Chapter 14 is priceless. It starts with a discussion of a harem, which, when they sort it out, is a sort of “bo’d’n-house” for Solomon’s million wives. Jim is convinced that a harem wouldn’t be a great asset, due to all the “rackety times in the nussery,” and the racket from all the quarrelling wives. In fact, Jim questions Solomon’s wisdom, for why would a wise man want to live “in de mids’ er sich a blim-blammin’ all de time?” (Probably not far from the truth, Jim. I think YOU are the wise one.)
But Huck insists that the widow who taught him must be correct, and that Solomon must be the wisest king of all times. Jim continues to disagree, bringing up the familiar story of Solomon’s handling of the two women disputing the parentage of a child. He tells Huck it’s like cutting a dollar in half – what good is either half? In just the same way, Jim say’s “what use is half a chile? I wouldn’t give a dern for a million un um.” When Huck protests that Jim is missing the point, Jim really goes off the deep end. He gets to the root of the problem:
It lays in de way Sollermun was raised. You take a man dat’s got on’y one or two chillen; is dat man gwyne to be waseful o’ chillen? No, he ain’t; he can’t ‘ford it. He know how to value ’em. But you take a man dat’s got ’bout five million chillen runnin’ ‘roun de house, en it’s diffunt. He as soon chop a chile in two as a cat. Dey’s plenty mo’. A chile er two, mo’ er less, warn’t no consekens to Sollermun, dad fetch him!”
At this point, Huck, also wisely, gives up and decided to “let Solomon slide.” “If he got a notion in his head once, there warn’t no getting it out again.” Good choice, Huck. I think Jim had his mind made up on that one. From his perspective, children were precious. Cutting one in half couldn’t be wise. Therefore, Solomon was NOT wise. Perhaps this wouldn’t make it through a logical analysis, but Jim has a point here. Simple, but wise in the way that’s important.
Fun aside, I think this story is just one illustration of Jim’s loyalty and persistance. Whether it will serve him well or not remains to be seen. Hope you are enjoying these dialogues as much as I am. Don’t you just feel like you are on the raft too sometimes?