Jim as a Father Figure to Huck

Examining the relationship between Jim and Huck in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.

This paper begins with an overview of the coming of age theme and its important characteristics, especially the significance of the father figure. It is then shown why Huck’s father is not a father figure to him. The relationship between Huck and Jim is then described, including how the relationship changed Huck and how it was these changes that led him to become a man. Finally, it is shown that Huck having the unlikely Jim as his father figure, represents that Huck is able to see beyond what mainstream white society expects.
Firstly, it is important to recognize that the major theme in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Huck’s coming of age. At the beginning of the novel, Huck is a boy and by the end, he has changed into a man. This is a common theme in literature, with the coming of age theme always having a father figure as central. In an essay about gender in literary works, Jehlen recognizes that masculinity is not something men have but something they construct (Jehlen 270). Paglia describes this further saying that, A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and it is confirmed only by other men (Paglia 82). This is one of the major features of the coming of age theme, that a boy becomes a man with the help of his father. This is a process that involves the father treating the boy as a son and then later, the boy becomes a man when he becomes his father’s equal. The father is a teacher and mentor to the son. For Huck’s journey to manhood, this same process follows. Huck needs an older, wiser figure to lead him towards manhood and teach him. In the case of Huck, his actual father figure is not capable of taking on the role.