In the chapter ‘We Cheer Jim Up,’ Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are faced with the challenge of stealing Jim from Tom’s Aunt Sally Phelp’s plantation without being caught. The fact that they have to dig Jim out of a small, dark shack does make this task much harder for the two boys, especially since it is guarded with dogs and other African American slaves. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer both scheme together to come up with a brilliant plan. They even lie to a slave about their relation to Jim, so to keep their actual friendship with Jim, and their plot to free him, secret.
In this chapter, Huck actually feels extremely guilty for committing a sin—stealing some-one’s slave. Normally, Huck enjoys the thrill of living on the edge and engaging in unlawful activities. However, he suddenly feels very apprehensive about this act he and Tom are about to commit and even questions Tom about this.
His experience of being held hostage by his drunken father has also enabled Huck to cope and deal with difficult situations in a more mature manner than when he lived with the widow. Nevertheless, Huck is faced with a personal conflict within himself. While he desperately wants to free Jim, he is bothered by the potential consequences that he and, especially Jim, will have to face if caught.
A main theme being developed in this chapter is the idea of superstition. The slave that takes Huck and Tom to the shack to see Jim talks about nothing but witches and how he is constantly pestered by their voices. Every sound he hears, he believes it is the witches returning to trouble him. This chapter also introduces one powerful symbol.
One might say that the tiny shack symbolizes the bondage African American people experienced on plantation farms back in those days. The darkness and dismal conditions of the shack where Jim was chained and confound also represents the cruel treatment run-away slaves, and African slaves in general, were treated.