When Hubert H. Humphrey was once asked what the greatest gift of life was, he responded, “The greatest gift of life, is friendship.” The close friendship between Huckleberry Finn and Jim is essential to this novel. Huck’s hatred for civilization, and his deepening relationship with Jim, leads him to question many ideas he had learned previously. He learns that friendship can overcome anything, even the biggest flaws in American society, such as racism and slavery.
The author uses many examples of romanticism to illustrate true friendship in the novel. Romanticism is when the author uses inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual to bring out the theme. The friendship Jim has with Huck (especially throughout the first eleven chapters) is the main example. Interestingly, at the beginning of the book, Jim decides to trust Huck solely based on the fact that Huck promises he would not tell anyone that Jim ran away. As it says in the book “I run off”. Jim is really trusting Huck with his life when he tells him that he ran away from the slave house. If Huck had ever repeated what Jim said, it would have gotten Jim killed. Interestingly enough, Jim ends up saving Huck by stopping him from looking at the dead, gashed body of his father, as it says, “Come in, Huck, but doan’ look at his face – it’s too gashly.” Throughout the novel, Jim consistently serves as a father figure for Huck. Despite this being socially unacceptable, Jim and Huck’s friendship continues to persist in the racist culture of the 1870s. Through all the ‘thick and thin’, Jim continues to value Huck tremendously. When Jim loses Huck, he panics, and is extremely relieved when he finds out that Huck is still alive. Huck was only hiding from Jim out of satire, thinking it was funny to do so. As a result, Jim realizes he would be lost without Huck, creating a stronger sense of friendship. Huck genuinely feels bad for pranking Jim, a black, and even apologizes to him, showing that he’s beginning to value him more as a person. This is significant since it is a prime example of Huck starting to stray away from the constraints of his current racist society, where it would be unthinkable to apologize to a black man.
Twain is not the only one who sees this theme. It is also seen in many other written works. Twain’s ideas are shared in Frederick Douglass’s slave narratives. Frederick Douglass goes into detail about his struggles while a slave. His experiences, specifically with white people, have been the catalyst for the formation of friendship. Douglas says, “I am strongly tempted to give the names of two or three of those little boys, as a testimonial of the gratitude and affection I bear from them”. Douglis is clearly very pleased with these boys and even uses the words “gratitude and “affection” towards them. This works perfectly relates to our theme. Friendship can overpower the biggest flows in American History, such as a racism and slavery. Just as Huck became close to Jim and went against society so did Frederick. They both developed a strong friendship and that friendship helped them through the the trials and turmoils of racism and slavery. The concept of friendship expressed by Twain, are given through Huck and Jim. Both of them were brought together by similar reasoning, which led to them running away. What started as a regular friendship ended up helping both of them overcome one of the biggest flaws in American history and escape to freedom.