Tom Sawyer may be a young boy, but his actions are not child’s play. They enter the world of wrongdoing. This annoying, comical chapter in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn offers insight into a major point of Mark Twain’s novel. It reveals that Jim is just like whites and should be treated accordingly. In this pre-Civil Wars era, slaves were considered to be half-humans or subhumans. This gives them the freedom to sell them and make them work for money. Slave owners were forbidden from allowing slaves to escape. Jim was one example of a slave who ran away, and was not considered a human fleeing for freedom. He was instead criticised for stealing the property of his masters. Twain challenges our view of this and uses Huck Finn’s simple heart to see human characteristics in Twain such as love and kindness. Tom Sawyer comes into the story after Huck goes through several chapters. Huck’s approach to Jim is quite different from his, and the absurd demands of Tom Sawyer cause readers to lose patience. Twain’s race beliefs can be better understood if we look at specific details.
Tom demands that Jim complete ten absurd tasks. Each task comes from Tom’s view that Jim should play the role a free and adventurous prisoner. Huck struggles to comprehend the meaning of these absurd tasks. These tasks can be described as “the trouble of raising the mullen, and jew’s-harping and petting the snakes/spiders and such, along with all the other work he did on pens. inscriptions. journals. And things. Which made it more troubled and responsible to be a jailer than any [Jim] ever attempted” (254). Tom had an idea to have Jim write a long explanation about the problems of a prisoner along the “prison” walls. Tom rejects log walls. Jim and Huck have to drag the heavy grindstone back to their camp. Ironically, the prisoner is temporarily released to comply with conditions for being free. This shows that Tom views Jim’s freedom only as a game. Jim, however, regards his freedom as a matter of rights and freedom and his own life. Tom and Jim have very different priorities. This creates conflict which makes the readers want Tom to give Jim a rattlesnake. Tom wants Jim to take care of the snake and keep it happy so it can follow Jim everywhere. Jim, fearful for his safety, pleads to Mars Tom to speak so. It is impossible for me to believe it!” (251). Tom responds, “Jim! Don’t be so foolish. A prisoner must have some sort of dumb pet. There is more glory in being first to attempt it than any other means of saving your life. (251). The conflict between Tom, Jim and their priorities is evident again. Tom may be playing a game, but Jim is negotiating for his freedom, life, and future. Twain’s article makes it clear to readers that Jim can gain glory by playing the role of pretend prisoner. Instead, readers should sympathize. Additionally, it is evident that Jim does not fool Tom. Because Jim is a slave, any whimsical ideas Tom might have must be accepted because he’s white. Twain’s interactions with slaves help readers see the injustice of slavery.
Jim can only take so many absurdities. Each new, absurd idea only adds to Jim’s frustration. He has “so much to fault” with his onion being sent to him in his cup of coffee. Jim’s complaints, while understandable and tolerable, can be found here. Tom loses patience when Jim protests these absurd ideas. He counters that Jim had been given more opportunities to make a name for themselves than any prisoner, but he didn’t have enough knowledge to appreciate the benefits. Jim apologized and stated that he would not behave like this again. ]” (254). The reader is allowed to see a mature man being controlled by a foolish young boy. Readers will sympathize with Jim’s struggle to be a prisoner. He wants nothing more than to be free and to be reunited with his family. His white friend is even made to apologise for his actions. Jim is seen as kind and humble by this humble admission. Twain’s details are a comment on Jim’s ability to think and make decisions. Twain’s details make it seem unfair that Jim should be subordinated to Tom.
Chapter 38% of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a detailed account of the schemes of a young boy that creates a whimsical adventure about an imprisoned prisoner. This story is charming but loses its charm when the prisoner becomes a slave. Tom’s attempts to have fun are so absurd that it frustrates readers that Jim is required to do such useless and inexplicable tasks. Tom’s demands and attitude reveal that he doesn’t value Jim as a person. This is in contrast to Huck’s attitude, who values Jim because of the friendship he made with Jim on the River. Mark Twain reveals these details in an attempt to make readers angry at slavery and to challenge them to view former slaves with the same humanity. It is absurd to treat them as if they were nothing.