The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain features a boy and his African American friend Jim experience many adventures together which conflict with society. “Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson explains that good and bad are just words and only you can determine what’s right and wrong. Huck’s actions and thoughts about Jim don’t agree with society and, instead, follow the thoughts of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Ralph Waldo Emerson says in “Self Reliance” that society should not determine your happiness or your decisions in life. He says that you, and only you can choose what’s right and wrong. Society cannot teach you what’s good and bad or right and wrong. So, instead of being a follower of society and doing what they believe is right, he says that you should follow your own thoughts and beliefs. Huck does not follow society, he chooses to follow his conscience and do what he thinks is right.
At the beginning of the novel, Huck and his friend Tom play a prank on Jim. They put his hat on a tree branch while he’s sleeping. When Jim wakes up, he says that the witches put his hat there. Here, Huck thinks that Jim is the common black person who is very stupid. Huck also thinks that Jim is a toy that he can play and fool around with. This is how society treated African Americans at the time. They thought that blacks were stupid subhuman beings that were only good for messing with. Therefore, with this prank, Huck reflects the beliefs of society. Later on, Huck plays another trick on Jim. While Jim is sleeping, knowing that a snake skin has a lot of bad luck, Huck kills a snake, takes the snake skin, curls it up, and sets it next to Jim’s bed. That morning, the snake’s mate came and bit Jim on the heel. All Jim did was drink Huck’s dad’s whisky to ease the pain. What Huck learned from this trick is that he would never hold a snake skin in his bare hands ever again. Here, Huck still thinks of Jim as stupid, but he realizes that Jim was right about the snake skin being bad luck. Huck goes on to say how superstitious Jim is and how superstitious he is getting:
Jim said he reckoned I would believe him next time. And he said that handling a snake-skin was such awful bad luck that maybe we hadn't got to the end of it yet. He said he druther see the new moon over his left shoulder as much as a thousand times than take up a snake-skin in his hand. Well, I was getting to feel that way myself, though I've always reckoned that looking at the new moon over your left shoulder is one of the carelessest and foolishest things a body can do. Old Hank Bunker done it once, and bragged about it; and in less than two years he got drunk and fell off of the shot-tower, and spread himself out so that he was just a kind of a layer, as you may say; and they slid him edgeways between two barn doors for a coffin, and buried him so, so they say, but I didn't see it. Pap told me. But anyway it all come of looking at the moon that way, like a fool. (Huck, Ch. 10, page 53)...