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A. An important part of the conversation around Huckleberry Finn has to do with Twain’s handling of Jim and the other Black characters in the novel. For some readers, Twain does not move far away–or consistently far enough away– from the racial caricatures of his time. Toni Morrison, for example, refers to “the over-the-top minstrelization” that puts Jim inside “an ill-made clown suit that cannot hide the man.” Novelist Ralph Ellison sees the minstrel outlines as well, concluding that Twain nevertheless invests Jim with “dignity and human capacity.” Twain clearly holds many beliefs that aren’t identical to those of his narrator Huck, but this may not mean he was immune to the racial discourse of 1880s America.
Write an essay in which you draw upon Morrison’s “Introduction” to HF as you enter into the conversation about Jim and other Black characters in the novel. If you wish, you may draw upon some of the critics in our Norton anthology (Smith, Smiley, Gribben, Kakutani, etc). What evidence supports your view? Note: argue for what you see, without feeling pressured to arrive at an absolute “succeed” or “fail” assessment. Remember, too, that an argument can benefit from acknowledging a counterargument and by treating it fairly, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist.
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