De bes’ way is to res’ easy en let de ole man take his own way. Dey’s two angels hoverin’ roun’ ’bout him. One uv ’em is white en shiny, en ’tother one is black. De white one gits him to go right, a little while, den de black one sail in en bust it all up. A body can’t tell, yit, which one gwyne to fetch him at de las’.
In Chapter 4, Jim offers to read Huck’s fortune using a hairball that he claims has a spirit inside of it. Huck agrees, and Jim discusses what will happen with Huck’s father, Pap. Jim explains that the future remains obscure, because Pap is currently under the influence of two competing angels, a good one (white) and a bad one (black). Although this scene provides an example of Jim’s superstition, it also demonstrates Jim’s willingness to look out for Huck’s best interests.
I’s rich now, come to look at it. I owns mysef, en I’s wuth eight hund’d dollars. I wisht I had de money, I wouldn’ want no mo’.
Jim makes this declaration in Chapter 8, while he and Huck are still on Jackson’s Island. Recently escaped from Miss Watson, Jim feels flush with pride at being free. He expresses this newfound sense of freedom in the idiom that has thus far defined his life: ownership. Whereas Miss Watson owned him previously, now he owns himself. Nevertheless, Jim also recognizes that self-ownership only goes so far without actual cash to spend.
Chickens knows when its gwyne rain, en so do de birds, chile.
Jim utters these words to Huck in Chapter 9, after Huck observes how nice it feels to be in a dry cavern while it rains outside. Jim reminds Huck that he’s only dry and comfortable because Jim could read the signs of coming rain. Earlier in the chapter Jim warned that “little birds had said it was going to rain,” and with this quote he confirms that the birds were right. In addition to affirming the value of his apparent superstitions, Jim is also affirming his own value as a companion.
Well, looky hear, boss, dey’s sumf’n wrong, dey is. Is I me, or who is I? Is I heah, or whah is I? Now dat’s what I wants to know.
In Chapter 15 Huck convinces Jim that he dreamt an episode where he and Huck got separated in thick fog. Jim eventually figures out Huck’s prank, but before he does he expresses these words of uncertainty. Although Jim is trying to communicate a basic sense of confusion, the question he poses in this quote (“who is I?”) suggests a deeper crisis of identity, one that Huck, and perhaps even Jim himself, doesn’t seem to grasp fully.
When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin’ for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos’ broke bekase you wuz los’, en I didn’ k’yer no mo’ what become er me en de raf’. En when I wake up en fine you back again’, all safe en soun’, de tears come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss’ yo’ foot I’s so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin ’bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie.
When Jim realizes the nature of Huck’s prank in Chapter 15, he tells him off, explaining how worried he felt when he thought he’d lost Huck for good. In making this rebuke, Jim indicates how deeply he cares for his companion. He also indicates how seriously he takes the responsibility of looking out for Huck’s well-being. This passage contains some of the most powerful language that Jim utters in the book, and it has a strong effect on Huck, who feels deeply ashamed: “It made me feel so mean I could almost kissed his foot to get him to take it back.”
Why, Mars Tom, I hain’t got no coat o’ arms; I hain’t got nuffn but dish-yer ole shirt, en you knows I got to keep de journal on dat.
In Chapter 38, when Tom Sawyer argues that Jim needs to draw a coat of arms on the wall before he escapes, Jim misunderstands Tom’s meaning. Thinking that a “coat of arms” is an actual coat, Jim responds that all he has is an old shirt. Jim’s failure to understand what a coat of arms is makes him the butt of the joke in this scene. But the more serious failure belongs to Tom, who misunderstands the gravity of the situation an inappropriately insists on his storybook escape plot.