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Plantation Stereotypes in Huckleberry Finn

There are many passages in this novel that reflect the plantation stereotypes of this time. However, does Jim ever go beyond being a stereotype?
by

Allie Pheiff

on 10 December 2010

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Transcript of Plantation Stereotypes in Huckleberry Finn

Plantation Stereotypes in Huckleberry Finn Does Jim ever go
beyond a sterotype? Time Period of "Huckleberry Finn"
This novel was written during a time when the character of blacks was unclear.
The failed Reconstruction programs had just taken place, and Southerns held a subservient outlook on blacks.
The negative outcome of the Reconstruction only heightened racial hostility, as well as Twain's stereotypical depiction of Jim.
Credit: "Discover African Studies at Georgetown: Focus on Culture - African Studies Program - Georgetown University." Plantation Stereotypes
Twain stereotypes Jim through the use of "typical" negro language, as well as Jim's perspective based on superstitious beliefs.
Other plantation stereotypes established during this time were ignorance, submissiveness, and lack of emotion (pbs.org). Twain's establishment of these conventions reflects the way in which racism misrepresents not only the oppressor, but moreso the oppressed (Fishkin, 22). Examples of Jim as a Sterotype

Superstitiious
Chapter 8: ALthough the majority of Jim's investments failed, he believed that his "hairy arms and chest" were a sign of future wealth (Twain, 98). Stubborn
Chapter 14: Jims holds a narrow-minded view of King Solomon and French rule, refusing to believe that the French do not speak English (Twain, 155). Outlandish
Chapter 24: In an effort to disguise Jim, the Duke dresses him up in a peculiar KIng Lear outfit, "and then he took his theater paint and painted Jim’s face and hands and ears and neck all over a dead, dull, solid blue, like a man that’s been drownded nine days" (Twain, 255). This subliminally marks Jim at a lower level. This superficial misconception of slaves as subordinate individuals distorted the American ideal of equality and freedom.
Jim's mere status as a slave should not have defined him as a person.
People's rash judgement of slaves was conveyed when people assumed that Jim killed Huck just because he ran away near the time of Huck's death.
These are the type of ignorant accusations that caused slaves like Jim to feel dehuminized and worthless in the eyes of others. Although Twain diplays detirmental stereotypes of Jim, he counteracts this negativity by presenting the reader with a clear picture of Jim's humanity underneath the mask of prejudice. Humanizing Jim
After being separated on the river, Huck eventually found Jim and decided to play a trick on him. Jim was asleep at first, but when he woke up, he was overjoyed to see his friend. Huck, however, told Jim that he had been there the entire time. Jim believed the lie, and in turn his own inferiority. He then analyzed the siutation and resolved the answer to be superstition. Later, Jim realized that it was a joke, and made the following statement: "... de tears come and I could a got down on my knees en kiss you' foot I's so thankful.. and all you wuz thinking 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie" (Twain, 215).
Huck was surprised at the level of emotion expressed by Jim, and in turn acknowledges him humaity by apoligizing for what he had done. In chapter 23, we see a second instance in which Jim is humanized: Huck overhears Jim mourning the loss of his family.
Huck says, "I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n. It don't seem natural, but I reckon it's so" (Twain, 248).
Although this remark emulates Huck's "white version of meaning of blacks", he still recognizes Jim's power to love - furthermore humanizing his character (Fishkin, 30). In Chapter 23, we also see Jim's love for his daughter shine through: "I burst outa cryin' an grab her up in my arms en say, 'oh de po' little thing, de Lord God Almighty fogive po' ole Jim, kaze he neve' gwyne to fogive hisself as long's he live" (Twain, 250).
Jim's deep regret for unknowingly striking his daughter when she was deaf shows his compassion and capability to love. Finally, we ultimately see Jim's compassion in the final chapters of the novel, sacrificing his own freedom to rescue Tom (Twain, 300). Twain's juxtaposition of Jim as a stereotype and compassionate individual demonstates the true ambiguity of black humanity during the 1800s. Works Cited

"AFRICAN HOLOCAUST | Africa's History Did Not Start in Slavery." AFRICAN HOLOCAUST | Definitive African History and Cultural Site. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <http://www.africanholocaust.net/news_ah/africa before slavery.htm>.

"Discover African Studies at Georgetown: Focus on Culture - African Studies Program - Georgetown University." African Studies Program - Georgetown University. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <http://africanstudies.georgetown.edu/67967.html>.

E-review FL UM News Service. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <http://www.flumc.info/cgi-script/csArticles/articles/000059/005917.htm>.

Fishkin, Shelley Fisher. Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-american Voices. New York: Oxford Univ, 1994. Print.

"Huckleberry Finn." FGCU Instructional Technology & Broadcast Services. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <http://itech.fgcu.edu/&/issues/vol1/issue1/huckfinn.htm>.

"Revisiting Racially Offensive Book Characters in Children’s “Classics”." Urban Clothing and Hip Hop Clothing. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <http://www.sojones.com/news/1969-revisiting-racially-offensive-book-characters-in-childrens-classics/>.

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Modern Library, 1993. Print.
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