The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, has a variety of themes throughout the book, but one prevalent theme is coming of age for Huck. The book takes us on the adventures of a young boy trying to grow up amidst many difficulties, the least of which is a father who is an alcoholic, con-artist who becomes abusive when under the influence. He teaches his son about drinking, fighting, lying and stealing. He also abandons Huck, leaving him on his own without any guidance. When he finds out Huck has money he kidnaps Huck and holds him captive. This is not very paternal and certainly not what a “real father” would do for their son. (Chapter 6)
Early in the book Huck escapes his father’s tyranny by faking his own death and is living on his own on an island. While on the island he is responsible for himself but he isn’t learning how to be a better person and live in the world. While hiding from a boat searching for him he soon encounters Jim, Miss Watson’s slave. Jim is also hiding and after exchanging stories about their escapes they become a team of sorts. Jim is a very superstitious, black slave who was worried about being sold to another master who had a very bad reputation. When Jim and Huck were together at Miss Watson’s Jim always treated Huck with respect, always backing him up. Jim becomes a father figure to Huck and begins teaching him many useful skills to survive in the world. Consequently, Jim becomes very important to Huck. They are a team.
While Huck and Jim and still on the island a houseboat floats by. They decide to pillage the boat to see if there are any usable supplies. Jim finds a dead man on board but taking his role as protector of young Huck very seriously, he convinces Huck not to look at the “ghastly…
… bu it’s tolable dark in heah, en I an’t got no use f’r no flower, nohow, en she’d be a pow’ful sight o’ trouble.” Huck knows Tom is trying to help but is just worried, as is Jim, about all these elaborate plans. Huck just wants his friend to be free without all the game playing.
When comparing Mr. Finn, Pap, as a father figure, to Jim there is no comparison. One man only was looking out for himself and what he could get, including money from his own son. He also abuses him and has no concern for teaching him how to get a long in the world. The other man, Jim, is the “true father” with his loving ways, concern for Huck’s safety and tries to teach him useful lessons in viewing the world. Jim is also concerned with Huck growing up and maturing, learning right from wrong and being respectful and honest. Huck does grow up, learning hard lessons and caring about Jim.