is allowed in the Law. However, the entirety of the Law is actually pointing to Jesus. Yes, the Law allows one to have a slave for seven years; however, on the seventh year he is to be released. The slave is taken to the doorpost of the gate of the city. He has the choice to be free or remain a slave. If he chooses to remain a slave then his ear would be pierced signifying him becoming a bondservant. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus would choose to become that bondservant, and later He would be pierced on a cross. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve others, and to give His life as a ransom for many. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a product of wrong use of scripture, for these “Christians” served God with their mouths, but their hearts were far from Him.
Weisenfeld, Judith. “African American Review”. HELL Without Fires: Slavery, Christianity & the Antebellum Spiritual Narrative (Book). Summer 2008. P360-363. Book Review
Smith, Cassander L. “Nigger” or “Slave”: Why Labels Matter for Jim (and Twain) in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Literary Criticism. Spring 2014, Vol.50 Issue 2, p182-206
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York, Barnes and Noble Books, 1885
The Holy Bible. New King James. Tyndale House Publishers, 1993