Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the 1800s. During this time slavery was socially acceptable. Even in the church it was taught that there was nothing wrong with slavery. Black people were often referred to as niggers. Huck, even though he was a friend of Jim, didnt even think twice about calling a black person a nigger. Huck would say things like Give a nigger an inch and hell take an ell.(86) He didnt see anything wrong with using language like this. He didnt see anything wrong with it because he was taught to call black people niggers just like his dad did and everyone else around him did also. During this period in history in the south, that is how people talked. I think the meaning of the word nigger was different then than it is now.
The word nigger was used in this book because in the 1800s it was common language. It did not have the same impact on a person back then as it does today. Jim even uses the word nigger freely as if it does not have any meaning to it. He says, I wouldnt low no nigger to call me dat.(77) Jim does not seem to be offended by the word because he uses the word himself. I think that the African Americans at this time are so prone to hearing this word used that they do not even think about what the meaning of the word nigger is.
I do not think Huck really knew what the true meaning of the word nigger was. I think he just thought it was another name for a person that was black. If there is anyone in this novel that has an anti-racism attitude, it is Huck. He is the one who helped Jim escape to freedom when nobody else would have cared. Huck was Jims only friend and I think Jim knew it. When Huck found Jim on Jackson Island, Jim trusted Huck enough to tell him what he had done. Jim said, you wouldnt tell on me ef I uz to tell you, would you Huck?(42) Although Huck often pondered about whether or not he should turn Jim in, he never did. Huck stuck by Jims side the whole time even though Jim was black. Huck looked beyond the color of Jims skin and saw that he was a real person and not just a nigger.
It is kind if ironic that Miss Watson, a proper woman that attends church regularly who calls herself a Christian, owns a slave. This just shows us that during this time people were taught that there was nothing wrong with slavery. The simple fact that Jim belonged to Miss Watson made it hard for Hucks conscience to help him escape from slavery. Huck knew it was wrong to help a slave run away. He always felt bad about helping Miss Watsons slave run away. He kept thinking, What had poor Miss Watson done to you that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word?(85) But even knowing this, he helped Jim anyway. Huck had a caring heart, and he cared about Jim.
Hucks love and dedication to Jim helps us over look the frequent use of the word nigger. Huck does not pay attention to the fact that Jim is black, and a nigger, and he befriends him. He ignores what his society says at that time period in the 1800s about blacks. The only reason for the use of the nigger in this book is because of the vernacular in this area. Huck does not know that this word is bad because nobody ever told him it wrong to say it. He grew up hearing it used excessively and therefore he used the word nigger in his speech without even thinking twice about it.