Huckleberry Finn has grown up in a time where helping runaway slaves is both illegal and a sin. He struggles with this when the king sells Jim, and he is trying to figure out what the right thing to do is. Huck knows that helping Jim is considered to be wrong, and he tries to pray to “quit being the kind of boy I was, and be better” (261). When he cannot pray, he realizes it is because “my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double” (261). Huck tries to write a letter to Miss Watson, telling her where her runaway slave is, but he realizes that that is not what he really wants to do, it is just what he thinks everyone else believes to be right. In reality, Huck enjoys traveling with Jim. Jim takes care of him, lets him sleep while he stays up for watches, and is so grateful to Huck for everything he has done to keep Jim out of trouble with suspicious people.
Huck knows Jim is a good man, and that “[he] was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now” (262). Jim has run away from his family and his home, and Huck is the only person who he can trust. Jim is dreaming of getting to free territory so that he can buy his wife and children, and eventually live together with them. At the end of this battle with himself, Huck says he “was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it” (263). He must decide whether he will go with the flow of society or turn against them and stay with Jim. He finally realizes that it does not matter what everyone else thinks, because at this point it is just himself and Jim against the world. They have no one else to trust, and Huck knows that if he were in the same situation Jim would do everything he could to come to his rescue. Huck ends by saying, “And I let them stay said, and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again” (263).
Superstition is an important theme throughout the first twenty chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huckleberry Finn and Jim Robinson are two very different people with different beliefs and backgrounds, but they are both very superstitious. Though they are superstitious in different ways, they make efforts to respect each other superstitions. In one of the earlier scenes of the book, Huck accidentally flicks a spider off of his shoulder and into the candle flame. He says, “I didn’t need anybody to tell me that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck” (133). This happens when he is waiting to sneak out to join Tom Sawyer, and he is scared about what will happen if Miss Watson finds out. After realizing what he has done, he “got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep witches away” (133). Huck is afraid of the unknown, and he does not know how to prepare for it except by performing old rituals to ward off bad luck.
Jim Robinson is even more superstitious than Huckleberry Finn, and he is more adamant that his superstitious actions to ward off evil are followed. While living together on the island, Huck picks up a snakeskin (which according to Jim is very bad luck), and then argues with Jim about it after they find the house, saying: “You said it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a snake skin with my hands. Well, here’s your bad luck! We’ve raked in all this truck and eight dollars besides. I wish we could have some bad luck like this every day, Jim” (162). Later that week, Jim steps on a rattlesnake and gets badly bitten, which forces Huck to believe and respect the power of Jim’s superstitions. Both of them use their superstitions and rituals because they have little control over what is happening in their lives. As a runaway slave, Jim believes more strongly in his superstitions because he has significantly less control over what happens to him in his life.