As a realist adventure story with high highs and low lows, the mood shifts quite a bit throughout Huckleberry Finn, from playful and fun to scary and upsetting. Even as Huck’s narratorial tone stays good-natured throughout much of the novel, readers can sense real danger when he and Jim are in dire situations.
While moments of dramatic and situational irony keep the mood light, there are also earnest and contemplative moments, such as when Huck reflects on witnessing Jim crying over how far away he is from his children (a choice he made in order to avoid being sold to a different enslaver and separated from his family):
He was often moaning and mourning that way nights, when he judged I was asleep, and saying, ‘‘Po’ little ’Lizabeth! po’ little Johnny! it’s mighty hard; I spec’ I ain’t ever gwyne to see you no mo’, no mo’!’’ He was a mighty good nigger, Jim was.
Though Huck uses the n-word to refer to Jim (a racial slur that was common among white Southerners at this time), the mood in this moment is reflective and compassionate. This slowing down of the narrative in order to show Huck’s empathy for a man he has been taught from birth to dehumanize and belittle reminds readers what’s at stake in this racist society.