The ending of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does not work because the events show that Huck and Jim’s journey downstream did not actually result in Jim’s freedom or Huck’s maturity. Jim embarks on this journey for the sole purpose of being a free man, which according to the ending, is useless. He flees his slaveholder, Miss Watson, knowing that it is his only chance of freedom.
According to Jim, he heard her “tell the wider she gwyne to sell me down to Orleans” because even though she technically did not want to do it, “she could git eight hund’d dollars,” which “she couldn’ resis’. (p 65) Jim and Huck went about their journey fearing the possibility of Jim being caught and taken away as a runaway slave. This made their journey all the more difficult because even the slightest misstep could send Jim back to slavery.
Huck went to extremes to protect Jim, especially toward the end of their journey when he pretended that the people on his boat had smallpox to avoid being inspected for runaway slaves, even though Huck even expressed, “I knowed very well I had done wrong. (p 104) Huck and Jim’s carefulness throughout the novel revolves around Jim’s enslavement.
It was certainly not easy, but they went out of their way to ensure Jim’s safety. However, in the ending of the novel, Huck and Jim discover that “Old Miss Watson died… and she set him free in her will. ” (p 260). In learning so, Huck and Jim basically learn that going to such great lengths to protect Jim served no purpose because he was already free. The fact that Miss Watson freed Jim comes as a complete surprise, mainly because she is “the Enemy. (p 293) Huck and Jim’s efforts should have enabled his freedom, but instead their endeavors were nearly useless, and his freedom is credited to the person from whom they were trying to escape.
After all, the “freedom which Jim seeks, and which Huck and Jim temporarily enjoy aboard the raft, is accordingly freedom from everything for which Miss Watson stands. ” (p 293) The ending of the novel eradicates the new set of values that Huck had gained throughout his journey, once again proving the journey useless.
In the beginning of the novel, Huck simply follows Tom Sawyer’s orders by mocking Jim, just as Tom had rather than independently making his own judgment. When Huck and Tom sneak out at night in chapter two, Tom insists on taunting Jim once he falls asleep and “slipped Jim’s hat off of his head and hung it on a limb right over him. ” (p 36) Huck simply follows Tom’s cruel actions, not being an individual in Tom’s presence. During Huck and Jim’s journey, however, Huck is able to step out and think independently and develop his own set of morals.
Jim’s devastated reaction to one of Huck’s pranks, for example, causes Huck to reflect on his values, and allows him to realize his wrongdoings and how Jim’s feelings affected him; from then on, he “didn’t do him no more mean tricks. ” (p100) Huck manages to protect himself and Jim through a series of schemes, some of which included him dressing up as a girl and faking an illness to keep Jim from getting caught. He separates himself from society, gradually opening his mind toward the idea of befriending a black man.
This journey enables Huck to break free of the barrier of society’s expectations and truly be himself. The ending, however, takes this accomplishment away from him. Once Tom randomly appears in the ending, Huck somehow develops a sense of inferiority and is unable to make his own decisions. By leaving Tom in the beginning of the novel, Huck “has rejected Tom’s romanticizing of experience…as part of the larger pattern of society’s make-believe. ” (p299) Huck’s return to one of Tom’s followers represents his defeat.