In Mark Twain’s seminal novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” the main character, Huckleberry Finn constantly has problems with the people who try to act as parental figures. These people usually try to take advantage of Huck, or in many cases just mistreat him. However, the characters of Jim and Douglass the widow act as positive forces in Huck’s life. How do they contrast to Miss Watson, the uptight woman who is the sister to Douglass; and “Pap” who is the abusive father of Huck? Likewise, what are the lessons that Jim teaches to Huck?
Miss Watson is the sister of Douglass, and is harsh and demanding. In the novel, Huck meets Jim the runaway slave, who had been Watson’s former slave. Watson is essentially a traditional woman who is self absorbed and thinks of nothing but herself. She puts out a bounty for Jim, which leads to the two protagonists beginning their journey that the novel centers on. Essentially Watson is a character who negatively affects Huck, yet doesn’t really factor into his life like the other antagonist, Pap.
Pap in comparison to Miss Watson, is a much more awful person. He had at one point lost custody of Huck but he kidnapped Huck in order to try and get the money that Huck has in a trust. Pap is perhaps the most harmful influence on Huck’s life. Pap beats Huck and only tries to take things from Huck. He never shows Huck any love, and never really tries to give back to Huck. While Miss Watson is a cold and uncaring woman, she is not necessarily evil, and is not the primary antagonist to Huck.
Widow Douglass however, balances out her cold sister. Douglass is demanding of Huck, but she is only that way because she feels that she is the only one who can teach Huck the lessons he needs in order to prevent him from becoming like his father. She truly cares for Huck and only wishes to make him a better person. She even tries to adopt Huck before he is kidnapped back by Pap. The only real fault that can be attributed to Douglass is that she has trouble understanding Huck and the needs of a boy, rather then the wants of a society woman.
Jim the runaway slave is both the secondary protagonist and the real father figure for Huck. At first he serves as a moral dilemma for Huck, since he is “property” that has stolen itself away from its owner. However, as the story continues on, Jim becomes much more to Huck than just a friend. Jim becomes a true father figure who cares for Huck throughout the novel. Instances of this include the points where Jim hides Huck from both the news and sight of Pap’s death. Through Jim’s kindness and character, Huck also learns that the African American’s are kind people and don’t deserve the treatment they get.
In conclusion, Watson and Pap act as negative forces in the life of Huck, constantly keeping Huck in a state of panic and not really allowing the boy to create the bonds and attachments that are needed for a healthy life. However, Douglass and Jim act as positive forces, trying to help Huck develop into a good person as well as earnestly trying to show care and affection to the child. In the end however Huck becomes his own person in the end and decides to leave the south and head west, so that he can get away from the craziness that he always got absorbed into in his homeland.