According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, superstition can be defined as a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation. This idea is dealt with several times throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. At the beginning of chapter ten, Twain brings up the idea of superstition. He writes, “Jim was laid up for four days and nights. Then the swelling was all gone and he was around again.
I made up my mind I wouldn’t ever take a-holt of a snake-skin again with my hands, now that I see what had come of it. Jim said he reckoned I would believe him next time” (Twain 71). This quote is important for two different reasons- it brings up the recurring idea of superstition among the characters and how it is such a crucial part of who they are, and it shows how superstition allowed the characters to ultimately come together and form a bond.
Superstition is most definitely a significant idea in the novel. Right as Twain begins the story, he introduces the idea of superstition. He does this when he writes, “Pretty soon a spider went crawling up my shoulder, and I flipped it off and it lit in the candle; and before I could budge it was all shriveled up. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck, so I was scared and most shook the clothes off of me.
I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breasts every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep witches away” (Twain 10). In this quote, Huck accidentally kills a spider. Although killing a spider is not typically a consequential act, Twain reveals that it is extremely important for Huck as he is very superstitious. After he kills the spider he decides to turn around and tie up his hair with a thread. Superstition is absolutely an enormous part of Huck’s character. The reader learns right away that Huck is not engaged by religion.
In the novel it says, “After supper she got out of her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by-and-by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care no more about him, because I don’t take no stock in dead people” (Twain 8). After we learn about his lack of interest in religion, we learn that he is superstitious. Due to Huck’s “live in the moment” type of personality, superstition suits him more than religion does. Additionally, we see Huck’s superstition when he approaches the hairball.
In the novel it says, “… had a hair-ball as big as your fist, which had been took out of the fourth stomach of an ox, and he used to do magic with it. He said there was a spirit inside of it, and it knowed everything. So I went to him that night and told him pap was here again, for I found his tracks in the snow” (Twain 26). At this point the reader is able to recognize that Huck puts a lot of trust into his superstitious ways. He tells a hairball (basically Jim) his problems, and trusts the response of the hairball. Once again, right when Huck hears that “there was a spirit inside of it”, he decides to talk to it.
This reveals a lot about Huck- he does not realize that the hairball is not going to give him advice, and it is really just Jim trying to get money from him (he says that the hairball needs to be paid before it can reveal anything). Huck is not the only character in the novel who has a strong belief in superstition. Jim does not only use superstition to get money out of Huck, he also believes in superstition. We see this when Twain writes, “After breakfast I wanted to talk about the dead man and guess out how he come to be killed, but Jim didn’t want to.
He said it would fetch bad luck; and besides, he said, he might come and ha’ant us; he said a man that warn’t buried was more likely to go a-ha’nting around than one that was planted and comfortable” (Twain 70). Once Jim sees the dead man, he does not want to talk to Huck about it because of his superstitious views. He thinks that the dead man will haunt the two of them if they talk about him. Although there may be other reasons as to why Jim does not want to talk about him, his superstitions drive his decision too.
Furthermore, Jim’s superstition is displayed earlier in chapter two when Twain says, “Jim always kept that five-center piece round his neck with a string, and said it was a charm the devil give to him with his own hands, and told him he could cure anybody with it and fetch witches whenever he wanted to just by saying something to it; but he never told what it was he said to it” (Twain 13). At this point in the novel it is unclear as to whether Jim just has a wild imagination and is very creative, or he is again just being superstitious.
With that said, to believe that a necklace can “cure anybody” and “fetch witches”, one must be at least slightly superstitious. It is not explicitly stated as to where Huck and Jim’s belief in superstition comes from. However, the reader can infer that for Huck, part of it is due to his young age and lack of education. Lack of education plays a role in Jim’s belief in superstitions as well. Also, African American slaves in this time period often relied on their superstitions in order to help them deal with the problems they faced. In chapter two, Huck and Tom play a prank on Jim.
They steal his hat and hang it on a branch above his head. Huck and Jim clearly were not always companions. With Huck being a young and mischievous boy and Jim being an older African American slave, they never really had a true friendship because of their differences. So why is it that these two seemingly different characters begin to get along so well and run off to Jackson’s island together? This is simply because their belief in superstition brings them together.
We see how superstition affects them through the original quote. When it says, “I made p my mind I wouldn’t ever take a-holt of a snake-skin again with my hands, now that I see what had come of it. Jim said he reckoned I would believe him next time” (Twain 71), the reader is able to see that Huck clearly appreciates and respects Jim. This quote shows Huck’s care and love for Jim. Jim warned him about the snake, the snake bit Jim, and then Huck has a realization where he regrets his decision. This leads the reader to believe that despite their differences, superstition ultimately brought the two different character’s closer together.