One of the most compelling parts of the famous novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is the role reversal between the main character “Huck” and his companion, Jim. This reversal exists on several levels. Jim is older than Huck, yet because of his skin color he has less power than his white childish counterpart. Similarly, Huck’s level of education informs him about the world in a way that Jim was never exposed to which has left him at a disadvantage. From an opposite perspective, Jim has his own wisdom and tries to protect Huck at every turn. In many ways, the balance and imbalance of power within their relationship is a metaphor for the historical context of the novel when the world was adjusting to the idea that slavery would no longer exist.

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There are many instances throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where roles between the two main characters are reversed. For example, Huck uses his education to seem more intelligent than Jim. Huck even cites the novel Don Quixote as one of the models for his behavior which does demonstrate his intelligence. His precocious nature is likely due, in part, to his alcoholic and irrational father. Like Jim, Huck is also exposed to a troubled daily life full of subjugation and embarrassment because of his father’s status. Although it would be wrong to compare the woes of childhood in a complicated home to slavery, it is exactly this background that allows Huck to empathize with Jim in a context where many black men were not seen as true humans. In fact, even the Widow Douglas, an exemplar of the pious Christian, owns slaves. However, Huck again demonstrates his intelligence from an emotional standpoint when he says “What’s the use you learning to do right when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?” Clearly, in some instances, Huck is in the position of wisdom between himself and Jim. Ultimately, Huck is in the position to help Jim get his freedom. While this does put him in a position of power, roles reserve when he admits to Jim’s humanity and fights for his freedom.

Despite the times in which Huck holds superiority over his companion. Jim also has his moments where is he arguably one of the most adult characters in the novel. He is wise and thoughtful and is not bogged down by the sad state of affairs during this time. He even holds a sense of humor, expressed in some of the instances he is able to trick Huck who, despite his intelligence and skin color is still a child through and through. For example, Huck says, “Jim said that bees won’t sting idiots, but I didn’t believe that, because I tried them lots of times myself and they wouldn’t sting me.” This is evidence of a trick Jim has played on his small friend.

Not only is Jim’s humor a demonstration of his superior intelligence, but he is also thoughtful about the consequences of the world around him and has developed deeply rooted coping mechanisms for his situation. He states, “Sometimes you gwyne to git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but every time you’s gwyne to git well agin.” Essentially, he knows that there is a balance between good and evil, right and wrong, sickness and health. These are realities that are not often seen by other characters in the novel.

Jim has his own type of mental power that reminds him the world will always end in homeostasis. Although power shifts are in constant flux in this novel, in the same way the powers were shifting in this point in time. Mark Twain uses the characters of Jim and Huck to demonstrate the shifting powers in the world. At a time where racism was still widely accepted, an African American man is able to disturb the way a small young Caucasian male will consider race in the future. Similarly, Huck fights for his companions’ freedom. Thus, not only does power shift between the two main characters, but between society and the changing future.