The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Table of Contents
1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Introduction
2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Twain’s Seven Dialects
3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Overview
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Mark Twain Biography

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 2 and 3 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 6 and 7 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 8 and 9 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 10 and 11 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 16 and 17 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 18 and 19 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 20 and 21 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 22 and 23 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 24 and 25 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 26 and 27 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 28 and 29 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 30 and 31 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 32 and 33 Summary and Analysis
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 1
¨ Chapters 34 and 35 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 36 and 37 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 38 and 39 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 40 and 41 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 42 and 43 Summary and Analysis
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Quizzes
¨ Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 2 and 3 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 6 and 7 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 8 and 9 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 10 and 11 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 12 and 13 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 14 and 15 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 16 and 17 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 18 and 19 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 20 and 21 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 22 and 23 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 24 and 25 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 26 and 27 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 28 and 29 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 30 and 31 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 32 and 33 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 34 and 35 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 36 and 37 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 38 and 39 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 40 and 41 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 42 and 43 Questions and Answers
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Essential Passages
¨ Essential Passages by Character: Jim
¨ Essential Passages by Theme: Moral Law vs. Civil Law
9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Characters
10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Themes
11. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Style
12. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Historical Context
13. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Critical Overview
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Character Analysis
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Essays and Criticism
¨ Huckleberry Finn: An Overview
¨ Beyond the Popular Humorist: The Complexity of Mark Twain
¨ The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: History of Controversy
¨ Huck's Final Triumph
¨ The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn
16. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Suggested Essay Topics
17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Sample Essay Outlines
18. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Compare and Contrast
19. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Topics for Further Study
20. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Media Adaptations
21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: What Do I Read Next?
22. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Bibliography and Further Reading
23. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Pictures
eNotes: Table of Contents 2
24. Copyright
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Introduction
Although probably no other work of American literature has been the source of so much controversy, Mark
Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is regarded by many as the greatest literary achievement
America has yet produced. Inspired by many of the author's own experiences as a river-boat pilot, the book
tells of two runaways—a white boy and a black man—and their journey down the mighty Mississippi River.
When the book first appeared, it scandalized reviewers and parents who thought it would corrupt young
children with its depiction of a hero who lies, steals, and uses coarse language. In the last half of the twentieth
century, the condemnation of the book has continued on the grounds that its portrayal of Jim and use of the
word "nigger" is racist. The novel continues to appear on lists of books banned in schools across the country.
Nevertheless, from the beginning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was also recognized as a book that
would revolutionize American literature. The strong point of view, skillful depiction of dialects, and
confrontation of issues of race and prejudice have inspired critics to dub it "the great American novel." Nobel
Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway claimed in The Green Hills of Africa (1935), for example, that "All
modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huck Finn. . . . There was nothing
before. There has been nothing as good since."
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Twain’s Seven
Twain’s Seven Dialects in the “Explanatory”
Twain’s “Explanatory” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written to clarify the different dialects
used in the novel. Ironically, his explanation has been the subject of confusion and controversy among critics
ever since it was published. The varying dialects have often been difficult to differentiate, and some
inconsistencies are apparent in the speech patterns of the characters. It is easy to see why critics could view
the “Explanatory” as just another one of Twain’s comic witticisms they had come to associate with his
writings. The consistencies of the characters’ nonstandard speech patterns far outweigh the inconsistencies,
however, and this leads us to believe Twain was serious about the seven dialects used in the novel.
David Carkeet, who has done extensive research in Twain’s use of literary dialects, believes “Clemens’s
recall was imperfect; his attempt at consistency, at least in Huck’s dialect, falls short.” Carkeet attributes this
“imperfect recollection” to the fact that Twain wrote three-fifths of the novel after he had put the book aside
for two years. This led to several pronunciation changes, particularly in the speech of Huck, in the last
three-fifths of the novel.
Carkeet concludes that the seven dialects were assigned to the following characters:
Missouri Negro: Jim (and four other minor characters)
Southwestern: Arkansas Gossips (Sister Hotchkiss et al.)
Ordinary “Pike County”: Huck, Tom, Aunt Polly, Ben Rogers, Pap, Judith Loftus
Modified “Pike County”: Thieves on the Sir Walter Scott
Modified “Pike County”: King
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Introduction 3
Modified “Pike County”: Bricksville Loafers
Modified “Pike County”: Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas Phelps
Representing the living speech of Twain’s day, the following examples of the seven dialects typify a
uniqueness of language found in the areas along the Mississippi River.
Missouri Negro: Jim “Goodness gracious, is dat you, Huck? En you ain’ dead-you ain’t drownded-you’s
back ag’in? It’s too good for true, honey, it’s too good for true. Lemme look at you chile, lemme feel o’
you. No, you ain’ dead! you’s back ag’in, ‘live en soun’, jis de same ole Huck-de same ole Huck, thanks to
Extremist form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect: Arkansas Gossips (Sister Hotchkiss) “Look at
that-air grindstone, s’I; want to tell me’t any cretur ‘t’s in his right mind’s a-goin’ to scrabble all them
crazy things onto a grindstone? s’I.”
Ordinary “Pike County”: Huck “My folks was living in Pike County, in Missouri, where I was born, and
they all died off but me and pa and my brother Ike.”
Modified “Pike County”: Thief on the Sir Walter Scott, Jake Packard “I’m unfavorable to killin’ a man as
long as you can git aroun’ it, it ain’t good sense, it ain’t good morals. Ain’t I right?”
Modified “Pike County”: King “Well, I’d ben a-runnin’ a little temperence revival thar ‘bout a week . . .
and business a-growin’ all the time, when somehow or another a little report got around last night that I had a
way of puttin’ in my time with a private jug on the sly.”
Modified “Pike County”: Bricksville Loafers “Gimme a chaw ‘v tobacker, Hank.”
“Cain’t; I hain’t got but one chaw left. Ask Bill.”
Modified “Pike County”: Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas Phelps “Good-ness gracious!” she says, “what in the
world can have become of him?”
“I can’t imagine,” says the old gentleman; “and I must say it makes me dreadful uneasy.”
“Uneasy!” she says: “I’m ready to go distracted! He must ‘a’ come; and you’ve missed him along the
road. I know it’s so—something tells me so. . . . Why Silas! Look yonder-up the road!—ain’t that somebody
Twain wrote in the late nineteenth century when literary dialects were the fashion of the times. Although he
helped to create the dialectal mode of writing in American literature, he, at the same time, drew from his
contemporaries who were following the same tradition. It is impossible to imagine Huckleberry Finn written
in standard English. Twain’s writings were not made up of the dead language of the European past, but
exuded the living colloquial speech of his day. This is what has made The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a
truly American novel.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Overview
List of Characters
Huckleberry Finn—Narrator of the novel. Son of the town drunkard. The Widow Douglas, his guardian, tries
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Twain’s SevenDialects 4
to “sivilize” him.
Jim—Miss Watson’s black slave. Huckleberry Finn’s traveling companion on the raft. Widow
Douglas—Huck’s guardian while his pap is gone. She is determined to civilize Huck.
Miss Watson—The widow’s sister who tries to improve Huck’s manners.
Tom Sawyer—Huck’s best friend who conjures up intriguing plans derived from his imagination and the
books he reads.
Pap—Huck’s drunken father who kidnaps Huck and locks him in a cabin.
Aunt Polly—Tom Sawyer’s aunt and guardian.
Judge Thatcher—The good-hearted judge who invests Huck’s money.
Tommy Barnes, Jo Harper, and Ben Rogers—Members of Tom and Huck’s gang.
Mrs. Judith Loftus—A lady whom Huck visits while he is disguised as a girl.
Bill and Jim Turner, Jake Packard—Men whom Huck discovers arguing on a sinking ship.
The Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons—Two feuding families. The Grangerfords adopt Huck for a time.
The duke and the king—Two conmen who pretend to be royalty. They join Huck and Jim on the raft. They also
appear as impostors at the funeral of Peter Wilks.
Buck Harkness—He tries to turn the people against Colonel Sherburn.
Boggs—Drunkard in Arkansas who is shot by Colonel Sherburn.
Colonel Sherburn—The man who shoots Boggs.
Peter Wilks—A wealthy man who has died. The family is waiting for his brothers from England to attend the
Mary Jane, Joanna, and Susan—The three nieces of the dead Peter Wilks.
William and Harvey Wilks—Peter Wilks’ two brothers from England whom the duke and the king
Levi Bell and Dr. Robinson—A lawyer and a doctor who suspect that the king and the duke are frauds.
Silas Phelps—Aunt Sally’s husband who buys Jim.
Aunt Sally Phelps—Silas Phelps’ wife. Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Sally.
Mark Twain blends many comic elements into the story of Huck Finn, a boy about 13 years old, living in
pre-Civil War Missouri. Huck, the novel’s narrator, has been living with the Widow Douglas and her sister,
Miss Watson, in the town of St. Petersburg. They have been trying to “sivilize” him with proper dress,
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Overview 5
manners, and religious piety. He finds this life constraining and false and would rather live free and wild.
When his father hears that Huck has come into a large amount of money, he kidnaps him and locks him in an
old cabin across the river. To avoid his father’s cruel beatings, Huck elaborately stages his own death and
then escapes to Jackson’s Island. He finds Jim, Miss Watson’s runaway slave, on the island, and the two
decide to hide out together. To avoid danger of discovery, they decide to float down the river on a raft they
had found earlier. Sleeping during the day and traveling at night, they plan to connect with the Ohio River at
Cairo, Illinois, which would lead them north into the free states, where slavery is outlawed. They miss Cairo
in the fog one night and find themselves floating deeper into slave territory. While they are searching for a
canoe, a steamship hits the raft and damages it. Huck and Jim are separated.
Huck swims ashore where he meets the feuding Grangerfords and Shepherdsons. He claims to be George
Jackson, a passenger who fell from a steamboat and swam to shore. After witnessing a violent eruption of the
feud in which many people are killed, he finds Jim, and they return to the raft.
They continue down the river. Two conmen, calling themselves a king and a duke, find their way to the raft.
In one of the towns the king and the duke impersonate the two brothers of Peter Wilks, who has just died and
left a small fortune. Huck thwarts their plan to swindle Wilks’ family out of their inheritance. The king and
the duke escape, but further down the river the two decide to sell Jim to Silas Phelps, who turns out to be Tom
Sawyer’s uncle.
Visiting his aunt and uncle, Tom persuades Huck to join him in an elaborate, ridiculous plan to free Jim. Huck
prefers a quicker escape for Jim but caves in to Tom’s wishes. Only after Tom’s plan has been played out,
and Jim recaptured, does Tom reveal that Miss Watson had actually freed Jim two months earlier, just before
she died. Huck decides to “light out for the Territory,” to head west toward the frontier before anyone can
attempt to “sivilize” him again.
Estimated Reading Time
The reading of the novel is slowed somewhat by an unfamiliarity with Twain’s use of regional dialects and
nonstandard English. After the first few chapters, a familiarity with the unique speech of each of the
characters should, however, speed the reading process. The reader should be able to finish the novel in
approximately 12 hours.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Mark Twain Biography
Best known as Mark Twain Samuel Clemens was born 30 November 1835 and raised in Hannibal, Missouri.
There he absorbed many of the influences that would inform his most lasting contributions to American
literature. During his youth, he delighted in the rowdy play of boys on the river and became exposed to the
institution of slavery. He began to work as a typesetter for a number of Hannibal newspapers at the age of
twelve. In the late 1850s, he became a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River. This job taught him the
dangers of navigating the river at night and gave him a firsthand understanding of the river's beauty and perils.
These would later be depicted in the books Life on the Mississippi and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Mark Twain Biography 6
Mark Twain
After a brief stint as a soldier in the Confederate militia, Clemens went out west, where he worked as a
reporter for various newspapers. He contributed both factual reportage and outlandish, burlesque tales. This
dual emphasis would characterize his entire career as a journalist. During this phase of his career, in 1863, he
adopted the pseudonym Mark Twain, taken from the riverboat slang that means water is at least two fathoms
(twelve feet) deep and thus easily travelled. His second book, The Innocents Abroad (1869), a collection of
satirical travel letters the author wrote from Europe, was an outstanding success, selling almost seventy
thousand copies in its first year. On the heels of this triumph, Clemens married Olivia Langdon and moved to
the East, where he lived for the rest of his life. In the East, Clemens had to confront the attitudes of the eastern
upper class, a group to which he felt he never belonged. Nevertheless, he did win influential friends, most
significantly William Dean Howells, editor of the Atlantic Monthly.
Clemens's first two novels. The Gilded Age (1873), written with Charles Dudley Warner, and The Adventures
of Tom Sawyer (1876), a children's book based on his boisterous childhood in Hannibal, won Clemens
widespread recognition. Shortly afterwards, he began to compose a sequel to Tom's story, an autobiography of
Tom's friend, Huck Finn. He worked sporadically on the book over the next seven years, publishing more
travel books and novels in the meantime. When it was finally published, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
was an immediate success, although it was also condemned as inappropriate for children. The book draws on
Clemens's childhood in Hannibal, including his memories of the generosity of whites who aided runaway
slaves, in addition to the punishments they endured when caught. In fact, in 1841, his father had served on the
jury that convicted three whites for aiding the escape of five slaves.
In the 1890s, Clemens's extensive financial speculations caught up with him, and he went bankrupt in the
depression of 1893-94. With an eye to paying back his many debts, he wrote a number of works, including
continuing adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. He spent his final decade dictating his autobiography,
which appeared in 1924. Clemens died on 21 April 1910.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary
Chapters 1-7: Huck's Escape
Mark Twain begins The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a notice to the reader. He identifies
Huckleberry Finn as "Tom Sawyer's Comrade" and reminds the reader that this novel resumes where The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer left off: in St. Petersburg, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, "forty to fifty years"
before the novel was written (so between 1834 and 1844, before the American Civil War). He tells the reader
that several different "dialects are used," which have been written "painstakingly," based on his own "personal
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary 7
familiarity with these several forms of speech."
The novel's title character, Huckleberry Finn, narrates the story. He summarizes the end of The Adventures of
Tom Sawyer, in which he and Tom discovered a large amount of stolen gold. He lives now with the Widow
Douglas, who has taken him in as "her son," and her sister, Miss Watson. His father, "Pap," has disappeared:
Pap hadn't been seen for more than a year, and that was comfortable for me; I didn't want to
see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on
me; though I used to take to the woods when he was around.
The widow attempts to "sivilize" Huck and teach him religion. Huck finds her ways confining. Miss Watson
nags him to learn to read, to "set up straight," and to behave. Huck remains superstitious, and he mostly resists
the women's influence; after bedtime, he escapes out his window to join Tom Sawyer for new adventures. The
boys meet Jim, "Miss Watson's nigger," and they play a trick on him. Jim, like Huck, is superstitious, and
when he wakes up he thinks that witches played the trick.
Tom, Huck, and other boys meet in a cave down the river, and form a Gang, a "band of robbers." But Huck
tires of the Gang's adventures, because they are only imaginary. When Pap shows up in St. Petersburg, he
causes Huck some real problems. Pap wants Huck's reward money from the end of The Adventures of Tom
Sawyer. Signs of his son's increased civilization irritate him: the proper clothing, and the ability to read and
write. Huck secures his money by "selling" it to Judge Thatcher. Huck's father brings a lawsuit against the
judge, but "law" is "a slow business." Eventually Pap kidnaps Huck, and takes him up the river to a shack on
the Illinois side of the river. At first, Huck enjoys the return to freedom, but living with his father has its
difficulties; "by-and-by pap [gets] too handy with his hick'ry," and he either leaves Huck locked in the cabin
alone, or beats him. Huck decides to escape, and cuts a hole in the cabin. After his father lays in some
supplies, Huck lays his plans. He catches a canoe as it floats down the river. Left alone, Huck stages his own
murder: he kills a wild pig and leaves its blood around the shack and on his jacket, then leaves a fake trail
showing a body being dragged to the river. He then loads up the supplies and takes off down river. He stops to
camp on Jackson's Island, two miles below St. Petersburg.
Chapters 8-18: Down the River
On the island, Huck feels liberated. Seeing his friends search for his body troubles him only slightly. After a
few days, he discovers that he is not alone on the island: Jim has run away from Miss Watson, who had
threatened to sell him down the river. Jim's escape troubles Huck, but together they enjoy a good life: fishing,
eating, smoking, and sleeping. They find a house floating down the river, with a dead man in it, from which
they take some valuables. Huck appreciates the lore that Jim teaches him, but still likes to play tricks. He
leaves a dead rattlesnake on Jim's bed, and Jim gets bitten by the snake's mate. He recovers, but interprets the
bite as the result of Huck touching a snake-skin—a sure bringer of bad luck. Jim suspects that there is more to
One night, Huck dresses as a girl and goes across to town to "get a stirring-up." He discovers that there is a
reward offered for Jim and that the island is no longer a safe hiding place. He rushes back to the island, and he
and Jim float down the Mississippi, sleeping by day and drifting by night. Living this way, they get to know
each other, and Jim tells Huck about his children. They also have several adventures. They board a wrecked
steamboat and steal some ill-gotten goods from three thieves on board, inadvertently leaving them to drown.
Huck and Jim get separated in a fog. They call out, but for hours at a time, they seem lost to each other. Huck
falls asleep, and when he awakens, he sees the raft. He sneaks aboard and convinces Jim it was all a dream.
When Huck points to evidence of the night's adventure and teases him for being gullible, Jim teaches Huck a
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary 8
"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 waz los', en I didn' k'yer no mo' what become er me en de raf. En
when I wake up en fine you back ag'in, 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. Dat truck dah is trash, en trash is what people is
dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed."
It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but
I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither I didn't do him no more mean tricks,
and I wouldn't done that one if I'd 'a' knowed it would make him feel that way.
Chapters 19-33: The King and Duke
Huck and Jim plan to drift down to Cairo, Illinois, and then steamboat North, but they realize that they passed
Cairo in the fog. A steamboat crashes into their raft and separates them again. Huck swims ashore and is taken
in by the Grangerford family, who are embroiled in a feud with another local family, the Shepherdsons. He
lives with the Grangerfords, while Jim hides in a nearby swamp and repairs the raft. When the feud erupts into
new violence, and Huck's new friend, Buck Grangerford, is killed, Huck and Jim set off once again down the
From the film The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, starring Mickey Rooney, MGM, 1939.
Huck and Jim rescue two "rapscallions," who identify themselves as a duke and a king. They take the prime
sleeping quarters on the raft and expect Jim and Huck to wait on them. They employ different schemes to
make money along the river. They attend a religious camp-meeting, and the king takes up a collection for
himself. In "Arkansaw," they rent a theater and put on a Shakespearean farce called "The Royal Nonesuch."
Next, a boy they meet confides that an inheritance awaits one Mr. Wilks, an English gentleman, in his town.
Seeing their opportunity, the king and duke assume the identity of Mr. Wilks and his servant, and go to claim
the money. Huck feels increasingly uneasy about their unscrupulous behavior, and vows to protect their
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary 9
victims. He hides the cash they try to steal. When the real Mr. Wilks arrives, Huck and Jim try—but fail—to
escape without the rascally "king" and "duke."
Next, the king and duke betray Jim as a runaway slave, and "sell" their "rights" to him to a farmer, Silas
Phelps. Huck realizes what has happened and determines to rescue Jim. He seeks the Phelps farm. By a stroke
of luck, they are relatives of Tom Sawyer's, and mistakenly identify Huck as Tom, come to pay a visit. When
Tom arrives a few hours later, he falls in with Huck's deception, pretending to be his brother Sid.
Chapters 34-43: Jim's Rescue
Tom agrees to help Huck rescue Jim. He insists that the escape follow models from all of his favorite prison
stories: he smuggles in items past the unwitting Phelpses. He makes Jim sleep with spiders and rats, and write
a prison journal on a shirt. He also warns the Phelpses anonymously. In the escape, Tom gets shot in the leg.
Jim and Huck each return and are caught in the act of seeking help for Tom.
Finally Tom reveals that Jim is in fact no longer a slave: Miss Watson died and set him free in her will. Tom's
Aunt Polly arrives and clears up the case of mistaken identity. Huck, upset by the trick played on him and Jim,
accepts Tom's explanation that he wanted "the adventure" of the escape. Tom gives Jim forty dollars for his
trouble. Now that everyone knows he is still alive, Huck worries about Pap, but Jim tells him not to bother:
Pap was the dead man in the house floating down the river. Huck ends the novel with a plan to "light out for
the Territory ahead of the rest" before the women try again to "sivilize" him.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary and
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Huckleberry Finn: the protagonist and narrator
Widow Douglas: Huck’s guardian
Miss Watson: the widow’s sister
Tom Sawyer: Huck’s best friend
Huck Finn introduces himself as a character who has already appeared in Mark Twain’s earlier novel, The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He briefly reviews the end of Tom Sawyer’s story, reminding the reader how he
and Tom found money that robbers had hidden in a cave. Judge Thatcher has invested the money for them, six
thousand dollars apiece in gold, and the interest alone is now worth a dollar a day, a large amount of money at
that time.
The Widow Douglas has taken Huck in as her son, and is trying to civilize him by teaching him proper dress
and proper manners. To make matters worse, the Widow’s sister, Miss Watson, lives with her and relentlessly
nags Huck about his behavior.
Huck is lonely and discouraged despite the Widow Douglas’ efforts to give him a good home. He
accidentally kills a spider and is sure it will bring him bad luck. Soon after the clock strikes midnight, Huck
sneaks out of his upstairs bedroom window to answer Tom Sawyer’s mysterious call.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary and Analysis 10
Discussion and Analysis
Twain’s choice of a 13-year-old narrator supplies much of the humor in the novel. The narrator, Huck Finn,
reports the events and ideas through his own eyes, and often his innocence and truthfulness contrast sharply
with the Widow Douglas’ sense of propriety. In the first chapter, Miss Watson holds herself up to Huck as
the epitome of a virtuous woman. Although Huck does not see the contradiction between her intolerance of
him and her belief that she was going to the “good place” (heaven), he naively replies, “Well, I couldn’t see
no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.” It is this kind of
frankness that allows Twain to comment on the hypocrisy of society through the eyes of a young and innocent
Through Huck’s encounters with Miss Watson and the Widow Douglas, Twain satirizes the religious
sensibility of the day. Huck finds the widow’s story of Moses boring and unrelated to everyday life. Miss
Watson’s concept of the “good place,” where one would go around playing a harp and singing all day, does
not appeal to him at all. Besides, they required their slaves to come in for prayers before they went to bed at
night, a flagrant contradiction to the principles of Christianity in which they professed to believe. In this
novel, Twain satirizes the pious Christians who professed kindness and civility, but who bought and sold
slaves as property before the Civil War.
The theme of individual freedom is brought out in Huck’s aversion to the Widow Douglas and her attempts to
change him. Later in the novel, the journey down the river will be an escape from the hypocrisy of society’s
corrupt institutions and a search for freedom from that society for both Huck and Jim.
Chapters 2 and 3 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Jim: Miss Watson’s black slave
Jo Harper and Ben Rogers: two members of Tom and Huck’s gang
Tommy Barnes: the youngest member of the gang
As Huck and Tom Sawyer tiptoe through the garden, Huck stumbles over a root, which gets the attention of
Jim, Miss Watson’s slave. He calls out, but the boys, afraid of being caught sneaking out at night, become
extremely quiet. Jim sits down between them but falls asleep before he is aware that they are near enough to
touch. Tom cannot resist the temptation to play a trick on Jim. He hangs Jim’s hat in the tree, knowing that
Jim will wonder how it got there. The next day, seeing his hat in the tree, Jim conjures up stories about
witches and how they rode him around the world. He is proud of this and consequently the envy of all the
other slaves in the neighborhood.
Having sneaked out, Huck and Tom meet Joe Harper, Ben Rogers, and the other members of Tom’s “band of
robbers.” Tom Sawyer’s gang is patterned after the “pirate books,” and “robber books” that he has read.
They take a skiff down the Mississippi River for several miles to explore the cave that Tom has found earlier.
As they organize their gang, the boys take an oath to keep the gang a secret, signing their names in blood. If
anyone tells the secret, that boy and his family must be killed. Tom sets the rules. They will become masked
highwaymen, stopping stages and carriages, killing the people on board and robbing them of their
possessions. Tom wants to kidnap people for ransom, but neither he nor the other boys know what “ransom”
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis 11
When Huck returns early in the morning, his clothes are very dirty, and he receives a scolding from Miss
Watson. There is news in town about a drowned body found up the river. Most people think it is Huck’s
father, but Huck is sure that it is not.
The boys play robbers for a month but soon tire of it, since they haven’t killed anyone. Furthermore, Tom’s
“Spaniards” and “A-rabs” with hundreds of elephants, camels, and mules, loaded down with diamonds, turn
out to be only a Sunday school picnic. Tom blames the incident on magicians who have, with the help of
genies, changed the Spaniard and A-rab scene into a Sunday school picnic, but Huck feels it is only “one of
Tom Sawyer’s lies.”
Discussion and Analysis
In these chapters we meet Jim, a prominent character in the novel. His superstitious beliefs are a recurrent
thematic element throughout the novel. In this case, it has been his bad luck to have ridden around the world
with witches. Twain’s satire of the institution of slavery will reach its greatest height through the character of
Jim, and his warm human relationship with Huck, in subsequent chapters.
Tom Sawyer is introduced in this chapter as a foil to Huck. Tom’s imaginative but impractical romantic
notions, taken from the books he reads, are challenged by Huck when he goes to the woods to rub the old tin
lamp. When the genie does not appear, he decides that the whole thing is just another one of “Tom Sawyer’s
lies.” Twain is satirizing Tom’s romantic adventure stories. Tom must do everything by the book, and the
height of absurdity is his insistence upon kidnapping people for ransom when he doesn’t even know what the
word means.
The Mississippi River is introduced as a symbolic image. Twain contrasts the freedom and peacefulness of
life on the river with the corruption of society on the shore. In one short line we sense the river’s power: “the
river, a whole mile broad, and awful still and grand.” Life on the river will ultimately become an idyllic
escape for Huck and Jim.
Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Judge Thatcher: former judge who invests Huck’s money for him
Pap: Huck’s father
The new judge: tries to reform Pap
The new judge’s wife: takes Pap into her house
Huck has been going to school for about three or four months and has learned to read and write. Although he
plays “hooky” occasionally, he is learning to tolerate school. He is also becoming more comfortable living
with the widow.
Huck has almost forgotten his father until one day he sees his footprints in the snow. Pap’s bootheel has left
the imprint of a cross made of nails, used to ward off the devil. Afraid his father has come for his money,
Huck wastes no time getting to Judge Thatcher’s whom he begs to take the six thousand dollars and one
hundred fifty dollars interest. The judge, surprised and puzzled, finally buys the “property” from him for a
Chapters 2 and 3 Summary and Analysis 12
Huck then consults Jim, who relies on his hairball from the stomach of an ox to tell Huck’s fortune. Jim
listens while the hairball talks to him, but he does not get a straight answer. Huck’s fears are not unfounded,
however; when he goes up to his room, he finds Pap waiting for him. Huck is startled and afraid, but Pap’s
dirty, sickly image soon calms his fears, and he speaks right up when his father starts harassing him about his
fine clothes and his education. Pap, however, threatens to “take it out of him” for trying to be better than his
own father. He grabs the dollar the judge had given Huck, so he can go downtown for some whiskey. He tries
to get the rest of Huck’s money from Judge Thatcher, but the judge ignores his request. Later Judge Thatcher
and the Widow Douglas go to court to try to win custody of Huck, but the new judge grants custody to Pap.
Pap promises to “turn over a new leaf.” The new judge and his wife give him dinner, a new coat, and a clean
bed, but he sneaks out in the middle of the night and trades his new coat for a jug of whiskey. He gets drunk,
falls off the porch, and breaks his arm.
Discussion and Analysis
Huck is slowly becoming accustomed to the proper dress and manners he had such an aversion to earlier in
the novel. Huck’s changed attitude toward school and living in a civilized manner makes his father’s sudden
appearance seem even more untimely.
Huck’s fear that his father is back in town drives him to see Judge Thatcher. Huck realizes that Pap has come
for his six thousand dollars. If he gets rid of the money, Huck is sure his father will leave him alone. His vivid
memories of his father’s beatings prompt him to give the money to Judge Thatcher. At first the judge seems
confused by the immediacy of Huck’s secret request, but when the judge arranges to buy his “property” for
one dollar he seems to understand Huck’s dilemma. He is afraid Pap will be after him for the money.
Superstition is a recurrent theme in these chapters. After Huck spills the salt, he is certain that bad luck will be
the result. His fears are justified when he sees Pap’s footprints in the snow. In desperation he goes to Jim for
help. Jim’s hairball, taken from the stomach of an ox, speaks to him, but the spirit inside the hairball keeps
wavering from one answer to another. The hairball tells him that perhaps Pap will stay or perhaps he’ll leave.
Twain’s subtle mockery of superstition is reflected in the tone of this scene.
Pap’s attitude, contrary to that of a normal, loving parent, is one of jealousy and anger because of his son’s
accomplishments. He scolds Huck for his ability to read and write only because he does not want him to be
better than his father.
Chapters 6 and 7 Summary and Analysis
Huck continues to go to school despite the thrashings from his father. With a firm resoluteness he is
determined to continue his education, more to spite his father than for any other reason. Pap is waiting around
for the court to decide about Huck’s money, but it is a slow process. He hangs around the Widow Douglas’
house too much, and she threatens to make trouble for him. Angered by her attempts to intimidate him, he
decides to kidnap Huck and head for the Illinois side of the river in a skiff. They settle in an old abandoned
cabin where he keeps Huck locked up when he goes into town for supplies. In spite of all this, living in the
woods is relaxing and easy for Huck, and he wonders why he had ever liked the civilized life at the widow’s.
Pap sometimes locks him in the cabin for days at a time, however, and beats him habitually. One night he gets
drunk and chases Huck around the cabin with a knife. When his father threatens to hide him in an even more
desolate area, so the widow will never be able to find him, he begins to plan an elaborate scheme of escape by
faking his own death.
Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis 13
The “June rise” of the river brings with it a canoe loosened from its moorings somewhere upstream. Thinking
it might come in handy, Huck quickly hides it in the bushes along the bank. Later Pap finds a log raft floating
down the river. He locks Huck in the cabin and promptly goes back into town to sell the logs. Huck then
begins his plan of escape. Before Pap has crossed the river, Huck has sawed his way out of the cabin. He loads
his canoe with the necessary supplies, then shoots a wild pig, smashes the door with an ax, and scatters the
pig’s blood around. He covers the ax with hair and blood to make it look as if he had been murdered. He then
hides in the canoe until dark. Just as he is leaving, he hears his pap coming back unexpectedly. Staying in the
shade of the riverbank, he escapes unnoticed and heads toward Jackson’s Island in the middle of the river. He
arrives just before breakfast.
Discussion and Analysis
Twain’s characterization of Pap in these chapters is a sad commentary on a society that would grant custody
of a child to such a father. After his father’s drunken harangue in the middle of the night, and his earlier
threat to hide him in an even more remote area, Huck decides he must escape to save his life.
He prefers the freedom of the woods to living in the civilized manner of the Widow Douglas. His freedom is,
however, tainted by his father’s frightening behavior. He wants to leave, but he is sure he does not want to go
back to the widow. Consequently, his plan of escape must convince them both that he is dead. He plans each
step with intricate detail. He wishes Tom Sawyer were there to throw in the “fancy touches,” but Tom’s
romantic plan, based on the books he had read, would probably have failed, as it did in the raid on the Sunday
school picnic. Here again, Twain is satirizing Tom’s false romantic notions. Huck is practical and
down-to-earth, and Twain endorses his actions by portraying him as a survivor.
Chapters 8 and 9 Summary and Analysis
Huck has a comfortable feeling as he wakes up on Jackson’s Island the next morning. Too lazy to get up and
cook breakfast, he watches the sun filter through the tall trees, spotting the ground with “freckled places.” His
peace is soon interrupted, however, with the loud “boom” of the cannon being fired from a ferryboat loaded
with prominent townspeople who are looking for his murdered body. The cannon is fired over the water
periodically to make Huck’s supposed dead body come to the surface. Since he has had no breakfast, he is
getting hungry, but he does not dare risk starting a fire because he is afraid they will see the smoke. He
suddenly remembers that loaves of bread, filled with quicksilver, are also used to locate drowned bodies.
Snagging one of the loaves with a stick, he removes the quicksilver and eats the bread for breakfast. The
ferryboat skirts the shore of the island, sounding the cannon occasionally, while its passengers look for
Huck’s washed-up body. After an uneventful search, the boat finally leaves.
Three days pass and Huck gets lonely. He decides to explore the three-mile-long island. He feels satisfied that
the different types of berries and green summer grapes that he finds will come in handy, but he is suddenly
startled by the ashes of a campfire that is still smoking. Terrified, he runs back to his camp, hides his
possessions in his canoe, and climbs a tree. After two hours he decides to come down and paddle to the
Illinois side of the river, but after arriving he soon hears the voices of other campers. Afraid they will spot
him, he goes back to the island. After a fearful, sleepless night, he resolves to find out who is on the island
with him. When he discovers the spot where he had seen the ashes, he notices a tall man wrapped in a blanket
still sleeping. Hiding in the bushes, Huck waits and soon realizes it is Miss Watson’s slave, Jim. Relieved and
happy, Huck jumps out, startling Jim, who thinks that he is seeing Huck’s ghost. Huck convinces him that he
is, indeed, very much alive; he tells Jim the story of his escape. Jim, in turn, also confesses that he has “run
off.” Huck promises not to tell, in spite of the fact that people will call him a “low-down Abolitionist.” Jim
explains that he had seen slave traders in the area and overheard Miss Watson say she was tempted to sell him
down the river for eight hundred dollars.
Chapters 6 and 7 Summary and Analysis 14
Huck and Jim move their belongings into a cave in a high bluff that Huck had found earlier while he was
exploring the island. Here they are sheltered from thunderstorms and hidden from people who might happen
to come to the island. The move seems to come just in time, for it begins to rain and the river continues to rise
for ten or twelve days, flooding the low spot where Huck’s camp had been before. They explore the island in
their canoe, and one night they find a large raft that has floated down in the rising waters.
Another night a two-story frame house floats by. They climb into the top story and find many useful items. As
they are rummaging around, they run into a dead man who has been shot in the back. Jim covers him with old
rags and asks Huck not to look at his ghastly face. They load their new-found possessions into the canoe and
head back to the island.
Discussion and Analysis
The playful, relaxed tone at the beginning of Chapter 8 is set in juxtaposition to the preceding chapter where
Huck frantically escapes from the clutches of his abusive father. It is noteworthy that he does not, however,
run into the waiting arms of the Widow Douglas. Twain’s theme of individual freedom is apparent in the
contrast of the natural life on the island where Huck is “comfortable and satisfied,” to the respectable,
hypocritical life on the shore where he faces the tyranny of his father and the Widow Douglas. Although the
island offers peace and freedom, by the same token it is also the agent of loneliness and fear. This is true when
Huck cannot sleep for fear of the dangers that might be connected to the smoking campfire he has discovered.
He has left behind all of society, but now he is lonely. The island and the river, symbolic of freedom, are also
subjected to dangerous river currents and treacherous storms, but it is at those times that Huck’s language is
at its most artistic level.
“And here would come a blast of wind . . . and then a perfect ripper of a gust would follow
along and set the branches to tossing their arms as if they was just wild; and next, when it was
just about the bluest and blackest—fst! it was as bright as glory . . . and then go rumbling,
grumbling, tumbling, down the sky towards the under side of the world, like rolling empty
barrels down-stairs.”
This poetic description of a frightening thunderstorm is followed by his words to Jim. “I wouldn’t want to be
nowhere else but here.” To Huck the constraints of society are missing on the island and that is all that
Huck quickly makes his decision to help Jim escape from slavery even though people would call him a
“low-down Abolitionist.” Throughout the novel, Huck encounters this moral dilemma several times. The
choice between the hypocritical values of society and Huck’s friendship with Jim is the central conflict of the
novel. This is also where Twain employs his most biting satire. One example is the comment Jim makes about
being poor. He decides that he is not poor now because he owns himself, and he is worth eight hundred
Superstition is shown as pervading the society of Huck’s day. Shooting cannons to bring a dead body to the
surface seems the ultimate satiric treatment of the theme of superstition, particularly since the participants are
the educated townspeople. Ironically, the floating bread on the water finds Huck as it was meant to do.
Similarly, the house that floated down with the floodwaters of the river supplied Huck and Jim with many
items for their survival on the island.
Chapters 10 and 11 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Mrs. Judith Loftus: a lady whom Huck visits in town
Chapters 8 and 9 Summary and Analysis 15
The next morning Huck wants to discuss the dead man he and Jim had seen in the two-story frame house, but
Jim says talking about it will bring bad luck. Huck argues that touching a snakeskin with his hands was
supposed to have brought bad luck too, but to the contrary they have found all those useful items in the
floating house and eight dollars besides. They have, in his opinion, had nothing but good luck. Jim’s
predictions come true, however, when a rattlesnake bites him that evening. Huck plays a joke on Jim by
putting a dead rattlesnake in his blanket. When Jim goes to bed, the snake’s mate is curling around the dead
snake and bites Jim in the heel. Jim’s leg is swollen for four days, and Pap’s whiskey comes in handy for the
Huck is getting bored on the island and decides to go into town to see what is happening. Jim likes the idea
but cautions him to go at night so he will not be seen. He suggests that Huck disguise himself as a girl.
Thinking it is a good idea, Huck dresses in the calico gown and sunbonnet they had found earlier in the
floating house.
Trying hard to concentrate on being a girl, Huck paddles to town in his canoe and finds the house of a woman
who has been in town only two weeks. Passing as Sarah Williams, he tells her his mother is ill, and he is
looking for his uncle’s house. She insists it is too dark for a girl to be out alone, and she wants Huck/Sarah to
wait so her husband can escort him to his uncle’s house.
Huck learns the latest gossip as he waits. Although Mrs. Loftus is new in town, she has already heard of
Huck’s supposed murder and Jim’s escape. She tells him that at first people thought it was Pap who
murdered Huck, but later, after Jim ran away, he became the murder suspect and there is a three hundred
dollar reward offered for Jim. She has seen smoke on Jackson’s Island, and her husband is going over after
midnight to check out her suspicions that Jim might be hiding on the island.
When Huck hears this, he tries to stay calm but suddenly forgets his name is Sarah Williams. When she
throws him a ball of lead, he claps his legs together to catch it in his lap. Since girls would spread their legs to
catch a ball in their skirt, Mrs. Loftus realizes Huck is a boy. He finally admits it but tells another story about
being an orphan who was being abused by his stepfather, so he ran away and decided to live with his uncle.
She finally lets him go, telling him to be sure to contact her, Mrs. Judith Loftus, if he needs any help.
He quickly heads back to the island, makes a fire in his old campsite, and goes back to the cave. Jim is already
asleep. He warns him to get going because “They’re after us.” Without a word, Jim hurriedly gets to work
packing the raft and the canoe. Huck checks to see whether there is a strange boat on the river. When he sees
that all is clear they slip away in dead silence.
Discussion and Analysis
In Chapter 10 the theme of superstition is again brought out when the rattlesnake bites Jim. Jim thinks his bad
luck is attributed to the fact that Huck has touched a snakeskin with his bare hands a few days ago, but Huck
knows the real reason. He is aware that he acted irresponsibly when he put the dead rattlesnake in Jim’s
blanket for a joke. Although it is too late, he remembers that the mate of a dead snake will come later and curl
around it. Sorry for what he has done, Huck calls himself a fool and does not tell Jim it is his fault because he
knows it would hurt him. In these chapters we begin to see Huck’s growing concern for Jim’s welfare. When
Mrs. Loftus tells Huck that people in town think Jim is Huck’s murderer, Huck is shocked. One can almost
see his hand clasp over his mouth after his short retort, “Why he—.” He hopes Mrs. Loftus has not noticed
because he feels he should keep quiet to protect Jim. By contrast, Huck responds with little emotion to the
suggestion that “Some think old Finn done it himself.” In light of Huck’s relationship with his father, the
idea does not surprise him.
Chapters 10 and 11 Summary and Analysis 16
Huck’s hurried return to the island and his warning to Jim that “they’re after us,” shows the close
relationship that has already formed between them. In reality they are after Jim but in Huck’s close identity
with Jim, it never occurs to Huck that he and Jim are not in this together.
Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Jim Turner: robber and potential informer on the Walter Scott
Bill and Jake Packard: robbers conspiring to kill Jim Turner
Captain: watchman of the ferryboat
After traveling all night, Huck and Jim tie up to a towhead on the Illinois side of the river. The towhead, a
sandbar thick with cottonwood trees, is an ideal spot to hide during the day and watch the steamboats go up
and down the river. Killing time until dark, Huck tells Jim all about his conversation with the woman on the
shore. He explains that he had built the campfire to throw the woman’s husband off track, but Jim maintains
that if her husband was as smart as she obviously was, he would have used dogs to track a runaway slave.
When they are sure it is dark, Jim builds a wigwam in the middle of the raft for protection from the hot sun
and the rain. In the middle he builds a firebox in order to keep warm on cool nights. They also build an extra
steering oar and a stick to hang a signal lantern for the steamboats coming downstream. Since the river is still
in flood stage, the boats traveling upstream against the current are no problem to them. They are taking the
easy water on the sides.
They travel for five nights, drifting with a strong four-mile-an-hour current before they come upon the
brilliant lights of St. Louis. Huck goes ashore every night for supplies and buys staples such as bacon but he
“lifts a chicken” and “borrows a watermelon.” They also shoot wildlife with their gun. All in all, they eat
very well.
Five nights below St. Louis they run into a fierce thunderstorm. From their wigwam shelter they spot a
wrecked steamboat in the glare of the lightning. Despite Jim’s warning to leave it alone, Huck has an itching
desire to go aboard to see what he can find. Jim finally gives in, however, and soon they are groping in the
dark toward the “texas” containing the pilothouse and officers’ quarters. When they see a light and hear
voices, Jim is ready to go back, but Huck’s curiosity gets the best of him when he hears a loud voice cry out:
“Oh, please don’t, boys; I swear I won’t ever tell!” A loud argument ensues, and, although Jim has already
gone back to the raft, Huck reasons that Tom Sawyer wouldn’t go back now and neither will he. Huck creeps
closer and sees two looters who are ready to kill their partner in crime, Jim Turner, because he has threatened
to inform the authorities.
Seeing the seriousness of the situation, Huck backs away into a stateroom, but Bill and Jake Packard
unknowingly follow him into the same room to discuss the matter. They decide to wait the two hours or so for
the steamboat to break up and drown Jim Turner, saving them the trouble. As soon as Huck can get away he
finds Jim to inform him that a “gang of murderers” is operating, and they need to cut their boat loose so that
the murderers cannot get away. Jim then tells him the raft has broken loose during the storm.
They realize they need to find the robbers’ boat for themselves. Happily they find the “skiff,” but just as they
are ready to climb in, Packard beats them to it. Luckily Huck and Jim escape detection. Packard and Bill are
in the boat ready to take off when they get into an argument about the money left in Jim Turner’s pockets.
Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis 17
They go back, and while they are gone, Huck and Jim move into the boat. They cut the rope, and the current
takes them downstream.
A little while later Huck’s conscience begins to bother him, and he decides to get somebody to rescue the
robbers. Huck and Jim catch up with their raft a few miles downstream. Jim boards the raft, and Huck stays in
the skiff. He instructs Jim to take the raft two miles downstream while he finds someone who might help with
the rescue. He finds a watchman on a ferryboat who is impressed with his sob story about his family, stuck on
the wrecked Walter Scott, who will drown unless someone rescues them. Following a lead from the
watchman, Huck convinces him that the niece of Hornback, a very wealthy man in town, is on board the
Walter Scott, and that the reward will surely be a sizable one.
In a little while the steamboat comes floating downstream deep in the water. Huck sees the ferryboat moving
around the wreck in an effort to locate the bodies, but it soon heads for shore. Although he does not expect to
find anyone alive, Huck paddles around it and shouts, but there is no response, so he joins Jim two miles
downstream. They head for shore and get some much-needed sleep.
Discussion and Analysis
Chapter 12 is the beginning of the adventurous odyssey down the Mississippi. In contrast to life on the shore,
the journey on the river is presented as a solemn experience where “we didn’t ever feel like talking loud, and
it warn’t often that we laughed.” It would almost seem disrespectful to the “big, still river” to disturb its
peacefulness. In the journey down the river we see Huck’s movement away from civilization, with its corrupt
institutions, and toward the natural world of the river. Here Huck’s feeling for the natural beauty of the river
gives the novel a mythological characteristic.
When Huck “lifts a chicken,” or “borrows a watermelon,” Twain is satirizing the human need to rationalize
our wrongdoings. It is another attack on Pap, who brought Huck up to believe it is all right to “borrow”
things if one intends to bring them back someday.
Exploring the wrecked steamboat, the Walter Scott, is an irresistible adventure for Huck. Here again, he
wishes Tom Sawyer were with him. He speaks admiringly of Tom’s ability to enjoy an adventure with
“style.” The reason for going on board the steamboat is to see whether they could confiscate anything of
value to Huck and Jim. This time Huck has bit off more than he can chew, and he almost gets trapped on the
boat when his raft floats away. He is saved only by chance when the thieves go back to get the money.
As Huck and Jim escape from the steamboat leaving the robbers to die, Huck’s conscience begins to bother
him, and he decides to find help for them. As his relationship with Jim deepens, Huck shows a growing
concern for other human beings as well.
As in the earlier situation with Mrs. Loftus, Huck fabricates another one of his stories to convince the captain
of the ferryboat to rescue the people on the wrecked Walter Scott. Following a lead from the captain himself
about Hornback’s wealth, Huck creates a story about Hornback’s niece who is supposedly trapped on the
wrecked steamboat. The captain of the ferryboat immediately takes action to save her.
Chapters 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis
Jim and Huck take a breather after their narrow escape from the wrecked steamboat and the gang of robbers.
They spend time looking over their “truck,” or goods, that the robber gang had stolen and loaded into the
skiff. They find interesting articles of clothing, books, blankets, and boots, but the most valuable find is the
boxes of cigars. They spend all afternoon talking, and Huck reads the newly-acquired books about kings,
Chapters 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis 18
dukes, and earls. They get into a lengthy discussion about how royalty wears fancy clothes and everyone
addresses them with “your majesty, your lordship, or your grace.” King Solomon from the Bible is the only
king Jim has ever heard of, and he is not impressed with him. He does not think a wise king would suggest
cutting his child in half and giving each wife one-half just to settle a dispute.
Huck changes the subject by telling Jim about Louis XVI of France who was beheaded. His son, the Dauphin,
supposedly died in prison. There were rumors, however, that he had escaped and had come to America. Jim
does not seem to understand the idea that the Dauphin would speak French.
Huck also explains to Jim that their experience in the steamboat was called an adventure, but Jim wants
nothing more to do with Huck’s adventures. He does not relish the thought of coming so close to death again.
In three more nights Huck and Jim intend to reach Cairo, Illinois where they will pick up the Ohio River and
travel north into the free states. They run into some trouble, however, when the raft, tied to a sapling, is pulled
by the strong current and tears the tree out by the roots. Jim and the raft are immediately swallowed up in the
fog, and he and Huck are separated for several hours. The fog finally clears and Huck finds the raft. When he
sees that Jim is asleep, he quietly sneaks on board. He plays a trick on Jim, pretending he had been there all
along, and that Jim had dreamt the whole experience of being lost in the fog. Jim is finally convinced.
In an effort to get Jim back to reality, however, he points to the “leaves” and “rubbish” left on the raft. When
Jim realizes Huck’s trick has made a fool of him, he is deeply hurt. Huck apologizes and promises there will
be no more “mean tricks.”
Discussion and Analysis
In Chapter 14 Huck and Jim are relaxing after their big scare on the Walter Scott. Their new reading material
stimulates discussion about kings and dukes. Their easy bantering back and forth illustrates their human
characteristics. Twain’s satiric treatment of royalty is evident in this scene. Huck’s exasperation with Jim’s
lack of understanding of King Solomon leads him to change the subject. Talk of Louis XVI and his son the
“Dolphin” (Dauphin) is a foreshadowing of the conmen’s appearance as the king and the duke in Chapter 19.
There is imminent danger that Jim and Huck will be permanently separated when they lose sight of each other
in the fog one night. Huck is immediately “dismal and lonesome.” Later Jim is elated when he realizes Huck
is, indeed, alive and well. The threat of possible separation has brought their relationship into painful focus,
especially in the last scene when Jim is hurt by Huck’s trick which is designed to make a fool of Jim.
Through it all, they discover how they feel about each other. Jim’s heart was broken when he thought Huck
was lost, and Jim learns that Huck would not have played a trick on him “if I’d ‘a’ knowed it would make
him feel that way.”
Jim’s interpretation of his supposed dream carries with it ominous predictions of trouble ahead. If they
minded their own business, however, and didn’t talk back to the “quarrelsome people,” he thinks they would
get to the free states and out of trouble.
Chapters 16 and 17 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Two men on a skiff: men looking for runaway slaves
Buck Grangerford: a boy Huck’s age
Bob and Tom: members of the Grangerford family
Chapters 16 and 17 Summary and Analysis 19
Betsy: Grangerford’s slave
Huck and Jim rest all day and start for Cairo at dark. When he thinks about Cairo and gaining his freedom,
Jim’s excitement mounts, but Huck becomes increasingly uneasy. Painfully aware that he is helping a slave
escape to freedom, his conscience suddenly bothers him. This time he cannot seem to rationalize his actions as
he has done before. He does not think Miss Watson, Jim’s owner, deserves such treatment. When Jim
incessantly chatters on about buying his wife and children or getting an Abolitionist to help steal them, Huck
reaches the breaking point. He decides that he must paddle ashore in the canoe at the first sign of a light and
turn Jim in. Unaware of Huck’s intentions, Jim helps prepare the canoe, padding the seat with his coat. He
tells Huck that he is the best friend he has ever had. At this, Huck falters a bit, but he still feels he must turn
Jim in. When two men in a skiff come along, he weakens, however. He tells them one of his stories about his
sick family on board, leading the men to believe they all have smallpox. Out of guilt for not helping a young
boy with a sick family, they each give him twenty dollars and hurriedly leave. He feels bad for having “done
wrong” but reasons that he would have felt just as bad if he had turned Jim in and done the right thing. Next
time, Huck decides, he will just do what is the “handiest.”
The next town they come to is on high ground. Since there is no high ground around Cairo, they begin to
suspect that perhaps they had passed Cairo in the fog that night. Jim immediately blames the rattlesnake skin
for his bad luck. At daylight their suspicions are confirmed when they see the clear Ohio River water flowing
into the muddy Mississippi. Since they cannot take the raft upstream, they will try to paddle the canoe back to
Cairo. When they get back to the raft after dark, however, the canoe is missing. Their only choice is to
continue downriver until they can purchase another canoe. But their streak of bad luck is not over yet. That
night a steamboat runs straight into their raft. Huck and Jim dive off into the water, and Huck swims to shore,
but he sees no sign of Jim.
On land Huck runs into a pack of vicious dogs who will not let him pass. The owners of the dogs come out
fully armed, demanding to know his name and his possible association with the Shepherdsons. Seeing that he
is harmless, they cordially invite him to stay as long as he likes. He befriends their 13-year-old son Buck, who
is Huck’s age.
Huck gives his name as George Jackson but forgets it by morning. He tricks Buck into spelling his name, and
then he remembers. Huck goes into a long description of the house. He naively admires the furnishings in the
Grangerford parlor and takes an interest in the morbid crayon drawings and sentimental poetry having been
created by their dead daughter Emmeline Grangerford.
Discussion and Analysis
For the second time, Huck faces a moral decision forcing him to come to grips with the idea that he is helping
a slave escape to freedom. On Jackson’s Island his decision was made without thinking. His only concern
then was that people would call him a “low-down Abolitionist.” Twain’s biting satire reaches its greatest
height when Huck censures Jim for wanting to steal his own wife and children. Huck, a product of the society
of his day, believes that Jim’s rights to his own children are superseded by those of the slaveowner. He
accuses Jim of trying to steal “children that belonged to a man I didn’t even know; a man that hadn’t ever
done me no harm.” Huck does eventually make a choice not to turn Jim in, but in doing so he also believes he
has done the wrong thing. Ironically, he sees his choice as a weakness, when in reality it is his greatest
After the raft has drifted south of Cairo, their journey down the Mississippi, deeper into slave territory, is
necessarily thwarted. The raft is then destroyed by the steamboat and Huck and Jim are separated. It is at this
point, critics believe, Twain’s difficulty with the plot caused him to set the book aside for two years. In the
meantime Twain was publishing other works.
Chapters 16 and 17 Summary and Analysis 20
In Chapter 17, as was true in earlier chapters, Huck’s character remains consistent in his ability to conjure up
a story when he needs it to get himself out of a difficult situation. The slave hunters are vulnerable to his
subtle suggestion that there might be smallpox aboard the raft, and the spontaneity and ease with which he
pulls up a believable story to tell the Grangerfords characterizes Huck as a young boy with an amazing
understanding of the foibles of human nature.
Huck’s lengthy description of the Grangerford house, decorated with gaudy furnishings and the pen and
crayon drawings of Emmeline Grangerford, is a satire against morbid art and poor taste in decorating.
Twain’s satire is punctuated at the end of the chapter with an example of Emmeline’s repulsive, sentimental
poetry. Buck does not need to convince us that Emmeline seldom thought about her verse but would, instead,
just “slap down a line,” then scratch it if it didn’t rhyme and “slap down another one.”
Chapters 18 and 19 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Colonel Grangerford: father of the Grangerford family
Mrs. Grangerford: mother of the family
Miss Charlotte: member of the family (twenty-five years old)
Miss Sophia: her twenty-year-old sister
Harney Sheperdson: the man Miss Sophia marries
Jack: Huck’s personal servant
Duke of Bridgewater: an imposter
The Dauphin: an imposter, supposed son of the late Louis XVI, King of France
Huck’s description of Colonel Grangerford, from his white linen suit to his gentlemanly ways, paints a
picture of a typical aristocratic landowner of the day. He is a wealthy man who supplies each member of his
family with a private servant.
The Shepherdsons are another aristocratic clan in the area. According to Huck they are as “well-born, and
rich, and grand” as the Grangerfords. While Huck and Buck Grangerford are out hunting one day, Buck hears
a horse and suddenly takes cover in the bushes. When Harney Shepherdson gallops by, Buck opens fire with
his gun and knocks Harney’s hat off of his head. Harney, gun in hand, heads straight for the boys, but they
run all the way home where they must face the colonel. He feels Buck should have stepped into the middle of
the road to face his enemy with bravery.
Huck questions Buck about the feud and he naively explains that it is a quarrel one man has with another man.
He kills him, and the brothers retaliate with more killing until “everybody’s killed off, and there ain’t no
more feud.” The feud started 30 years ago, but nobody knows why.
On Sunday the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons sit in church together with their guns held “between their
knees” while they listen to the minister’s sermon on brotherly love. In the afternoon Miss Sophia secretly
asks Huck to get the Testament she has forgotten at church. He sees no one at church except a few hogs who
Chapters 18 and 19 Summary and Analysis 21
have wandered in through the open door. Pulling a note from the Testament, Miss Sophia makes Huck
promise not to tell anyone.
Jack, Huck’s servant at the Grangerfords, has been following Huck around and when they are out of range of
any people he beckons him to the swamp to show him some water moccasins. When Jack leaves, Huck is
suddenly startled as he runs into Jim’s hiding place. Jim is not surprised to see him. He tells Huck that he
heard him yelling on the river the night the raft was hit by the steamboat but was afraid if he answered he
might be caught and sold into slavery again. He has not contacted Huck for fear the dogs at the Grangerfords
would track him down. He has been repairing the damaged raft that had been found snagged in some willow
The next day Miss Sophia runs off to marry Harney Shepherdson, and the feud breaks out into a full-blown
shooting match. Many people from both sides are killed. After Huck sees Buck’s dead body, he takes off into
the woods to find Jim and the raft. He vows never to go back, and he and Jim lose no time getting the raft onto
the river again.
For several days Huck and Jim enjoy the peacefulness of the river as they again navigate the raft at night and
go into hiding during the day. Early one morning Huck finds a canoe and decides to paddle up a creek for
some berries. Before long he sees two men running toward him. He immediately thinks they must be after him
but soon finds they are fugitives themselves, being chased by people and dogs. Relieved, he eagerly shows
them a way to keep the dogs from following their scent.
The dogs are chasing a 30-year-old man who has been selling a product that takes the tartar off the teeth, but
also takes the enamel along with it. The seventy-year-old man with him has been holding a temperance revival
but is caught drinking on the side. He is expecting the townspeople to tar and feather him. Huck takes them to
the raft. The two have not met before but share the commonality of defrauding small town people and then
moving on. The 30-year-old soon claims to be the rightful Duke of Bridgewater. Not to be outdone, the older
one says he is the “disappeared Dauphin,” son of Louis XVI of France. It doesn’t take Huck long to realize
that the men are not kings nor dukes but “low-down humbugs, and frauds” instead.
Discussion and Analysis
In Huck’s description of Colonel Grangerford, Twain satirizes aristocratic gentlemen for being well-born,
and “that’s worth as much in a man as it is in a horse.” The 30-year-old feud between the Grangerfords and
the Shepherdsons is further criticism of aristocratic pretensions of respectability. This is particularly true when
the feuding families sit in church together, their guns “between their knees,” listening to a sermon on
brotherly love and agreeing later that it was, indeed, a good sermon. Ironically, there is a controlled sense of
respectability in Colonel Grangerford’s gentle reprimand to Buck for “shooting from behind a bush,” rather
than bravely stepping out into the road to defend the family honor. The colonel’s expectations for a
13-year-old boy make his values seem even more incongruous. Twain also brings out the ridiculousness of the
feud when he has Buck describe it in the clear, straightforward language of a 13-year-old boy who doesn’t
even know why they are feuding.
Huck’s disappointment in the Grangerford family mounts when the feud reaches a full-scale shoot-out. “It
made me so sick, I most fell out of the tree.” Ironically, the only redeeming feature in the whole episode is
Harney and Miss Sophia’s successful escape across the river.
The scene on the raft is appropriately set in juxtaposition to the bloody feud between the Shepherdsons and
the Grangerfords. It brings to light the corruption and hypocrisy on the shore in opposition to the idyllic life
on the raft where peace and harmony prevail. Huck’s words reflect his gratitude to be back on the raft.
Ironically, the raft is small, but Huck feels that “Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft
Chapters 18 and 19 Summary and Analysis 22
The foreshadowing of the appearance of the duke and dauphin was set in Chapter 14 when Huck read about
kings, dukes, and earls in the books from the Walter Scott steamboat. Huck finds a canoe, but he does not use
it to paddle upstream to the Ohio River as they had originally planned. This gives us a clue that the novel’s
setting will continue to focus on the journey down the Mississippi. The king and the duke are conmen who
make a living presenting themselves with false identities. They do not fool people for long, however. Even
Huck soon realizes that “these liars warn’t no kings nor dukes at all, but just low-down humbugs and
Chapters 20 and 21 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Boggs: drunkard shot by Colonel Sherburn
Colonel Sherburn: the man who shoots Boggs
The king and the duke question the idea of traveling by night and hiding by day. Huck responds with common
sense to their suspicions that Jim might be a runaway slave. He assures them that a runaway would not be
traveling south. In order to be more convincing, however, he produces another imaginary story about his
whole family dying and leaving him, after the debts are paid, with only sixteen dollars and the family slave
Jim. His pa and four-year-old brother had fallen off the raft and drowned, so he and Jim are the only ones left.
He explains that they travel at night because people are always assuming Jim is a runaway slave, and this is
their way of avoiding trouble.
Satisfied with Huck’s story, the king and the duke begin to settle down on the raft, making themselves at
home. One night they instruct Huck and Jim to act as watchmen until a storm blows over. Without any
apparent twinge of conscience they both crawl into the wigwam occupying the only beds on the raft. To make
matters worse, there is a big thunderstorm that night, but Huck does not mind. He says he wouldn’t have
wanted to miss it “because a body don’t see such a storm as that every day in the week, not by a long sight.”
When he is finally overcome with exhaustion, however, Jim offers to take Huck’s watch. The wigwam is too
full, however, so he decides to sleep out in the rain anyway.
The next day the king and the duke begin planning another “campaign,” as they call it. They decide to make
some money in the next town performing the balcony scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the
swordfight in Richard III. The king will play the part of Juliet. That night they stop in town for supplies and
the king decides to “work the camp meeting” for a few extra dollars. He introduces himself as a pirate from
the Indian Ocean who has just become a changed man as a result of the camp meeting. He cons the people at
the meeting into taking up a collection by telling them he is planning to go back to reform other pirates. In this
way he collects eighty-seven dollars and seventy-five cents. In the meantime the duke has managed to swindle
the owner of a printing office out of $9.50 while he also prints a handbill about Jim’s escape from a
plantation south of New Orleans. This gives them an alibi in case they are questioned about Jim while
traveling in the daytime. They are simply going down to claim their reward for Jim’s capture.
The king and the duke begin rehearsing for the Shakespearean performance that will take place in one of the
next towns. When they reach a little “one-horse” town in Arkansas, the circus has already come to town,
drawing the people they need for their show. The duke enthusiastically rents the courthouse and distributes the
playbills around town.
While they wait for the circus to leave town, a man named Boggs rides into town for his “monthly drunk.”
He shouts around, threatening to kill Colonel Sherburn. People laugh and do not take him seriously until the
Chapters 20 and 21 Summary and Analysis 23
colonel himself steps out with a gun, threatening to kill Boggs if he doesn’t stop by one o’clock. In spite of
the warning, Boggs continues his ceaseless tirade against Colonel Sherburn. Heeding the seriousness of the
situation, the townspeople send for Boggs’ daughter, but she is too late. He is dying from Colonel Sherburn’s
gunshot wound just as she arrives.
Discussion and Analysis
Huck must necessarily produce another story at this point in the novel to protect Jim and settle the minds of
the duke and the king. Throughout the novel Twain engages our sympathies for Huck when he fabricates his
wildly imaginative stories. It is understood that Huck’s stories are, ironically, a necessary ploy for the
survival of an innately moral young man caught up in a pretentious, hypocritical society. Huck’s stories are,
in any case, more credible than those of the king and the duke.
Since the duke must teach Hamlet’s soliloquy to the king, we sense that he is probably the one who is better
educated. He has no copy of Hamlet on the raft, however, so he draws from “recollections vaults.” The result
is words and lines taken from several of Shakespeare’s plays and thrown together in a nonsensical way.
Judging from the shiftless ne’er-do-wells who hang around the muddy streets of the little river town, the
people will most likely not notice mistakes in Shakespeare’s text.
The thunderstorm in these chapters is reminiscent of the one observed earlier by Huck and Jim on Jackson’s
Island. In Huck’s description of the storm he holds the natural forces in awe with no fear of the thunder and
lightning. Huck’s appreciation for the natural world around him is again brought out in his artistic description
of the storm. Jim’s tender feeling for his friend Huck is apparent when he serves half of Huck’s watch for
him because Huck is sleepy.
The camp meeting with all its sensationalism is a perfect opportunity for the king to make a few dollars. In
this scene Twain is satirizing the gullibility of the people who hang on the king’s every word. Having played
these fraudulent games before, he demonstrates his skill in manipulating the crowd to take up a collection for
him which amounts to $87.25. The duke has not fared as well, managing to cheat the owner of the printing
office out of $9.50.
Chapters 22 and 23 Summary and Analysis
New Character
Buck Harkness: man who leads the lynch mob
After the shooting, someone in town suggests that Colonel Sherburn should be lynched, and the people, led by
Buck Harkness, suddenly go wild. The crowd turns into an angry mob, stopping at nothing in pursuit of
revenge against Sherburn. Even children run for their lives to get out of the way of the raging mob. In a frenzy
they tear down Colonel Sherburn’s picket fence and pour into his yard, ready for action.
The crowd suddenly calms down, however, when Sherburn steps out onto the roof of his porch flashing a
double-barrel gun. At first he simply stares at them, saying nothing, but then he laughs scornfully, and stages
a long diatribe criticizing the mob for its cowardice. He accuses them of hanging on to the coattail of Buck
Harkness who is only “half a man.” Sherburn orders them to leave, and the crowd breaks up with Buck
Harkness on their heels.
After the excitement Huck decides to go to the circus. To avoid paying, he slips under the tent on the back
side. With wide-eyed amazement, he watches the beautiful women on horses with their million-dollar outfits,
the men showing their acrobatic skills, and the clowns cracking the funniest jokes Huck has ever heard. A
Chapters 22 and 23 Summary and Analysis 24
supposed drunk comes along and insists upon riding the horses. The ringmaster finally gives in. At first the
crowd laughs at him, but he turns out to be an accomplished rider and a part of the act.
The king and the duke stage their Shakespearean show, but they only attract twelve people who laugh
inappropriately throughout the performance. Since these “lunkheads couldn’t come up to Shakespeare,” the
duke decides to change to low comedy. He advertises their next show as the tragedy of The King’s
Cameleopard, or The Royal Nonesuch with a caption at the bottom that reads, “ladies and children not
admitted.” He thinks this would surely draw a crowd. The first night the house is packed, but the show is a
fraud, consisting of the king displaying his painted body and demonstrating a few of his ludicrous antics on
stage. Too embarrassed to admit they had been taken in, the townspeople speak favorably about the show in
town the next day. The second night the house is again full, but the third night the king and duke hustle down
to the raft and take off down the river to avoid the anger of the crowd. They have successfully conned the
townspeople out of four hundred and sixty-five dollars.
Discussion and Analysis
Colonel Sherburn’s speech to the would-be lynch mob is a harsh invective against mob action of any kind.
Twain speaks out against lynch mobs who do not fight with courage but come like cowards in the middle of
the night wearing masks. As Sherburn demonstrates, the mob crumbles with cowardice when they come face
to face with one strong individual.
We see the aggressive action in Twain’s use of extended metaphor presenting the mob as “the front wall of
the crowd” rolling “in like a wave.” But when Sherburn steps out “the wave sucks back” in calm passivity.
The metaphor is sustained until the end when the “crowd washed back sudden, and then broke all apart.” We
get the picture that the mob is as ephemeral as the ocean waves.
The king and the duke again expose the gullibility of the townspeople in the presentation of their play, The
Royal Nonesuch. They pack the house with the fetching caption “ladies and children not admitted,” knowing
full well man’s obsession with off-color and suggestive humor. Since their Shakespearean presentation,
though poorly done, was not a success, the king and duke have no scruples against giving people what they
want as long as it brings in money. The Royal Nonesuch, an obscene play, caters to the lowest common
denominator, which is Twain’s way of saying that it draws a crowd because people are morally corrupt.
Jim’s reference to the king and duke as “regular rapscallions” is Twain’s way of satirizing royalty. Huck
responds with “all kings is mostly rapscallions.” He then goes on to characterize different kings, but he is
confused and historically inaccurate. He makes his point just the same. “Take them all around, they’re a
mighty ornery lot.”
The sensitive personality of Jim is held in juxtaposition to the lynching mobs and the swindling king and duke
in these chapters. Huck speaks warmly about the many times Jim has taken his night watch for him just so he
could sleep. He is also portrayed as a family man who misses his wife and children. He is nearly overcome
with guilt for slapping his daughter because she was not listening to him when, in fact, she had become deaf
after a bout with scarlet fever.
Chapters 24 and 25 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Mary Jane Wilks: nineteen-year-old daughter of Peter Wilks
Susan Wilks: her sister, age 15
Chapters 24 and 25 Summary and Analysis 25
Joanna Wilks: the youngest sister, age 14
Dr. Robinson: Peter Wilks’ friend before Wilks died
The king and the duke waste no time making plans to “work the towns” again for more money as soon as an
opportunity arises. Their escapades into town have been difficult for Jim, however. He has been posing as a
runaway slave who needs to be tied up while they are gone. To avoid any further discomfort for Jim, the duke
devises an ingenious disguise so that people will think he is a sick Arab instead of a runaway slave. He
dresses Jim in a King Lear outfit with a white wig and whiskers and paints his face, hands, neck, and ears a
dull blue to make him look sick. The idea is to scare people away with his sickly, offensive appearance, but if
that doesn’t help, the duke advises him to step out of the wigwam and howl “like a wild beast.”
They had all bought new clothes in the last town, and the king and Huck dress up and head for the steamboat
in the canoe. The duke wants to try his luck in a village on the other side of the river, however. On their way
to the steamboat, Huck and the king pick up a local young man who is taking a trip to South America. He
leads the king into a conversation about Mr. Peter Wilks who has just died and left a small fortune. They are
expecting his two brothers, Harvey and William, from England any day now. The king subtly prods him for
more information until he not only knows the details surrounding Peter Wilks’ death, but also the names of
most of his family and close friends.
When they drop the young man at the steamboat dock, the king decides to stay in the canoe. As soon as they
are alone, he instructs Huck to drop him off in a town a mile upstream and bring the duke back promptly.
When he arrives, the king tells the duke the whole story and asks him to pose as the deaf and dumb brother of
Peter Wilks while he acts as the other brother.
They flag a steamboat to the next town, and when they arrive people flock to the shore to meet them. The king
asks directions to the place where Mr. Peter Wilks lives. One of the townspeople gently breaks the news that
Mr. Wilks has died, and the king begins to moan and cry, making signs to the duke, his supposed deaf brother.
The behavior of the two frauds convinces the townspeople that they are, indeed, the true brothers of Peter
The news of their arrival spreads like wildfire and people come on the run to join them on their way to the
Peter Wilks’ house. When they arrive at the house, Mary Jane, Susan, and Joanna, Wilks’ daughters, hug
them and cry for joy. When the king and duke spot the coffin in the house, they see further opportunity to put
on a convincing act with their sobbing, causing everyone in the room to break down and cry.
Calling them by name, the king invites Peter Wilks’ closest friends to have supper with the family that
evening. Remembering the names given to him earlier by the young informant, he calls out an impressively
accurate list of names.
Mary Jane, the oldest daughter, produces her father’s letter that specifies the terms of the inheritance. His
daughters would receive the house and three thousand dollars in gold. Six thousand dollars in property and
gold, along with the tanyard, was designated to go to Harvey and William, his brothers. The letter also reveals
the hiding place of the six thousand dollars, which provides the king and duke an opportunity to get their
hands on the cash. There is four hundred and fifteen dollars missing, however. To avoid suspicion they add
their own money to make up the difference. They hand all the money to the girls, planning to steal it back
They manage to deceive all the townspeople until Dr. Robinson, one of the late Peter Wilks’ closest friends,
speaks up calling the king a fraud. He criticizes his fake English accent and accuses him of being an imposter.
Chapters 24 and 25 Summary and Analysis 26
Mary Jane responds defiantly to the accusation by handing the king all of the six thousand dollars. She asks
him to invest it for them, demonstrating her complete trust in the king.
Discussion and Analysis
In the Wilks episode, Twain attacks the gullibility of human beings with the most biting satire demonstrated
in the novel thus far. In spite of the fact that the king only “tried to talk like an Englishman” the townspeople
never question his true identity.
Ironically, when Dr. Robinson, a respected member of the town, does speak up with the truth, nobody believes
him. Swayed by the king’s sentimentality, the townspeople hold the word of the king, a person whom they
have just met, above that of Dr. Robinson whom they have known all their lives. Twain has artfully placed
this scene in the atmosphere of a funeral setting when people are most vulnerable, and, therefore, most
gullible. Mary Jane’s determination to avoid any more pain at a time like this prompts her to reject the
doctor’s advice completely.
So far in the novel, Huck has been a silent spectator in the ludicrous antics of the king and the duke, but in the
Wilks episode he becomes highly critical and judgmental. When the king and duke first arrive, the gullibility
of the townspeople, who swallow their deceitful charades, fills him with shame. “It was enough to make a
body ashamed of the human race.” The depraved attitude of the frauds in the coffin scene is simply too much
for Huck. “I never see anything so disgusting.” Huck’s moral position at this point in the novel is a
foreshadowing of the ultimate moral decision he must make regarding Jim’s freedom later on in the novel.
The humor in the king’s repeated use of the word “orgies” in reference to the funeral ceremonies is a satire
on the excessive indulgences in sentimentality exhibited in the funerals of Twain’s day. Embarrassed by the
king’s use of the wrong word, the duke passes him a note telling him to correct it to “obseqious.” The king
explains that although orgies is not the commonly used term for funerals, it is the right term. “Orgies is better,
because it means the thing you’re after more exact.” Though the king goes on with an inaccurate definition
of the word, he has unknowingly made his point.
Chapters 26 and 27 Summary and Analysis
After Dr. Robinson leaves, Mary Jane takes the visitors up to their rooms. The duke is assigned the spare
room, Huck will sleep in the garret or attic, and the king is given Mary Jane’s room.
At supper that night, Huck is obligated to stand behind the king and the duke and wait on them since he is
posing as their servant. The women make degrading comments about their own cooking in order to draw
compliments from their guests. Huck and Joanna eat later in the kitchen. The charade is nearly exposed as she
questions him about England. His information is sketchy at best, and he often contradicts himself. While
Joanna is accusing him of lying, Mary Jane and Susan step into the room and immediately jump to his
defense. Mary Jane reprimands Joanna for making Huck feel ashamed and forces her to apologize. Huck is so
impressed with her kindness that he asks himself, “this is a girl that I’m letting that old reptile rob her of her
money?” He feels “ornery” and “low down” for not telling them about the king’s fraudulent intent. Finally
he can stand it no longer, so he makes up his mind to get their money back from the king and the duke, no
matter what. He thinks of several ways to get the money, but for the sake of the girls and for his own safety as
well as Jim’s, he does not dare take chances. He finally realizes that he will need to steal the money in such a
way that they will not suspect him.
He hides among Mary Jane’s gowns in the king’s room. After the king and duke enter the room he
eavesdrops while they are discussing their plans. Nervous about Dr. Robinson’s suspicions, the duke wants to
Chapters 26 and 27 Summary and Analysis 27
take the money and run, but the king has other ideas. He plans to stay long enough to sell the property. The
duke finally agrees to stay. He inadvertently reveals the hiding place of the bag of gold. To keep it safe from
the servants they decide to move it from the closet to the featherbed. Huck grabs it immediately after they
leave the room and takes it up to his garret. That night, after everyone is in bed, he tries to sneak outside to
hide the money in the yard but finds the front door locked. When he hears someone coming, he quickly hides
the money under the lid of the coffin, hoping to retrieve it later. Desperately, he tries to see whether the
money is still in the coffin the next day, but someone is always around. Uncertainty about the money plagues
him as they bury Mr. Wilks.
The king and the duke promise that they will take the girls to England to live with them. They are in a hurry to
return so they convince them to sell the property immediately. The day after the funeral the king sells the
slaves and splits the family in two. Both the Wilks girls and their servants are grief-stricken, not realizing that
the whole thing is a sham. Since the sale is not legal the slaves will soon be back.
On the day of the auction the king and duke suddenly discover that the bag of gold, worth six thousand
dollars, is missing. Huck pushes the blame onto the servants since he knows they are already gone and will
not be harmed by the accusation.
Discussion and Analysis
In these chapters Huck’s humanitarian effort to help the Wilks girls is significant in his human development.
He is extremely fond of Mary Jane and her sisters and feels morally obligated to recover their money since
they will need it later on for their livelihood. As we have seen in his relationship to Jim, Huck’s morality is
based on his natural instincts and shows a responsiveness to human need rather than an adherance to the rules
of society. It is when he feels “ornery and low down and mean” for allowing the king to defraud the Wilks
girls that he makes his moral decision to help them. Since his decision could bring danger to himself and to
the girls, he weighs his strategy carefully before he decides that stealing the money would, in fact, be the
safest course to take.
In his rush to accumulate as much money as possible before they are found out, the king overrides the duke’s
fears about selling the slaves to a slaveholder. Later, when Huck convinces them that the slaves have stolen
the six thousand dollars, the king and the duke feel tricked. Ironically, the slaves have supposedly beat them at
their own game by pretending to be sorry they were leaving, then snatching the bag of money as they left. It
was, of course, Huck who had taken the money, but the duke wishes he would have kept the slaves around for
their “histrionic talent.” He feels he could have used them in his con games but regrets that the king had
“sold ‘em for a song.”
In this episode of the novel, Twain repeats the theme of the separation of families through the buying and
selling of slaves. This is reminiscent of Miss Watson’s intention of selling Jim down the river and separating
him from his family. This incident reveals not only the pain of separation of mother and sons, demonstrating
the humanity of the slaves, but also the caring response of the Wilks girls. It is at this point that Huck almost
breaks down and exposes the king and the duke, but he knows the sales are fake, and the slaves will be home
soon. His human sympathy for the injustice in this incident foreshadows his ultimate committment to Jim as
Huck struggles with his conscience in subsequent chapters.
Chapters 28 and 29 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
Harvey Wilks: Peter Wilks’ true brother
William Wilks: deaf brother of Peter Wilks
Chapters 28 and 29 Summary and Analysis 28
Levi Bell: Peter Wilks’ lawyer friend
Hines: a husky man who believes the king is an imposter
In the morning, Huck passes Mary Jane’s room and sees her crying through the open door. Heartbroken about
the separation of the slaves’ families, she tells Huck that her beautiful trip to England is spoiled. Uneasy
about her crying, Huck quickly replies that the slaves will be back in less than two weeks. He has spoken too
soon, but since he is in a “tight place,” he decides to tell the truth even though it is risky. He asks Mary Jane
to promise to leave town for four days if he tells her why the slaves will soon be back. If she leaves she will
not be tempted to reveal to the king and the duke that she knows the truth. She gives her word, and Huck
blurts out the whole story about the two rogues who have posed as her uncles and duped her out of her
inheritance. Shocked, she immediately wants to tar and feather them and throw them in the river, but Huck
gently reminds her of her promise. She calms down, telling him she will do whatever he asks.
After some deliberation he thinks he can get the two frauds jailed in town so he and Jim can be rid of them.
He shortens Mary Jane’s stay to one day, asking her to place a candle in the window by eleven as a signal to
Huck that she is at home. If he does not respond, she will know he is gone, and she can have the king and
duke arrested and jailed. Huck advises her to check with the Bricksville townspeople where The Royal
Nonesuch was played if she needs evidence of their fraudulent activities. She agrees to stand by Huck and
attest to the fact that he is not involved with them in case he gets caught. Since he will not be seeing her again,
he writes her a note telling her where the bag of money is hidden and asks her not to read it until he is gone.
After she leaves, Huck explains to her sisters that Mary Jane has gone to see a sick friend. He asks them to tell
their uncles it is a rich friend, however, who is interested in buying the house. The sick friend has a
communicable disease, and it will delay their trip to England. Neither story is true, of course, but Huck wants
to allay the suspicions the king and the duke might have about Mary Jane’s absence by telling them that she
is working for the auction. Since the girls are eager to start on their trip, Huck knows they will cover for Mary
Jane. During the auction two more men arrive on the steamboat claiming to be Wilks’ brothers, Harvey and
Surprised by their rude reception, Harvey Wilks is not prepared for the other claimants of Peter Wilks’
inheritance. William and Harvey have been down on their luck lately. William has broken his arm, and their
baggage has been misplaced in another town. William speaks only sign language, and the arm he normally
uses for signing is broken. Besides, he usually writes for both brothers, but now he cannot sign his name for
proof of identification. All other identification is with their lost luggage. Huck is convinced of Harvey Wilks’
identity from the beginning because of his true English accent. “I see straight off he pronounced like an
Englishman—not the king’s way.”
The majority of the townspeople still rally around the king and the duke, but a few people begin to question
the king. Hines, a man in the crowd, claims to have seen him in a canoe the day before the funeral. After a
long debate about identities, the new Harvey Wilks suggests that the true brother would know what was
tattooed on Peter Wilks’ chest. To settle the argument they must exhume the body. When they open the
coffin, they are shocked to find the bag of gold. In the excitement Huck escapes in the dark and runs until he
finds a boat to take to the raft. He sees Mary Jane’s candle in the window but has no time to stop. He and Jim
escape down the river thinking they are free of the king and the duke at last. Their happiness is short-lived,
however, for soon they hear them coming over the water in a skiff.
Discussion and Analysis
Throughout the novel Huck has been telling lies or concocting stories to get himself out of tight situations. It
has, in fact, been necessary for his survival on the river and particularly in the towns along the river. In
Chapter 28, however, we finally hear him telling Mary Jane the truth. After thinking it over, he decides that
Chapters 28 and 29 Summary and Analysis 29
“the truth is better and actuly safer than a lie.” He has, in fact, already blurted out part of the truth about the
slaves who will be back in two weeks. In a sense he has reached a point of no return and must tell her the
whole story. He undoubtedly respects Mary Jane enough to trust her with the truth. “She was the best girl I
ever see, and had the most sand.” He feels a moral obligation to expose the king and the duke and keep them
from exploiting her. When she leaves town, however, he must tell another one of his stories to protect her
from the two frauds.
Ironically, when the men question Huck about being English, he cannot convince them. Levi Bell, the lawyer,
tells him to quit trying. “I reckon you ain’t used to lying, it don’t seem to come handy...You do it pretty
awkward.” Perhaps he is awkward because the story is not his own creation. He is lying for the king and the
duke and simply does not have his heart in it.
Twain’s plot falls into place when the body of Peter Wilks is exhumed to solve the identification problem.
The whereabouts of the bag of gold has not been ascertianed. Twain uses a believable chain of events as an
angry crowd rushes to the cemetery on a dark, blustery night. Not only do they find the money, but it also
affords an opportunity for yet another escape for the king and the duke, and, in this case, for Huck.
Chapters 30 and 31 Summary and Analysis
The king, angry at Huck for trying to give them “the slip,” grabs him by the collar when they catch up with
the raft. Afraid for his life, Huck tries to appease him with a story about the nice man who had held his hand
on the way to the cemetery. Because he reminded him of his dead son, the man let him go, telling him to run
for his life. Jim verifies Huck’s story, and finally the duke comes to Huck’s defense, reminding the king that
he had not been concerned about Huck’s whereabouts when they had run from the scene.
The king and duke begin to argue and blame each other for hiding the money in the coffin. They both
acknowledge the fact that they were tempted to keep the money for themselves, but neither one admits
actually hiding it. Impatient and angry, the duke catches the king by the throat, forcing him to admit he had
done it. That settles the argument and before long they are “thick as thieves” again. Later, when they are
asleep, Huck tells Jim the whole story.
For fear of being recognized they do not dare stop at any of the towns along the river for several days. They
are approaching the warm southern climate where Spanish moss hangs from the trees. The king and duke feel
it is finally safe to “work the villages” again, but they have little success. Their usual jobs of
“missionarying,” “doctoring,” and “mesmerizing” do not work out, and they are soon broke and desperate.
They begin to talk in whispers for several hours at a time, and Huck and Jim feel uneasy. They decide to get
rid of the two frauds when the next opportunity arises.
One morning they stop the raft in the village of Pikesville where the king wants to look around to make sure
they have not heard of The Royal Nonesuch. Huck suspects that he wants to try something terrible like
robbing a house. The king instructs the duke, Huck, and Jim to wait for him at the raft. If he does not come
back by noon they will know it is all right to come into town. When the king doesn’t show up, Huck and the
duke go into town to look for him. When the duke finds the king in a miserable state of drunkenness, he gets
angry and they begin to argue. Huck sees his chance to slip away and head for the raft, but when he gets there,
Jim is gone. Out on the road he meets a young boy who has seen a man fitting Jim’s description. He tells
Huck that Jim is a runaway from a southern plantation who was sold by an old fellow for $40. He is now on
the Phelps Plantation a few miles away.
Chapters 30 and 31 Summary and Analysis 30
Huck goes back to the raft to think. He cannot believe that the king could sell Jim back into slavery for “forty
dirty dollars.” Desperately he tries to think of what he should do. The more he thinks the more his conscience
bothers him. He begins to feel “wicked and low-down and ornery” for having stolen Jim, another person’s
property. He tries to pray, but the words will not come. He finally decides to write a letter to Miss Watson,
telling her that Jim is on the Phelps Plantation. When he finishes the letter his conscience is relieved, and he
feels good and “all washed clean of sin.” He begins to think of all Jim has meant to him, however, and how
good he has always been to him. He tears up the letter and decides that he will “go to hell” rather than allow
Jim to be sold as a slave. He makes plans to “steal Jim out of slavery again.”
He hides his raft on a wooded island, and after a good night’s sleep he takes the canoe to shore where he
accidentally meets the duke. Surprised to see Huck, he asks about the raft, and Huck tells him the raft and Jim
have been stolen. The duke begins to tell Huck that Jim is on the Silas Phelps Plantation but changes his mind
and tells him he is 40 miles away instead. He wants Huck out of town for the next three days so Huck will not
tell the townspeople that he and the king are frauds.
Discussion and Analysis
In Chapter 30 the duke is seen in a better light than we have seen him so far in the novel. He jumps to Huck’s
defense, reminding the king that he would not have done any different than Huck did in order to escape. “Did
you inquire around for him (Huck) when you got loose?” The duke is able to identify with Huck as another
human being running from an angry mob to save his own life. Until now the duke has been portrayed as a
deceitful rogue symbolizing evil and demanding to be addressed as “your grace.”
In these climactic chapters Huck faces his ultimate moral decision to help Jim escape from slavery. It is the
central crisis in Huck’s development. In three different incidents, he struggles with this choice.
The first time, in Chapter 8, Huck has just met Jim on Jackson’s Island. His easy decision not to tell that Jim
is a runaway slave comes in the wake of his determination to leave Pap and his resolution never to go back to
live with the Widow Douglas. It matters little to Huck that people would call him “a low-down Abolitionist . .
. that don’t make no difference . . . I ain’t a-going back there, anyways.” His recent abandonment of society
and its laws helps him to make a moral decision on human terms rather than on societal ones.
The second time is in Chapter 16 when Huck and Jim are nearing Cairo where they plan to take a steamboat
up the Ohio River to the free states. In this incident the intensity of his decision has deepened. As he struggles
with his conscience about allowing a slave, worth $800, to go free, the irony is clear—it never occurs to him
that society might be wrong, and that he could be right. He simply realizes it is impossible for him to turn Jim
Although his second decision centers around the economic worth of slaves, Huck’s ultimate moral choice
focuses on religion. “There was the Sunday school, you could ‘a’ gone to it . . . they’d ‘a’ learnt you there
that people that acts as I’d been acting . . . goes to everlasting fire.” He tries to pray, but he “can’t pray a
lie.” Ironically, when he writes the letter to Miss Watson telling her where Jim is, he is relieved to know he is
no longer lost and going to hell. But he cannot leave it at that. His mind instinctively drifts to Jim’s friendship
and the good times they have had on the raft. Jim is undoubtedly the most devoted friend he has ever had.
Huck’s ultimate moral decision in the novel is, ironically, to “go to hell” for freeing Jim. He does not justify
his choice. He simply makes the decision to take up wickedness again. Twain’s bitter satire in this passage is
a harsh invective against a society that would live by such false standards.
Chapters 32 and 33 Summary and Analysis
Chapters 32 and 33 Summary and Analysis 31
New Characters
Mr. Silas Phelps: Tom Sawyer’s uncle
Mrs. Sally Phelps: Tom’s aunt
Huck arrives at the Phelps Plantation, noticing that things are rather “still and Sunday-like.” Everyone seems
to be out in the fields, and Huck paints a rather bleak picture of the depressing surroundings. As he
approaches the kitchen, he hears the hum of a spinning wheel. He walks up to the house, trying to decide what
to say but finally leaving it to Providence. He has aroused fifteen of the sleeping dogs that quickly surround
him with their barking and howling. With her rolling pin raised, a servant steps out and silences them. Hearing
the commotion, Mrs. Phelps runs out to greet Huck with her spinning stick still in her hand and her children
hanging around her skirts. Thinking he is Tom Sawyer, her nephew, she welcomes him with open arms.
Perplexed by her display of affection, he tries to guess who she thinks he is. She questions him about his
family, but not knowing who his family is, he cannot answer and finally decides that this might be one of
those times when he should risk telling the truth. It isn’t until Mr. Phelps comes home, and she introduces
Huck as Tom Sawyer, that he breathes easy again. They have been expecting Tom to arrive on the steamboat
for the past few days and are relieved and happy that he is finally here. Comfortable with his new identity,
Huck can easily invent believable stories about Tom Sawyer’s family.
The noise of the steamboat on the river, however, suddenly reminds him Tom could be arriving any minute.
He must ward off Tom’s appearance until he can explain the misunderstanding to him. He tells Tom’s aunt
and uncle that he needs to go into town to pick up his baggage. Convincing them to let him go alone, he heads
for town in the wagon and meets Tom Sawyer along the way. Tom thinks he is seeing a ghost, but Huck tells
him that he was not murdered. Huck explains the case of mistaken identity at the Phelps Plantation to Tom.
Coming up with a plan, Tom assures him all will be well. He puts his trunks in the wagon and tells him he
will follow later. Huck also confides in Tom about his intent to steal Jim. To his surprise, Tom agrees to help
him. Shocked that Tom would do such a thing, Huck’s high opinion of him falls considerably.
In a little while Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas Phelps see a stranger coming up the driveway. The stranger is
Tom Sawyer. They quickly set another plate for dinner to welcome him. He pretends to be on the wrong
plantation, but they invite him to stay for dinner just the same. During the course of the conversation the
so-called stranger suddenly reaches over and kisses Aunt Sally on the mouth. Shocked and insulted she calls
him an “owdacious puppy.” He apologizes and tells her he thought she would like it. He finally ends the
practical joke by identifying himself as Sid Sawyer, Tom’s brother. They laugh at his joke, showering him
with hugs and kisses.
During supper one of the children begs to see the show in town that night. His dad tells him the show has been
cancelled because the runaway slave informed on the actors. Huck knows immediately that it was Jim who
was trying to expose the king and the duke. That night he and Tom sneak out to try to warn the pair about the
danger they are in, but it is too late. They have been tarred and feathered and are being driven out of town.
Huck feels responsible somehow even though he was not to blame. He denounces his conscience that “takes
up more room than all the rest of a person’s insides” but is of no value to him. Tom Sawyer agrees.
Discussion and Analysis
Twain’s depressing description of the Phelps Plantation is set in contrast to previous descriptions of the peace
and tranquillity of life on the river. It is a “one-horse cotton plantation” with “sickly grass patches” and a
yard that is “bare and smooth.” Even the sound of the spinning wheel makes Huck feel lonesome. Huck’s
depiction of the plantation, symbolic of loneliness and death, reflects his mood after the loss of Jim and their
idyllic life on the raft. Here, as in earlier chapters, the theme of freedom on the river stands in oppostition to
Chapters 32 and 33 Summary and Analysis 32
the constraints of life on the shore. Jim has, after all, been sold back into slavery again, and in Huck’s view,
life on the shore carries with it a dismal outlook.
The appearance of Tom Sawyer lightens the tone of these chapters. We see Tom merely as a light-hearted
practical joker whose morality is aligned with the society he is a part of. Huck respects his opinion, however,
and holds him up as his ideal. He is astonished when Tom agrees to help him steal Jim, and because of this,
his estimation of Tom is lowered. Ironically, Huck still believes his natural morality is wrong and Tom’s
morality, based on the mores of society, is right. What he is not aware of is that Tom knows Jim has already
been given his freedom by Miss Watson. This will not be divulged until the end of the novel. Tom is,
therefore, only playing the game of stealing Jim out of slavery.
Thus far in the novel Jim has been patiently bearing the inconveniences the king and duke have caused him
and Huck on the raft. The “rapscallions” go too far, however, when they sell him as a slave. The king and
duke underestimate Jim’s intentions to get even. Although the duke mentions his suspicions to Huck, it is
doubtful that he credits Jim with the ability to be instrumental in having them tarred and feathered and run out
of town. Jim’s action in this episode reflects a deep sense of justice.
When Huck watches the king and duke being run out of town it makes him “sick to see it.” His feeling is
reminiscent of his reaction to the Grangerford and Shepherdson feud in Chapter 18. During their last battle
when most of the men are killed, Huck is repulsed as he watches the carnage from the tree. “It made me so
sick I most fell out of the tree.” In spite of all the king and duke have done to him, Huck’s humanity is again
revealed when he not only sympathizes with the pair, but tries to warn them of trouble ahead.
Chapters 34 and 35 Summary and Analysis
New Character
Nat: a slave who brings food to Jim
Tom uncovers the secret of Jim’s whereabouts on the Phelps Plantation by observing one of the slaves
bringing watermelon, along with other food, to a nearby hut. Since he would not be feeding watermelon to
dogs, it follows that someone must be in the hut. The door to the hut is locked, and Uncle Silas holds the key.
Sure that the prisoner must be Jim, Huck and Tom begin immediately to make plans to rescue him. Huck’s
plan is easy. He suggests they steal the key out of Uncle Silas’s pants pocket, release Jim, and take off down
the river on Huck’s raft. Tom criticizes the plan for being “mild as goosemilk.” Knowing they will do it
Tom’s way no matter what Huck proposes, he gives in to Tom’s elaborate plans.
Huck is still wondering why a respectable, kind, and intellegent boy like Tom would stoop so low as to steal
Jim out of slavery. He tries to stop him, but Tom says he knows what he is doing.
After dark they examine the hut and plan the rescue. Huck suggests several simple and practical methods such
as having Jim climb out of a high window or sawing a hole in the cabin the way he had done when he escaped
from Pap. Tom, however, holds out for some complicated method that would take twice as long. They finally
decide to spend a week digging him out.
When they arrive at the house, Huck simply pulls the latchstring and walks in through the door. This is not
romantic enough for Tom, however, who enters by climbing the lightning rods. He finally makes it after three
tries and several painful falls.
Chapters 34 and 35 Summary and Analysis 33
In the morning they go down to the slave cabins to befriend the dogs so that they will not bark at them while
they are digging Jim out. They meet the man who brings food to Jim. He naively invites them to come and see
his prisoner. Jim, surprised and happy to see them, blurts out the boys’ names. The man asks Huck and Tom
whether Jim knows them, but they flatly deny it. They convince him that the witches are causing him to hear
things. When they get a chance they whisper the plan of escape to Jim. He squeezes their hands in gratitude
and promises to pretend they are strangers from now on.
Tom, disgusted that the plan of escape is too easy, is constantly trying to “invent all the difficulties.” He
wishes for a watchman to drug, or a dog to give a sleeping mixture to. Though one could easily slip the chain
off the bedpost, Tom wants to saw the leg off Jim’s bed to remove the chain. He goes so far as to consider
amputating Jim’s leg to get the chain off.
Instead of picks and shovels, Tom insists on digging him out with case knives because he has read about this
in books. He also insists that the escape should take thirty-seven years. They need to hurry though, for when
Mr. Phelps hears Jim is not from New Orleans, he will probably advertise him. They decide to “let on” or
pretend that they had been at it for thirty-seven years. Huck tries to bring Tom back to practical reality, but
Tom accuses him of never “having read any books at all.”
Huck borrows a bedsheet from the clothesline for a rope ladder that will be put in a pie and smuggled in for
the escape. He also takes a white shirt so Jim can keep a journal on it. He takes three case knives, and Tom
suggests making a saw out of one of them. When Huck gingerly suggests borrowing a saw from the
smokehouse, Tom is discouraged and gives up on Huck, afraid he will never be able to teach him anything
about the way it should really be done. Huck finally obeys his order to get the knives.
Discussion and Analysis
Huck’s practical, down-to-earth solutions to problems are set in juxtaposition to Tom’s romantic, unrealistic
solutions in the plan to free Jim. Twain is satirizing the romantic notions inherent in the adventurous and
courageous escapes that were made popular through the romance literature of his day. The contrasting
personalities of Huck and Tom and their constant attempts to counter each other, lends much of the satiric
humor to these chapters. On a deeper level the humor is lost, however, when we consider that Tom already
knows Jim is free. He is simply playing the game for the sake of adventure. In the meantime he keeps Jim
imprisoned with little regard for his suffering.
Huck admires Tom’s ability to solve the mystery of Jim’s hiding place. Tom’s observations about dogs and
their dislike for watermelons clearly puts him on an intellectually superior level, and Huck is sure he would
not trade Tom’s head for that of a “duke, nor mate of a steamboat, nor clown in a circus.” Huck knows his
plan to free Jim cannot equal Tom’s, but he thinks about it just to be doing something. He is right. When he
proposes his simple plan of stealing the key from Mr. Phelps’ pants pocket and unlocking Jim’s door, Tom
does not go for it. Ironically, Huck’s plan is superior to Tom’s, because it is quick and efficient, and safe for
Jim. Tom’s plan is more bookish and has more style, but, ironically, does not accomplish what Huck’s plan
would. It is also a potentially dangerous plan. As Huck says, it could “get us all killed besides.”
When Huck borrows the bedsheets from the clothesline, Tom sets him straight by saying it is called stealing.
Huck tells him his father taught him to call it borrowing. As long as he represents a prisoner, Tom thinks it is
not wrong to steal, but when Huck steals a watermelon, Tom forces him to pay the owners a dime. Ironically,
Tom makes the distinction between the real world and the world of romance, but Huck cannot see any
advantage in representing a prisoner if he needs to “chaw over a lot of gold-leaf distinctions.” Tom feels it is
all right to steal as long as they are enacting the romance story, but Huck goes beyond the story to real life.
Tom’s respectable upbringing tells him that is morally wrong, but Huck in his natural morality cannot see the
Chapters 34 and 35 Summary and Analysis 34
Chapters 36 and 37 Summary and Analysis
Tom and Huck get right to work digging a tunnel into Jim’s cabin with their case knives. After several hours
their hands are sore in spite of the fact that they have made little progress. Tom finally admits that his plan
will not work, so they change to picks pretending they are case knives. Happy that Tom is finally becoming
level-headed, Huck wholeheartedly agrees with the change of plan. They dig a sizable hole and decide to
continue the next day. As usual Tom tries to climb up the lightning rod to the second floor. Dead tired and
sore, he finally agrees to “let on” that the stairs are lightning rods after a bit of coaxing from Huck.
Between them the boys manage to pilfer a pewter spoon, a brass candlestick, six candles, and three tin plates.
The next night when everyone is in bed they finally dig their way into Jim’s cabin in two and one-half hours.
Happy to see them, Jim wants to cut the chain and clear out immediately, but Tom shows him that it would be
highly “unregular.” He explains the plan to Jim, telling him that in case of danger the plan could be quickly
altered. Tom assures Jim they will, indeed, see that he gets away. They talk about old times, and Jim informs
them about the prayers Uncle Silas has with him every day or two. Aunt Sally also stops by often to make
sure he is comfortable. This gives Tom the idea of smuggling things to Jim through his aunt and uncle’s
pockets. Jim must then sneak them out. Despite Huck’s objections Tom goes right ahead with his plan.
Aunt Sally begins to notice that things are missing around the house. A big argument ensues between her and
Uncle Silas. She rails at him for losing his shirt but finally concedes that the calf probably got the shirt off the
line. She is sure the rats got the candles, but the pewter spoon is still a mystery. In the middle of her long
diatribe on the need for Uncle Silas to stop up the rat holes, a servant announces a bedsheet is also missing.
This is almost more than she can take. In the middle of it all, Uncle Silas reaches into his coat pocket and
timidly pulls out the pewter spoon secretly put there by Tom. Eventually she orders all of them out of the
house. Later, Tom conjures up a plan to confuse Aunt Sally about the count of the sheets and spoons by
alternately taking one out and then sneaking it back so her count is inconsistent. She finally becomes
thoroughly confused about the true number of her sheets and spoons.
Tom and Huck decide to bake the rope ladder into a witch pie to satisfy the hunger of the witches who are
constantly aggravating Nat, giving him no peace. Nat is, of course, grateful and cooperative. The boys take the
rope ladder, made with a torn-up sheet, to the woods. They have enough rope for forty pies, however, so they
finally throw most of the rope ladder away. They bring the witch pie to Jim’s cabin, and Nat turns his back to
ward off the witches. Following directions explicitly, Jim quickly breaks open the pie, hides the rope ladder
inside his mattress, and throws out the tin plates after scratching some marks on them.
Discussion and Analysis
Twain’s ironic use of the word “moral” in this section of the novel is reminiscent of the earlier incident on
the Walter Scott. When the gang of murderers on board contemplate killing Jim Turner, they decide “it ain’t
good sense, it ain’t good morals.” Ironically, the Walter Scott would break up and kill him regardless. The
moral thing to do would be to untie him and thereby save his life. In this section of the novel Tom’s statement
is almost identical. “It ain’t right, and it ain’t moral.” In both cases the means to an end is all-important. In
Tom’s case, the moral thing to do would be to free Jim as quickly as possible instead of prolonging his
agony. Huck’s reply “I don’t care shucks for the morality of it, nohow,” shows that his morality is on
human, practical terms where the end result is all-important. Besides, he does not care “what the authorities
think” as long as it satisfies his own moral sensibilities.
The theme of superstition is brought out in Nat’s belief that witches are haunting him. When the dogs appear
in Jim’s cabin, Tom leads him to believe he has seen witches. He exploits his fear of witches in order to carry
out his plan.
Chapters 36 and 37 Summary and Analysis 35
Twain is satirizing religious people like Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally who pray with Jim and make sure he has
enough to eat but are waiting eagerly for the reward offered for his capture. If no one claims him they will, of
course, sell him. It is doubly ironic that even Jim, being a product of society himself, does not see through this
double standard. He simply comments that “both of them was kind as they could be.”
Tom explains his elaborate plan of escape to Jim all the way from smuggling the rope ladder pie into his cabin
to tying things to Aunt Sally’s apron strings. Jim cannot see the sense in most of the plan, “but he allowed we
was white folks and knowed better than him.” Jim is, of course, the sensible one who questions Tom’s
preposterous plan, and, ironically, the “white folks” are obviously lacking in common sense.
Chapters 38 and 39 Summary and Analysis
While Jim and Huck file pens out of candlesticks and a saw out of a case knife, Tom is busy working on the
coat of arms for Jim. He comes up with one that is unintelligible, but it does not seem to matter as long as it
comes from a book. Huck questions the meaning of such terms as “fess” and “bar sinister,” but Tom refuses
to answer. Since dungeon walls were always made of stone, Tom suddenly strikes upon the idea that they
could chisel both the coat of arms and the mournful inscriptions on one rock. He suggests they use the
grindstone down at the mill. Huck and Tom find it too heavy to move to the cabin, however, so they decide to
ask Jim to help them. He willingly takes the chain off the bedpost, wraps it around his neck, and slips out
through the tunnel the boys have dug. He and Huck easily role the grindstone back to the cabin as Tom
“superintends” the whole thing. With a nail for a chisel and an old iron bolt for a hammer, Jim starts to work
on the grindstone.
Tom decides every authentic prisoner should have to contend with spiders, snakes, rats, and a flower to water
with his tears. Although Tom feels a rattlesnake would mean more “glory” for Jim, he finally decides to “let
it go” after Jim threatens to leave if he forces the issue. Reluctantly Jim agrees to garter snakes instead but
complains about the “bother” and “trouble” it is to be a prisoner. Tom instructs him to play music to the rats
and provides him with an onion to make tears to water his Pitchiola flower. When Jim complains, Tom loses
his patience and reprimands him for not appreciating the fact that he had “more gaudier chances than a
prisoner ever had in the world to make a name for himself.” Promising to behave, Jim finally apologizes.
The boys catch fifteen rats and decide to hide them under Aunt Sally’s bed, but a little Phelps boy
unknowingly releases them from the cage. The boys find Aunt Sally on top of the bed screaming in fear.
Busily catching spiders, bugs, frogs, and caterpillars, Huck and Tom even try for a hornet’s nest but decide to
give it up. They catch several dozen garter snakes and hide them in a bag in their bedroom. When they go
back upstairs all the snakes have mysteriously disappeared, only to show up later all over the house. Aunt
Sally, incensed by the whole ordeal, gives Huck and Tom their just reward by spanking them each time she
sees another snake.
Unable to get any rest, Jim complains that the rats and snakes do not all sleep at the same time, keeping him
on guard day and night. Each time a rat bites Jim, he writes on his shirt or journal with the fresh blood.
Since there has been no news from the plantation below New Orleans, Uncle Silas thinks he will advertise Jim
in the New Orleans and St. Louis papers. The mention of St. Louis hits home to Huck, who realizes that Miss
Watson will probably see the ad. Tom, however, must continue to do things by the book. The next item on his
agenda is the distribution of anonymous letters warning people about Jim’s escape. Huck dresses up like a
servant girl and shoves the first warning under the front door. The next night skull and crossbones are placed
on the door, but the third night the note warns that “a desperate gang of cutthroats” will invade the property
and steal Jim.
Chapters 38 and 39 Summary and Analysis 36
Discussion and Analysis
It is ironic that in Tom’s exaggerated plan to free Jim, he must call him out of prison to help role the heavy,
oversized grindstone, and, thereby, carry out the plans for his own escape. Jim could, in fact, walk away
anytime, but he obviously loves the boys and would not think of betraying their trust in him. This ludicrous
incident is one of the most humorous in the novel.
Twain is ridiculing the romantic mind of Tom who “superintended” the whole project. In the eyes of Huck
“he knowed how to do everything.” He does, of course, choose a grindstone that is too heavy for the boys to
handle, and when the entrance into the cabin is not big enough for the stone, it is Jim, not Tom who quickly
solves the problem. Jim also endures the tortures inflicted upon him by Tom because that is supposedly his
role as a prisoner. Only in the case of the rattlesnakes does Jim refuse to cooperate with Tom’s fantastic
schemes. Jim’s practical nature comes to the foreground when Tom, in wild abandonment, is willing to risk
Jim’s life just for the sake of the glory. Tom puts Jim through an ordeal that leaves him with adverse feelings
about the entire prisoner experience. “He said if he ever got out this time he wouldn’t ever be a prisoner
again, not for a salary.” Since a salary is totally foreign to Jim, the last phrase might be interpreted to mean
not for a million dollars.
Tom subjects Aunt Sally, as well as Jim, to undue cruelties in this section of the novel. She must endure his
antics involving rats and snakes in the house, and anonymous notes designed to terrify her and other members
of the household. The suffering of others is secondary to Tom’s passion to dramatize the romantic notions he
has only read about in books. The incongruity of Tom’s treatment of Aunt Sally and Jim is especially
apparent when we consider how kind and loving both of them have been toward Tom.
Tom’s knowledge of the terminology of the coat of arms is limited at best. The language is confused to the
point of being unintelligible. When Tom refuses to explain the meaning of “fess” and “bar sinister” it is
evident he does not know. It is obvious that Tom often covers his lack of understanding in this way. Huck,
however, attributes Tom’s refusal to his personalilty. “If it didn’t suit him to explain a thing to you, he
wouldn’t do it.” Tom is covering his ignorance and, thereby, saving face with Huck who looks up to him.
Chapters 40 and 41 Summary and Analysis
New Characters
The Doctor: removes the bullet from Tom’s leg
Old Mrs. Hotchkiss: a neighbor of the Phelps
After the last warning note has been sent, Huck and Tom take a picnic lunch and go fishing in the river. They
check out the raft to make sure everything is in order. When they arrive home for supper that night, everyone
in the house is in a state of frenzy. Worried about the threatening letter, Aunt Sally hustles them up to bed
after supper without a word.
At half past eleven the boys get up and begin eating the lunch they had stolen from the cellar cupboard.
Noticing the butter is missing, Tom sends Huck back to the cellar to get it while he goes to Jim’s cabin to
prepare the scene for the escape. Huck finds the butter and stealthily climbs up the stairs, when suddenly he
runs into Aunt Sally. He quickly shoves the bread and butter under his hat. Aunt Sally questions him about his
mysterious activities in the cellar, but getting nowhere she sends him into the “setting-room” until she has
time to get to the bottom of it. In the room he sees fifteen farmers with guns ready to attack the cutthroats who
are coming to steal Jim. The room is hot, and the butter under his hat melts and trickles down his forehead. He
lifts his hat, revealing the stolen bread and butter. Relieved that his brain is not “oozing out” from brain fever,
Chapters 40 and 41 Summary and Analysis 37
Aunt Sally hugs him and lets him go.
He runs to Jim’s cabin and frantically tries to explain that the men are coming, and there is no time to lose.
The men fill the dark cabin just as Huck, Tom, and Jim slip out the hole and into the lean-to. Tom finally
gives the all clear signal, and the three make a run for it. Tom’s britches catch on a splinter on the top rail of
the fence, however, and when he pulls loose, the splinter snaps and makes a noise. Soon gunfire is heard, dogs
are released, and the chase is on. The dogs are friendly, however, and the runaways make it to the raft safely.
Everyone is happy, but Huck and Jim suddenly notice Tom has been shot in the leg. Tom insists they go on,
but Jim refuses to leave before they get a doctor for Tom. Huck goes for the doctor, instructing Jim to hide in
the woods when the doctor arrives.
Huck gets the doctor out of bed and tells him a story about Tom kicking his gun in his dreams and shooting
himself in the leg. The doctor is a kind old man who agrees to help, but insists on going alone because he feels
the canoe is safe for one person only. He becomes suspicious when Huck blurts out that it easily held three.
Waiting for the doctor’s return, Huck sleeps on a lumber pile all night. The doctor has not returned by
morning, and Huck runs into Uncle Silas in town. Under pressure to explain their absence, he tells Uncle Silas
that he and Sid (Tom) were all over the river last night looking for the runaway slave. Huck claims Sid is at
the post office so they wait awhile, but when he does not show up, they go home to Aunt Sally who is
overjoyed to see Huck.
The house is still full of people who are eager to overstate the truth about what happened the night before.
Mrs. Hotchkiss is worse than the others, claiming the runaway was not in his right mind.
That night Aunt Sally tucks Huck in and asks him not to leave. Seeing her caring nature, he finds it impossible
to sneak out this time, but his mind is on Tom and he sleeps restlessly. He slides down the lightning rod
several times during the night, but when he sees Aunt Sally waiting up for Tom, he goes back upstairs.
Discussion and Analysis
Tom’s plan of escape takes on an air of sensationalism as the three runaways battle the suspense of gunfire,
tracking dogs, screaming voices, pounding footsteps, and a breathtaking slide through the tunnel with the
gunmen breathing down their necks. What tops off the whole romantic episode for Tom, however, is the bullet
wound in his leg. They are all glad to get to the raft, “but Tom was the gladdest of all because he had a bullet
in the calf of his leg.” He does not want to stop now when everything is going so well. He attempts to
bandage his own wound and challenges them to set the raft loose and continue the escape down the river.
When Tom realizes Jim will not budge before they get a doctor for him, he instructs Huck to blindfold the
doctor, put a purse full of gold in his hand, and make him swear to silence. Tom is, of course, continuing his
escape plan in style according to the book. The next step is to confuse the doctor by taking him to the raft in a
roundabout way so he will not chalk the raft and find it again. Ironically, if Huck had followed Tom’s
instructions, it would probably have caused Tom’s death.
When Huck is on his own, he ignores Tom’s fanciful instructions and does what Huck does best—invents a
story. His fantastic story is not as believable, however, as the ones he has conjured up in the past. When he
tells the doctor Tom kicked his gun in his dreams, the doctor replies, “Singular dream.” Interpreted to mean
“peculiar dream,” we sense a hint of the doctor’s suspicion about the whole story. To ease his concern about
what he might find there, the doctor decides to go to the raft alone, using the excuse that the canoe will not
safely hold two people. Huck’s slight slip of the tongue adds to further suspicion when he tells the doctor the
canoe carried “the three of us easy enough.” The doctor leaves Huck on the shore with instructions to go
home and prepare the Phelps family for the surprise that Huck had talked about.
When Tom insists on continuing down the river with the bullet still lodged in his leg, Jim’s response is an
expected one for it is consistent with his character throughout the novel. Jim’s unselfishness in giving up his
Chapters 40 and 41 Summary and Analysis 38
freedom for the sake of Tom is no surprise to Huck. “I reckoned he’d say what he did say.” When we
consider the fact that Jim could have executed his own escape from the Phelps Plantation at any time, we
realize his love for Huck and Tom, his friends, was worth more to him than his long-sought freedom. He
could not seek his own freedom at the expense of his friend’s life. Ironically, he feels Tom would do the same
for him, but Tom is more concerned with completing his escape with style.
Chapters 42 and 43 Summary and Analysis
The next morning Uncle Silas looks for Tom in town but comes back discouraged. He hands Aunt Sally a
letter from her sister that he had picked up at the post office the day before. She starts to open the letter, but
glances out of the window and drops it as she sees Tom being brought in on a mattress. He is followed by the
doctor and Jim, who has his hands tied behind his back. Thinking Tom is dead, Aunt Sally runs up to him, but
he is delirious and can only mutter something unintelligible. Aunt Sally is happy just to see him alive.
While the others go into the house with Tom, Huck follows the men who take Jim back to his cabin. He hears
them cursing Jim and giving him an occasional blow on the head for running away. They threaten to hang him
as an example to other runaway slaves. They chain both his legs and hands to a big staple driven into the
bottom log of the cabin. He is put on a diet of bread and water, and farmers with guns plan to guard his door at
night while bulldogs will be on the watch during the day. In a little while the doctor comes to check on Jim.
When he sees his deplorable situation, he asks them not to punish him too severely since Jim demonstrated
exemplary behavior while he was with the doctor. He explains that Jim stepped out of hiding when Tom
became seriously ill and incoherent, threatening to kill the doctor. Jim offered to help and he did it well. He
tells them Jim is worth one thousand dollars and kind treatment too. At this the men soften their approach
slightly. Huck hopes they will remove some of the chains and alter his diet but doesn’t dare suggest it.
The first chance Huck gets, he slips into the sick room. Bewildered and a bit confused, Tom soon wakes up,
asking about the raft and Jim. Huck tells him all is well. Aunt Sally listens in shock as he suddenly blurts out
the whole story about their fantastic scheme to free Jim, the runaway slave. Aunt Sally calls him a rapscallion,
threatening to punish him if she catches him meddling with Jim again. Surprised to learn Jim did not escape,
Tom orders them to release him immediately because he is not a slave. He tells them that Miss Watson, who
died two months ago, “set him free in her will.” Puzzled, Huck asks Tom about his motives for planning the
escape. Tom tells him he did it for the adventure.
Aunt Polly appears in the doorway and the game of mistaken identities is over. She has come eleven hundred
miles to see why Aunt Sally has not answered her letters. Knowing the letters would spell trouble for him,
Tom admits intercepting them.
Aunt Polly confirms Jim’s freedom and Jim is released. Uncle Silas, Aunt Sally, and Aunt Polly make a fuss
over Jim for helping the doctor nurse Tom. Tom gives him forty dollars for being a patient prisoner. Pleased
and excited, Jim tells Huck it is his hairy breast that has made him rich again just as he had predicted on
Jackson’s Island.
Tom suggests that the three of them go for “howling adventures” in Indian territory. When Huck complains
that he has no money for such adventures, Tom tells him the six thousand dollars is still there since his father
has never been back for it. Jim then reveals the secret about Huck’s pap. Hesitantly, he tells him Pap was the
dead man in the floating house they were exploring on the river. With no show of emotion, Huck announces
his plan to “light out for the territory ahead of the rest.” Aunt Sally wants to adopt him and “sivilize” him
and “he can’t stand it.” He has been through that before.
Chapters 42 and 43 Summary and Analysis 39
Discussion and Analysis
Twain portrays Jim as a noble character when he bravely steps out of hiding to help the doctor save Tom’s
life, knowing full well it will cost him his freedom and possibly his life. The doctor attests to the fact that he
never saw anyone who was more faithful “and yet he was risking his freedom to do it.” Jim is a profoundly
sensitive human being whose feeling and sacrifice for Tom comes as no surprise. We have seen him sacrifice
his sleep by taking Huck’s watch on the raft. We have seen his joy when Huck returns after their separation
in the fog and his deep hurt when Huck plays a trick on him. We also see him as a caring family man whose
dream is to, someday, buy his wife and children out of slavery. Jim’s nobility lies in his sensitive nature and
is consistent throughout the novel. In the case of Tom, we would not have expected Jim to behave any other
The men who take Jim back to his cabin in chains get “very huffy” and want to hang him as an example to
the other slaves. Their scandalous values are clear when they decide not to do it since they do not own Jim,
and if the owner ever showed up, he would certainly make them pay for his loss of property. When the doctor
appears on the scene to tell them of Jim’s actions in nursing Tom back to health, they should, ironically, be
saluting him for his heroism, but they only “soften up a little.”
When Huck realizes Tom knew all along that Jim had been set free, he understands why a boy with a
respectable upbringing like Tom would get mixed up in the messy business of helping a slave escape. Tom
tells him he did it strictly for adventure. He was planning to prolong the adventure all the way to the “mouth
of the river,” and then take Jim home on a steamboat in style and bring him into town as a hero with a
“torchlight procession” and a “brass band.”
The novel has come full circle as we see Huck “light out for the territory,” afraid Aunt Sally will “sivilize”
him again as the Widow Douglas tried to do in the first chapter. Taught through his many difficult decisions
to follow his instinctive, natural morality, Huck has grown into a more mature, sensitive human being. He
belongs in the wilds of the “territory” where he can again be free from the hypocrisy inherent in society’s
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Quizzes
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Give a brief summary of the end of the novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
2. Why did Twain choose a young boy as the narrator for the novel?
3. Name one of the major themes of the novel.
4. Give an example of superstition in Chapter 1.
5. Compare the character of the Widow Douglas to her sister, Miss Watson.
6. At what period in history does the story take place?
7. Give an example of satire (a device in literature that blends criticism of society with humor) in Chapter 1.
8. What do the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson try to teach Huck in order to civilize him?
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Quizzes 40
9. What did the slaves do before they went to bed at night?
10. Who gave the catcall after midnight?
1. Tom and Huck found the six thousand dollars in gold that the robbers had hidden in the cave. Judge
Thatcher invested it for them.
2. Twain uses Huck’s comments as an innocent and truthful criticism of society.
3. One major theme of the novel is individual freedom. Huck searches for freedom from the constraints of a
corrupt society, and Jim searches for freedom from slavery.
4. Huck accidentally flips a spider into a candle and is sure it will bring him bad luck.
5. The Widow Douglas seems less demanding of Huck than does Miss Watson. She asks her sister to “ease
up” on Huck during the spelling lesson.
6. The story takes place before the Civil War, when slavery was still legal in the southern United States.
7. One example of satire is Huck’s decision not to go to the “good place” if Miss Watson would be there.
8. They teach him proper dress, proper manners, and regular Bible reading.
9. They came into the house for prayers.
10. Tom Sawyer was calling for Huck.
Chapters 2 and 3 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Where does Tom take Huck and the gang?
2. What does Jim think has happened when he finds his hat hanging in the tree?
3. When Tom’s gang tries to rob the rich “Spaniards” and “A-rabs,” who do they actually rob?
4. Where does Tom get his ideas for robbing and killing people?
5. If anyone reveals the secrets of the gang, the boy and his family must be killed. Whom does Huck offer as
his family to be killed?
6. Contrast the personalities of Huck and Tom.
7. Whose slave is Jim?
8. Who are Joe Harper and Ben Rogers?
9. What purpose does the Mississippi River serve in the novel?
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers 41
10. How wide is the river in this chapter?
1. Tom takes Huck and the gang to the cave through the hole that he had discovered earlier.
2. Jim thinks that he has been ridden around the world by witches.
3. The gang tries to rob a Sunday school picnic. To their humiliation, it is a primer class filled with very
young children.
4. He gets them from the books he reads. One of those books is Don Quixote.
5. Huck offers Miss Watson because he would rather give her up than anyone else.
6. Huck is literal-minded, realistic, and practical, but Tom is romantic and imaginative.
7. Jim is Miss Watson’s slave. This is another criticism of Miss Watson as an unfavorable character in the
8. Joe Harper and Ben Rogers are boys in Tom Sawyer’s gang.
9. The Mississippi River acts as a symbolic setting in the novel, representing an idyllic escape from the
corruption of society. 10. The river is a mile wide, which gives it a majestic power.
Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How does Huck feel about school in these chapters?
2. How does Huck know his pap is back in town?
3. Why is Huck in a big hurry to give Judge Thatcher his money?
4. What does Judge Thatcher give Huck in exchange for the six thousand dollars?
5. Huck consults Jim about his father. What does he want to know?
6. How does Pap feel about Huck’s ability to read and write?
7. Who goes to court to gain custody of Huck?
8. Who takes Pap into their house in an attempt to reform him?
9. Does Pap turn over a new leaf as he says he will? Explain your answer.
10. What is Twain’s commentary on superstition in Chapter 4?
1. At first he hated school, but as time went on it became easier and he actually began to like it.
Chapters 2 and 3 Questions and Answers 42
2. He sees his footprints in the snow. Pap has a unique cross in his left bootheel to ward off the devil.
3. He feels that if he gets rid of his six thousand dollars, Pap will leave him alone.
4. He gives him one dollar. In this way Huck has sold it rather than given it away.
5. Jim relies on his hairball to work magic. Huck wants to know about his father, but the hairball wavers back
and forth giving him opposing answers.
6. Pap is jealous of his son. He does not want his son to be better than he is, nor to put on “airs.”
7. Judge Thatcher and the Widow Douglas want the court to take Huck away from his father. They want to
save Huck from his father’s abuse.
8. The new judge and his wife give him their spare room, food to eat, and new clothes to wear.
9. No. He sneaks out in the middle of the night, exchanges his coat for whiskey, gets drunk, and breaks his
10. Twain is subtly satirizing superstition in this chapter, particularly in the hairball incident. It is obvious
neither the hairball’s spirit nor Jim are sure of anything since one answer is consistently juxtaposed with the
opposite answer following it.
Chapters 6 and 7 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Pap kidnaps Huck. Where does he take him?
2. Why does Huck want people to think that he is dead?
3. Does Pap get Huck’s six thousand dollars?
4. What does Pap do with Huck when he goes to town for supplies?
5. What tool does Huck use to escape from the cabin?
6. Why does Huck kill the pig?
7. What does the “June rise” of the river bring with it for Huck?
8. Why does Huck wish Tom Sawyer were with him?
9. Why does Huck suddenly enjoy school?
10. Huck sleeps in the canoe just before he escapes to Jackson’s Island. What is he waiting for?
1. Pap takes Huck to a deserted cabin in the woods on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.
2. He does not want his pap nor the Widow Douglas to search for him.
Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers 43
3. No. He does not have the patience to wait around for the court’s decision.
4. He locks Huck in the cabin so he will not run away.
5. He uses a rusty old saw. His pap is careful not to leave any knives around while he is gone, but Huck finds
the saw between the rafter and clapboards of the roof.
6. He killed the pig so he could smear the blood around to make it look as if he had been murdered with an ax.
7. The “June rise” causes a canoe to wash up on shore that Huck hides for his escape.
8. Huck wishes Tom Sawyer was there to help him stage his own death. He feels Tom would give it that
“fancy touch.”
9. He goes to school to spite his father. His father forbids him to go near the school.
10. Huck is waiting for it to get dark so he will not be seen on the river.
Chapters 8 and 9 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What interrupts Huck’s comfortable and relaxed feeling the first morning on the island?
2. Why are the townspeople on the river that morning?
3. What is found in the bread that is floating on the water?
4. Whose campfire does Huck find?
5. What will people say if they discover that Huck is harboring a slave?
6. What is Miss Watson tempted to do with her slave, Jim?
7. What happens to the island when it rains?
8. What do Huck and Jim find on the island that has been washed down by the flood?
9. A large two-story house floats down the river past the island. What do Huck and Jim find in the house?
10. Where do Huck and Jim make their home on the island?
1. The interruption is the loud “boom” of the cannon coming from the ferryboat.
2. They are on the river to try and locate Huck’s dead body.
3. Quicksilver is put in the bread because they feel that it will locate a dead body in the river.
4. Huck finds Jim’s campfire, but he does not know whose it is at the time.
Chapters 6 and 7 Questions and Answers 44
5. People will call Huck a low-down Abolitionist.
6. Miss Watson is tempted to sell him down the river for eight hundred dollars.
7. It becomes flooded with three or four feet of water at the lower end of the island.
8. They find a large raft.
9. Huck and Jim find a dead man in the house. In the last chapter of the novel Huck will learn that it was the
body of his father.
10. They make their home in a cave on a high bluff. This provides shelter when it rains and protection from
people who might be looking for Jim.
Chapters 10 and 11 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What does a rattlesnake do when its mate dies?
2. Jim thinks there is a reason why the rattlesnake bit him. What is the reason?
3. Why does Huck dress like a girl?
4. How long does it take for Jim’s swelling on his leg to go down?
5. What is the name of the forty-year-old woman whom Huck talks to in town?
6. What crime is Jim accused of?
7. Why does Huck build a fire at his old campsite?
8. How does Mrs. Loftus know that Huck is not a girl?
9. What reward is offered for Huck’s father?
10. How does Huck react when Mrs. Loftus says that people think Jim murdered Huck?
1. The rattlesnake finds its mate and coils around it.
2. Jim thinks the snake bit him because Huck touched a snakeskin with his bare hands.
3. Huck dresses to disguise himself so nobody will recognize him in town.
4. It takes four days and four nights.
5. Her name is Mrs. Judith Loftus. Her husband wants to find Jim for the three hundred dollar reward.
6. Jim is accused of murdering Huck.
Chapters 8 and 9 Questions and Answers 45
7. He builds a fire to distract the people who are hunting for Jim until they can get off the island.
8. Mrs. Loftus observes the way Huck catches the lump of lead by clapping his legs together. She can also tell
by the way he threads a needle.
9. The reward is two hundred dollars because he is a murder suspect.
10. Huck is completely surprised, but he tries to stay calm so she will not suspect his connection with Jim.
Chapters 12 and 13 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What is a towhead?
2. After it gets dark Jim builds a protection from the rain. What does he build?
3. What is the “texas” part of a steamboat?
4. Why does Huck want to rescue the robbers on the wrecked steamboat?
5. Why does Huck wish Tom Sawyer could be with him to explore the wrecked steamboat?
6. What does Huck finally say to get action from the captain of the ferryboat?
7. What does Huck mean when he says “I lifted a chicken” and “borrowed a watermelon”?
8. What happens to the raft while Huck and Jim explore the wrecked steamboat?
9. Do they find the raft again?
10. What happened to the skiff at the end of Chapter 13?
1. A towhead is a sandbar that has a thick growth of cottonwoods on it.
2. Jim builds a wigwam in the center of the raft. He adds a place to build a fire in cool weather.
3. The “texas” on a steamboat contains the pilothouse and officers’ quarters.
4. Huck’s conscience bothers him after he takes their boat and leaves them to die.
5. Huck knows that Tom would add excitement and “style” to his adventure.
6. He tells him that the niece of the richest man in town is trapped on the wrecked steamboat.
7. Huck means that he stole them both, but rationalizes his actions by saying that it is not stealing if you
intend to pay the owner back someday.
8. The raft has floated away in the storm and Huck and Jim are left stranded.
Chapters 10 and 11 Questions and Answers 46
9. Yes. They catch up with the raft a few miles downstream.
10. Huck and Jim sank the skiff so there could be no incriminating evidence in connection with the robbers.
Chapters 14 and 15 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How did Jim feel about Huck’s “adventure” on the Walter Scott?
2. Which king was familiar to Jim?
3. Who was the French king who was beheaded?
4. Who was his son?
5. Why are Huck and Jim separated in the fog?
6. What kind of trick does Huck play on Jim?
7. How does Jim feel about the trick?
8. How many nights will it take to get to Cairo?
9. Where has Huck learned about kings?
10. Which river will Huck and Jim travel to get to the free states?
1. Jim said he did not want any more adventures because he did not want to risk getting caught, nor did he
want to risk his life.
2. King Solomon was the biblical king who had many wives.
3. His name was Louis XVI. He was the king during the French Revolution.
4. His son was the Dauphin, Louis Charles, who was imprisoned and was thought to have died there. Rumors
had it that he might have escaped, however, and fled to America.
5. The raft has broken away from the young tree (sapling) it was tied to, and Huck’s canoe follows one side
of an island while Jim’s raft follows the other side.
6. Huck tricks Jim into believing that he has been on the raft all along and that they were never separated in
the fog.
7. Jim feels that Huck has been making a fool of him and he is hurt.
8. It will be three nights of good traveling, but the fog changes their plans.
9. Huck has probably learned about kings from books he has read and is continuing to read onthe raft.
Chapters 12 and 13 Questions and Answers 47
10. The Ohio River will lead them into Illinois and to the free states. Illinois was, in fact, a free state in the
antebellum South.
Chapters 16 and 17 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why does Huck’s conscience bother him as they approach what they think is Cairo?
2. What does Huck tell the slave hunters about his predicament?
3. What do the men in the skiff do for Huck?
4. Does Huck feel better after he has protected Jim from the slave hunters?
5. What destroys the raft?
6. How can Huck and Jim tell that they have missed Cairo in the fog?
7. Why does Jim think they have had such bad luck?
8. Why does Huck go into long descriptions of the furnishings and pictures in the Grangerford’s house?
9. Who do the Grangerfords think Huck might be when the dogs bark at him?
10. What has happened to Jim in these chapters?
1. He feels he is responsible for helping Jim, a runaway slave, gain his freedom.
2. He tells them that his pap, his mam, and Mary Ann are sick on the raft. He leads them to believe they have
3. Out of guilt they each give him $20.
4. He does not feel better at first. He feels as if he has done the wrong thing.
5. A steamboat navigating on a semi-foggy river runs into them.
6. They can tell that they are below the Ohio River because clear water from the Ohio is drifting into the
muddy Mississippi.
7. He feels it all comes from handling the snakeskin.
8. Twain is using satire to attack sentimentalism and bad taste in art and in home furnishings.
9. They think Huck could be a Shepherdson, their enemy.
10. Jim dives off the raft when the steamboat wrecks it, and Huck calls his name repeatedly but cannot find
Chapters 14 and 15 Questions and Answers 48
Chapters 18 and 19 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why are the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons feuding?
2. Name the couple who run off and get married?
3. What happens to the young couple after the shooting starts?
4. What secret does Miss Sophia ask Huck to keep?
5. Why does Huck think the duke and the king are after him when they first meet?
6. Do Huck and Jim expect to paddle their newly-found canoe up the Ohio River?
7. When Huck pulls the men out of the river, what has happened to them?
8. How does Jim feel when he sees Huck again? What does he think has happened to him?
9. Where is Huck while the shooting is going on?
10. Who leads Huck to Jim?
1. Nobody really knows except that years ago somebody shot a man who won a lawsuit.
2. Miss Sophia, a Grangerford, and Harney Shepherdson run off and get married.
3. The young couple make it safely across the river.
4. She asks Huck not to tell about the note left in her Testament.
5. He is still on guard because he is a runaway who is traveling with a runaway slave.
6. Their plans for traveling up the Ohio River have changed.
7. One of the men is Buck. He has died in a gun battle between the feuding families.
8. Jim is happy to see Huck. He was afraid Huck had been killed in the gun battle.
9. Huck has crawled up in a tree.
10. Jack helps Huck find Jim by telling him that he wants him to see a “whole stack o’ water moccasins.” He
is actually leading him to Jim, but does not want to get mixed up in any trouble.
Chapters 20 and 21 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How does Huck explain the fact that they travel at night and sleep during the day?
Chapters 18 and 19 Questions and Answers 49
2. What do the people at the camp meeting expect the king to do with the money they collect for him?
3. How does Jim treat Huck during the storm at night?
4. How do the duke and the king plan to make it safe for Jim to travel during the day?
5. What does the duke mean when he says he will call back Hamlet’s soliloquy from “recollection’s
6. Why is the duke’s version of Hamlet’s soliloquy confusing?
7. Who is assigned the role of Juliet in the “Shakespearean Revival”?
8. Why does Colonel Sherburn murder Boggs?
9. What is Colonel Sherburn’s ultimatum in regard to Boggs?
10. Who is called for to quiet Boggs down?
1. He tells them a story about Jim being the family slave. Since his family is all dead, Jim is all he has left.
They travel at night because people suspect Jim of being a runaway when they see him.
2. They expect him to use it when he goes back to change the lives of his fellow pirates.
3. When Huck gets tired, Jim takes half of his watch so Huck can get some sleep.
4. The duke prints a playbill that advertises Jim as a runaway slave. When people see them they will tie Jim’s
hands and feet, show them the playbill, and tell people they are turning Jim in for the reward.
5. The duke has no copy of Hamlet aboard the raft. He says he will need to recall it from memory.
6. The duke’s version is confusing because it is not Hamlet’s soliloquy. It contains jumbled lines from
several of Shakespeare’s plays, and it makes no sense.
7. The 70-year-old king with a bald head is assigned the role of Juliet.
8. Colonel Sherburn is tired of being harassed and threatened by the drunken Boggs.
9. He gives Boggs until one o’clock to quiet down. If he doesn’t, he will kill him.
10. The townspeople call for Boggs’ daughter, but she arrives after he has been shot by Sherburn.
Chapters 22 and 23 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Who faces the mob single-handed?
2. Who is Twain satirizing in this situation?
Chapters 20 and 21 Questions and Answers 50
3. What attracts the crowd at the showing of The Royal Nonesuch?
4. Why do the king and the duke leave during the third performance?
5. Approximately how many people attend the Shakespearean performance?
6. Why do the king and duke change to another show?
7. What does Huck mean when he says that all kings are “rapscallions”?
8. What does Jim do for Huck that shows he cares about him?
9. Who is Jim homesick for in these chapters?
10. What disease caused Jim’s daughter’s deafness?
1. Sherburn steps onto his porch and criticizes them for being cowards. He then orders them to leave.
2. Twain is satirizing the lynch mobs who come like cowards after dark wearing masks. He thinks mob
activity is cowardly.
3. The caption at the bottom of the handbill that reads “ladies and children not admitted.”
4. The king stays on the raft, and the duke escapes after he has collected the money. They leave to avoid the
anger of the townspeople who have been swindled out of their money.
5. Twelve people attend the performance. They laugh inappropriately and leave before it is over.
6. Since their primary purpose is to make money they decide to do a show that will attract more people.
7. He does not have much respect for royalty. He sees them as insensitive men who generally get their own
8. Jim often serves his watch for him at night so Huck can get some sleep.
9. Jim is homesick for his wife and children and is afraid he will never see them again.
10. Scarlet fever left her with a hearing impediment.
Chapters 24 and 25 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What does the duke do so that Jim does not need to be tied up in the wigwam all day?
2. Who gives the king the information about the Wilks family?
3. What are the names of the three Wilks sisters?
4. Who meets the king, the duke, and Huck when they reach the shore in the yawl?
Chapters 22 and 23 Questions and Answers 51
5. How do the Wilks girls react when they see the king and the duke?
6. How does the crowd react when the king names several of Peter Wilks’ closest friends and invites them for
7. Does the duke say anything to the townspeople?
8. Why do the king and duke give the Wilks sisters $415 of their own money?
9. Who is Dr. Robinson? How does he feel about the king and the duke?
10. What does Dr. Robinson think about the king’s English accent?
1. The duke paints his face and other parts of his body blue so he will look like a sick Arab rather than a
runaway slave.
2. The king gets all his information from a “young country jake” who is taking a trip to South America. They
pick him up and take him to the steamboat.
3. The three Wilks sisters are Mary Jane (19 years old), Susan (15), and Joanna (14).
4. About two dozen people meet them at the boat dock, but the news travels fast and soon the streets are
flooded with curiosity seekers.
5. They welcome their long-lost uncles with open arms, since they have never seen their real uncles and don’t
know what they look like.
6. The crowd is impressed. The fact that he knows them by name gives him credibility as the true brother of
Peter Wilks.
7. No, he does not say anything because he is supposedly the deaf brother of Peter Wilks.
8. They find that the money hidden in the basement is short $415. They want to make sure they will not be
suspected of stealing.
9. Dr. Robinson is a well-respected citizen in town. He thinks the king and the duke are frauds and imposters
who should be driven out of town.
10. Dr. Robinson thinks the king’s imitation of an Englishman is the worst he has ever heard.
Chapters 26 and 27 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why do the women insult their own food?
2. What incident in the novel convinces Huck that he must get the money back to the Wilks girls?
3. In what way will Huck get the money from the king and the duke?
Chapters 24 and 25 Questions and Answers 52
4. Where does Huck hurriedly hide the money? Why does he choose this particular spot?
5. How do the king and the duke justify selling the property so soon after the funeral?
6. Where do the slaves go when they are sold?
7. Why does the king sell the slaves the day after the funeral? How does the duke feel about this?
8. Why does the duke wish he had kept the slaves?
9. How do the Wilks girls react when the slaves are sold?
10. Why doesn’t Huck tell on the king and the duke when they allow the slaves to be separated from their
1. The women make degrading comments about their food so that they can elicit compliments from their
2. The kindness of Mary Jane and Susan, and Joanna’s apology for her accusations while they are eating in
the kitchen convinces Huck that these girls do not deserve to be defrauded by the king and the duke.
3. Huck decides that stealing the money would be the safest course of action.
4. Huck hides the money in Peter Wilks’ coffin. His plan to take the money outside is thwarted when the door
is locked. When he hears Mary Jane’s footsteps, he quickly slips the bag of gold under the coffin lid and
5. The king and duke promise to take the Wilks girls home to England to live with them. The king is in a
hurry to get back because his congregation needs him back in the pulpit.
6. The two sons were sold up the river to Memphis and their mother was sold down the river to New Orleans.
7. The king meets a slaveholder and makes a quick sale. The duke feels that it was “quick sales and small
profits.” He is proven right when they later assume that the slaves took their six thousand dollars with them.
8. The duke admires the con game that he thinks they have played when they pretended to be sorry to leave
but took the money with them. He feels he could have made a fortune with their acting talents.
9. The girls’ hearts are broken to see them sold away from the town and separated from their families.
10. Huck comes close to telling on the king and the duke when he sees the reaction of the girls, but he knows
they will soon be back since the sales are illegal.
Chapters 28 and 29 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why does Huck tell Mary Jane the truth?
2. Why does Hines think that the king is an imposter?
Chapters 26 and 27 Questions and Answers 53
3. Why does Huck ask Mary Jane to leave town?
4. How does Huck tell Mary Jane that he put the bag of money in the coffin?
5. How does Levi Bell propose to find who the true Wilks brothers are?
6. What were the misfortunes of the Wilks brothers?
7. How do they finally solve the problem of identification?
8. Why don’t they believe Huck when he says he’s English?
9. On his way to the raft what does Huck see in the middle of town?
10. Why did Hines let go of Huck’s hand allowing him to get away?
1. He sees how sad she is about the separation of the slave families and tells her they will soon be back.
2. He saw the king in a canoe the day before the funeral.
3. Huck asks Mary Jane to leave so her face will not reveal the truth about the king and the duke after Huck
has told her the whole story.
4. He does not have the heart to tell her in person so he writes her a note and asks her not to read it until he has
5. He tries to compare their handwriting to letters Peter Wilks has received from his brothers, but it does not
work because William Wilks has broken his arm and cannot write.
6. Their baggage has been dropped off in the wrong town, and one of the brothers has broken his arm.
7. By exhuming the body of Peter Wilks to find out who is right about the tattoo on his chest.
8. Huck does not have an English accent.
9. Huck sees the candle burning in Mary Jane’s window.
10. Hines was so surprised to see the bag of gold in the coffin that he forgot himself and let go of Huck’s
Chapters 30 and 31 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What do Huck and Jim do as soon as Huck gets back to the raft?
2. Who do the king and the duke blame for stealing the money?
3. Who captured Jim and sold him?
Chapters 28 and 29 Questions and Answers 54
4. Where did Jim go after he was sold?
5. What does Huck tell the duke about the raft when he meets him in town?
6. Why can’t Huck pray when he tries?
7. Why does Huck tear up his letter to Miss Watson?
8. Why is Chapter 31 a climactic chapter in the novel?
9. How does Huck feel about his decision to “buy Jim out of slavery”?
10. Why doesn’t Huck tell on the king and duke when he has a chance?
1. Huck and Jim hurriedly take off down the river in the raft to try to get away from the king and the duke.
2. They blame each other for stealing the money.
3. Jim was captured by the king. He sold him for $40.
4. Jim was sold to the owner of the Phelps Plantation.
5. He tells him the raft and Jim have both been stolen.
6. He can’t pray because his heart isn’t right. He says, you “can’t pray a lie.”
7. He wants to turn Jim in, but he can’t go through with it.
8. It is the ultimate moral decision for Huck to help Jim to freedom.
9. Huck feels that he is wicked for doing so, but he values Jim’s friendship above everything else.
10. He wants to be rid of them and have nothing more to do with them.
Chapters 32 and 33 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why does Huck go to the Phelps Plantation?
2. Who is Huck mistaken for at the Phelps Plantation?
3. How does Huck feel when he learns that Aunt Sally thinks he is Tom Sawyer?
4. How does Tom react when Huck tells him he is going to steal Jim from the Phelps Plantation?
5. Who is the stranger that arrives at the Phelps Plantation after Huck? What does the stranger call himself?
6. Who informs Mr. Phelps about the king and the duke and their Royal Nonesuch show?
Chapters 30 and 31 Questions and Answers 55
7. What happens to the king and the duke as a result?
8. What do Huck and Tom do to try to warn the king and the duke about possible trouble ahead?
9. How does Huck feel when he sees what the townspeople have done to the two frauds?
10. Why does Huck’s conscience bother him concerning the incident with the king and duke?
1. Huck goes to the Phelps Plantation to try to find Jim.
2. Huck is mistaken for Tom Sawyer.
3. Huck feels relieved because he knows he can easily impersonate Tom. He can also give information about
Tom’s family.
4. Tom agrees to help Huck with his plan to steal Jim, but Tom already knows that Jim has been freed by Miss
5. The stranger who arrives at the Phelps Plantation is Tom Sawyer who is disguised as Sid Sawyer, Tom’s
brother. Since Huck is Tom and Tom is Sid, they are supposedly brothers.
6. Jim informs Mr. Phelps and Burton of the scandalous Royal Nonesuch show. Burton tells the townspeople.
7. The king and duke are tarred and feathered and run out of town.
8. Huck and Tom sneak out of the house to try to warn the fraudulent pair about their impending danger, but it
is too late. They watch the tarred and feathered couple being ridden out of town on a rail.
9. It makes him feel sick to see what the townspeople have done to them. He says “human beings can be
awful cruel to one another.”
10. It is central to Huck’s character to feel that he is to blame even though he hasn’t done anything wrong.
He makes a harsh statement against the wisdom of trusting one’s conscience.
Chapters 34 and 35 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How does Tom finally guess Jim’s whereabouts?
2. Why is Huck in awe of Tom’s intelligence?
3. Why does Huck think Tom’s plan for freeing Jim is better than his?
4. What is Huck’s first and most practical plan of escape?
5. What are some of Huck’s other plans of escape for Jim?
6. Why does Tom want to saw the bedpost leg in half?
Chapters 32 and 33 Questions and Answers 56
7. Why does Huck think Tom’s plan is foolish?
8. Where does Huck get the bedsheets for the rope ladder?
9. What plan do they finally adopt to free Jim?
10. How long does Tom think it should take to dig Jim out?
1. Tom sees a slave bringing a plate of food with watermelon on it to a hut on the Phelps Plantation.
2. Huck thinks Tom is exceptionally intelligent because he thought of the fact that dogs do not eat
watermelons. Tom reasoned that there must, therefore, be a person in the hut.
3. Tom’s plan is more romantic and has more style.
4. Huck suggests stealing the key from Mr. Phelps, unlocking the door to the hut, and escaping down the river
on his raft.
5. Huck suggests that Jim crawl out of the high window. He also suggests sawing out as he had done earlier in
the novel.
6. He wants to saw it in half so he can slip the chain through it and release Jim.
7. Huck thinks it is foolish because one could simply slip the chain off the bedpost without sawing it in half.
8. He takes them from the clothesline.
9. They decide to dig him out with case knives.
10. Tom thinks it should take thirty-seven years. They decide they will only imagine it took them thirty-seven
Chapters 36 and 37 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. When the case knives are too slow for digging, what do Huck and Tom decide to use instead?
2. When Tom goes upstairs to bed what does he pretend the stairs are?
3. According to Tom why do the witches come to visit Nat at breakfast?
4. How many new shirts has Aunt Sally made in the last two years?
5. Why does Uncle Silas find the missing spoon in his pocket?
6. What two missing items have been stolen off of the clothesline?
7. What do Huck and Tom bake into the witch’s pie?
Chapters 34 and 35 Questions and Answers 57
8. What do Huck and Tom do to confuse Aunt Sally about her silverware?
9. Why do they need a bedsheet?
10. Why do Tom and Huck want to confuse Aunt Sally?
1. They decide to change to pick and shovel because it will be faster.
2. Tom pretends the stairs are a lightning rod.
3. Tom says the witches are hungry, and he will bake them a witch pie to satisfy their appetite at breakfast.
4. Aunt Sally has made two shirts in the last two years. If she makes a new one for Uncle Silas it will be her
third shirt in the last two years.
5. Because Tom puts it there earlier. Jim is supposed to take it from Uncle Silas on one of his visits.
6. The bedsheet and the shirt are taken from the clothesline.
7. They bake a rope ladder into the witch’s pie.
8. They add and remove the spoons alternately to confuse the count.
9. They need a bedsheet to make a rope later.
10. The boys want to confuse Aunt Sally so she will not keep such close watch over her belongings. They
want to use some of the items for their plan of escape. They are hoping she will not notice the missing items.
Chapters 38 and 39 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How were pens and saws made by Jim and Huck?
2. What does Tom decide to use for the coat of arms and the mournful inscriptions?
3. What does Jim threaten to do if Tom forces him to live with rattlesnakes?
4. What does Tom substitute for the rattlesnakes?
5. What animal bites him? What does he do with the blood?
6. How is Jim supposed to water his flower?
7. What happens to the rats under Aunt Sally’s bed? How does Aunt Sally feel about them?
8. Where do the garter snakes go after they crawl out of the bag in the boys’ bedroom?
9. Why does Jim have trouble sleeping at night?
Chapters 36 and 37 Questions and Answers 58
10. What does Tom’s last anonymous letter reveal?
1. Pens were filed out of candlesticks, and the saw was made out of a case knife.
2. Tom decides to use the grindstone at the mill.
3. Jim threatens to leave rather than risk his life with rattlesnakes.
4. Tom substitutes garter snakes for rattlesnakes. Jim agrees even though he is not happy about that either.
5. Whenever a rat bites Jim, he uses the blood to write on his shirt that is used as a journal.
6. Jim is given an onion to water his flower with his own tears.
7. The little Phelps child opens the cage door and lets the rats out. They run all over the bedroom and frighten
Aunt Sally.
8. The garter snakes are spread all over the house. They hang from the rafters and drop into plates and on
people’s necks.
9. Jim cannot sleep because the rats, snakes, and spiders are bothering him all day and all night.
10. The letter says that a “desperate gang of cutthroats” will come to steal Jim exactly at midnight.
Chapters 40 and 41 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Where has Huck forgotten the butter for the boys’ lunch?
2. Who does Huck find in the “setting-room?”
3. What happens to Tom’s britches when the three are escaping to the river and the raft?
4. Why don’t the dogs pay any attention to Huck, Jim, and Tom?
5. What has happened to Tom during the escape?
6. What does Huck tell the doctor about Tom’s bullet wound?
7. Why does the doctor leave Huck on the shore when he goes to take care of Tom?
8. Where does Huck sleep all night?
9. What is going on at the Phelps Plantation when Huck gets there?
10. Why doesn’t Huck leave the house at night to check on Tom at the raft?
1. Huck has left the butter in the cellar.
Chapters 38 and 39 Questions and Answers 59
2. Huck finds fifteen farmers in the “setting room.” Each of them is carrying a gun for protection.
3. Huck’s britches are caught on a splinter on the top rail of the fence. When he pulls loose, the splinter snaps
back and makes a noise.
4. The dogs know them and are friendly.
5. Tom was shot and has a bullet lodged in his leg.
6. Huck tells the doctor Tom was dreaming and kicked his gun, and it shot him in the leg.
7. The doctor tells Huck the canoe is not safe for two people.
8. Huck sleeps on a lumber pile.
9. The house is still full of people telling exaggerated stories about what happened the night before.
10. Huck swears that “he wouldn’t do nothing to grieve her anymore.”
Chapters 42 and 43 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. When Tom finally comes home who accompanies him?
2. How do the men treat Jim as a runaway slave?
3. What do they threaten to do to Jim to teach the other slaves a lesson?
4. Why don’t they do what they feel like doing to Jim?
5. What is Jim’s punishment when he gets back to his cabin?
6. When Tom wakes up what does he reveal to Aunt Sally?
7. Who arrives to surprise her sister?
8. Who first reveals Jim’s freedom? How is Jim freed?
9. What happened to Pap?
10. What does Huck plan to do at the novel’s end?
1. The doctor, Jim, and the men attending to Jim, accompany Tom to his home.
2. They curse him and give him an occasional blow on the head.
3. They threaten to hang Jim to teach the other slaves a lesson.
Chapters 40 and 41 Questions and Answers 60
4. They are afraid Jim’s owner might come back to claim him, and they would be obligated to pay for the loss
of property.
5. He is chained to the floor with both legs, and his arms are also chained. He is put on a diet of bread and
6. Tom reveals the whole plan of Jim’s escape to Aunt Sally.
7. Aunt Polly arrives from St. Petersburg and surprises everyone including her sister, Aunt Sally.
8. Tom reveals Jim’s freedom to Huck and Aunt Sally. Jim was freed by Miss Watson in her will.
9. Pap was found dead by Jim in the floating house earlier in the novel. Jim does not tell Huck until the end of
the novel.
10. Huck plans to “light out for the territory ahead of the rest” so Aunt Sally will not try to adopt him and
“sivilize” him.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Essential Passages
Essential Passages by Character: Jim
Essential Passage 1: Chapter 2
As soon as Tom was back we cut along the path, around the garden fence, and by and by
fetched up on the steep top of the hill the other side of the house. Tom said he slipped Jim's
hat off of his head and hung it on a limb right over him, and Jim stirred a little, but he didn't
wake. Afterwards Jim said the witches bewitched him and put him in a trance, and rode him
all over the state, and then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on a limb to show
who done it. And next time Jim told it he said they rode him down to New Orleans; and, after
that, every time he told it he spread it more and more, till by and by he said they rode him all
over the world, and tired him most to death, and his back was all over saddle-boils. Jim was
monstrous proud about it, and he got so he wouldn't hardly notice the other niggers. Niggers
would come miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than any nigger in
that country. Strange niggers would stand with their mouths open and look him all over, same
as if he was a wonder. Niggers is always talking about witches in the dark by the kitchen fire;
but whenever one was talking and letting on to know all about such things, Jim would happen
in and say, “Hm! What you know 'bout witches?” and that nigger was corked up and had to
take a back seat. Jim always kept that five-center piece round his neck with a string, and said
it was a charm the devil give to him with his own hands, and told him he could cure anybody
with it and fetch witches whenever he wanted to just by saying something to it; but he never
told what it was he said to it. Niggers would come from all around there and give Jim
anything they had, just for a sight of that five-center piece; but they wouldn't touch it, because
the devil had had his hands on it. Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got stuck up
on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches.
Huck, bored and lonely at the widow’s home, takes off in the night with Tom Sawyer, looking for some
adventures. They come across Jim, Miss Watson’s slave, asleep under a tree. Knowing how superstitious Jim
is, Tom decides to play a prank on the slave. He removes his hat and hangs it on a nearby tree. When Jim
Chapters 42 and 43 Questions and Answers 61
wakes up and sees his hat, he is convinced that it was witches who put it there. In the future, he makes up a
wild tale in which he was transported all across the state in a trance and then returned to the tree where the
witches hung up his hat. He later elaborates it further, stating that he was carried down to New Orleans, and
then even further until at last his account includes a trip clear around the world. His supposed encounter with
witches then gives Jim a new sense of importance around the slave community, which he relishes. Huck
proclaims that Jim was almost ruined as a servant because he became so proud of having seen the devil and
ridden with witches. Jim’s gullibility and superstitious nature thus are set up for further development in the
rest of the story.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 15
It had clouded up pretty dark just after I got on to the raft, but it was clearing up again now.
“Oh, well, that's all interpreted well enough as far as it goes, Jim,” I says; “but what does
these things stand for?”
It was the leaves and rubbish on the raft and the smashed oar. You could see them first-rate
Jim looked at the trash, and then looked at me, and back at the trash again. He had got the
dream fixed so strong in his head that he couldn't seem to shake it loose and get the facts back
into its place again right away. But when he did get the thing straightened around he looked at
me steady without ever smiling, and says:
“What do dey stan' for? I'se gwyne to tell you. 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 ag'in, 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. Dat truck
dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em
Then he got up slow and walked to the wigwam, and went in there without saying anything
but that. But that was enough. It made me feel so mean I could almost kissed his foot to get
him to take it back.
It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but
I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterward, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks,
and I wouldn't done that one if I'd 'a' knowed it would make him feel that way.
Huck and Jim are traveling down the Mississippi, intending to reach Cairo, Illinois, and then head up the Ohio
River to the northern states and freedom. However, a dense fog arises, and Jim and the raft drift from the
bank, stranding Huck on shore. When the fog clears, Huck finds the raft and quietly sneaks on board,
surprising Jim. Huck, however, still taking advantage of Jim’s gullibility, convinces him that he had been on
the raft the whole time. However, when Jim spots the leaves and twigs on the raft, he realizes that Huck has
tricked him. Jim does not see this as an innocent prank, but as a hurtful lie from someone whom he had
trusted. In a show of humility, Huck eventually apologizes to Jim for having lied and vows that he will not
play any more mean tricks on him.
Essential Passage 3: Chapter 23
Essential Passages by Character: Jim 62
I went to sleep, and Jim didn't call me when it was my turn. He often done that. When I
waked up just at daybreak he was sitting there with his head down betwixt his knees, moaning
and mourning to himself. I didn't take notice nor let on. I knowed what it was about. He was
thinking about his wife and his children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick;
because he hadn't ever been away from home before in his life; and I do believe he cared just
as much for his people as white folks does for their'n. It don't seem natural, but I reckon it's
so. 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 s'pec I ain't ever gwyne to
see you no mo', no mo'!” He was a mighty good nigger, Jim was.
But this time I somehow got to talking to him about his wife and young ones; and by and by
he says:
“What makes me feel so bad dis time 'uz bekase I hear sumpn over yonder on de bank like a
whack, er a slam, while ago, en it mine me er de time I treat my little 'Lizabeth so ornery. She
warn't on'y 'bout fo' year ole, en she tuck de sk'yarlet fever, en had a powful rough spell; but
she got well, en one day she was a-stannin' aroun', en I says to her, I says:
“‘Shet de do’.'
“She never done it; jis' stood dah, kiner smilin' up at me. It make me mad; en I says ag'in,
mighty loud, I says:
“‘Doan’ you hear me? Shet de do'!'
“She jis stood de same way, kiner smilin' up. I was a-bilin'! I says:
“‘I lay I make you mine!’
“En wid dat I fetch' her a slap side de head dat sont her a-sprawlin'. Den I went into de yuther
room, en 'uz gone 'bout ten minutes; en when I come back dah was dat do' a-stannin' open yit,
en dat chile stannin' mos' right in it, alookin' down and mournin', en de tears runnin' down.
My, but I wuzmad! I was a-gwyne for de chile, but jis' den—it was a do' dat open innerds—jis'
den, 'long come de wind en slam it to, behine de chile, ker-blam!—en my lan', de chile never
move'! My breff mos' hop outer me; en I feel so—so—I doan' know howI feel. I crope out, all
a-tremblin', en crope aroun' en open de do' easy en slow, en poke my head in behine de chile,
sof' en still, en all uv a sudden I says pow! jis' as loud as I could yell. She never budge! Oh,
Huck, I bust out a-cryin' en grab her up in my arms, en say, ‘Oh, de po’ little thing! De Lord
God Amighty fogive po' ole Jim, kaze he never gwyne to fogive hisself as long's he live!' Oh,
she was plumb deef en dumb, Huck, plumb deef en dumb—en I'd ben a-treat'n her so!”
Jim and Huck, now accompanied by two men who present themselves as a king and a duke, involve the two
travelers in their conniving schemes to swindle money from the townspeople along the river. Jim is not
impressed by his first run-in with royalty, declaring that they must all be “rapscallions,” and not to be trusted.
He is disturbed by their dishonesty, as he was disturbed by Huck’s lying to him previously as a prank. Jim
tells Huck about his family, whom he intends to buy into freedom once he escapes to the north. His sensitivity
is revealed as he transparently tells a story that puts him in a negative light. His daughter, Elizabeth, was a
one-year-old when she contracted scarlet fever. One day, after she recovered, he told her to shut the door. The
child seemed to completely ignore his repeated commands, so he slapped her on the side of her head. Later,
when she is still crying, Jim prepares to discipline her further when the door slams shut in the wind. Elizabeth
Essential Passages by Character: Jim 63
does not even flinch, and then Jim realizes that she is deaf. His shame and grief for his unintended cruelty to
his daughter still haunts him.
Analysis of Essential Passages
Although The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is frequently criticized as a racist work, Mark Twain in fact
uses the character of Jim to rewrite—to unwrite—negative representations of African Americans in literature.
Through the eyes of Huck, Jim moves from being a racial stereotype of the Negro slave toward being an
actual human being, someone with depths of character and a sensitive nature. Jim can thus arguably be
described as the beginning of a more realistic, nuanced portrayal of African American characters in American
Here is how Twain develops his portrayal of Jim. In the beginning of the novel, Jim is a pure caricature of the
type that epitomized the Jim Crow years after the Civil War. His deep superstitions and over-the-top gestures
make him a comic figure and the butt of Tom Sawyer's and Huck Finn’s practical jokes. Tom Sawyer
represents the ignorant white view of the time period, while Huck shows the beginnings of a more modern
sensitivity, taking less sport in pranking Jim than Tom does. Yet even Huck at this point still sees Jim simply
as a slave; the idea of Jim being a real person has not yet occurred to Huck. It is only as the pair go down the
river, engaging in meaningful conversation and mutual support, that Huck’s views change.
When Jim is hurt by Huck’s lying to him, the boy begins to see the full depth of Jim’s personality.
He understands that Jim has been genuinely grieving and worrying about him. Jim is a true friend, although
this level of friendship is yet beyond Huck's conception. The light begins to dawn, however, and though it
takes some time, Huck does manage to humble himself and apologize to Jim.
Twain could very well have portrayed Jim as a flawless, angelic, “Uncle Tom” type of person, incapable of
being mean-spirited. Yet Jim is honest with Huck when he tells about his daughter, Elizabeth. The
short-temperedness of the normal parent is portrayed as Jim disciplines his young daughter for disobedience.
Yet the obvious heartbrokenness of Jim as he realizes that his child is deaf and that he has beaten her without
cause reveals his humanity.
Twain is adept at pulling the nineteenth-century reader to a new level of understanding. Rather than
immediately portraying Jim “as good as a white man,” he starts where the average reader of the time was,
gradually showing more and more of Jim's humanity. Long before it is revealed that Miss Watson freed him,
ironically making him a free man for most of the trip, Twain frees Jim from the chains of the stereotype to
make him an equal of Huck Finn, capable of the full range of emotions, thoughts, and dreams as any white
man. Ultimately, Twain's novel advances the steady, though agonizingly slow, march toward civil rights in the
twentieth century.
Essential Passages by Theme: Moral Law vs. Civil Law
Essential Passage 1: Chapter 8
“How do you come to be here, Jim, and how'd you get here?”
He looked pretty uneasy, and didn't say nothing for a minute. Then he says:
“Maybe I better not tell.”
“Why, Jim?”
Essential Passages by Theme: Moral Law vs. Civil Law 64
“Well, dey's reasons. But you wouldn' tell on me ef I 'uz to tell you, would you, Huck?”
“Blamed if I would, Jim.”
“Well, I b'lieve you, Huck. I—I run off.”
“But mind, you said you wouldn' tell—you know you said you wouldn' tell, Huck.”
“Well, I did. I said I wouldn't, and I'll stick to it. Honest injun, I will. People would call me a
low-down Abolitionist and despise me for keeping mum—but that don't make no difference. I
ain't a-going to tell, and I ain't a-going back there, anyways. So, now, le's know all about it.”
Huck has escaped his father by going to Jackson Island. After a few days, Huck notices signs of some other
inhabitants on the island. Frightened that it might be his father, he hides for a few hours and then goes in
search of who it might be. He comes across a figure sleeping by a fire and discovers it is Jim, Miss Watson’s
slave. The two join forces and prepare a meal. Huck explains to Jim his deception in order to escape. He then
asks Jim how it is that he is alone on the island. Jim confesses that he has run away, which had been a crime in
the slave states prior to the Civil War. He begs Huck not to turn him in. Huck has promised he would not and
he intends to stick by it. This promise is problematic because Huck can be held liable for not reporting a
runaway slave. However, at this first instance of a moral choice, Huck refuses to turn Jim in to the authorities,
even if he is called a “low down Abolitionist,” a term that is of high contempt in the South.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 16
“Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on'y white genlman dat ever kep' his promise to ole
Well, I just felt sick. But I says, I got to do it—I can't get out of it. Right then along comes a
skiff with two men in it with guns, and they stopped and I stopped. One of them says:
“What's that yonder?”
“A piece of a raft,” I says.
“Do you belong on it?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Any men on it?”
“Only one, sir.”
“Well, there's five niggers run off to-night up yonder, above the head of the bend. Is your
man white or black?”
I didn't answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn't come. I tried for a second or two
to brace up and out with it, but I warn't man enough—hadn't the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was
weakening; so I just give up trying, and up and says:
Essential Passages by Theme: Moral Law vs. Civil Law 65
“He's white.”
As Jim and Huck approach Cairo and freedom, Huck becomes more bothered by what he is doing. On the one
hand, Jim is fast becoming his friend. Jim has confided in Huck, relating to him his plans to buy his family
eventually. On the other hand, Huck feels bound by the law, which states that it is a crime to aid an escaping
slave. As Huck prepares to go to shore to ascertain their exact location, he decides his conscience is leading
him to report Jim to the authorities. He feels the heaviness lifting somewhat; he is feeling that he is doing the
right thing. Almost sensing the choice that Huck has before him, Jim mentions that he can count on Huck,
who has promised not to tell of Jim’s location. These words are still in Huck's ears when he approaches men
who are looking for escaped slaves. When the men ask Huck if the other man on the raft is white or black,
Huck is presented with a moral choice, more insistent than before. With some hesitation, he chooses once
again to stick to his promise to Jim. He goes against the law and tells the men that his friend is white.
Essential Passage 3: Chapter 31
So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn't know what to do. At last I had an idea;
and I says, I'll go and write the letter—and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the
way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of
paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:
Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr.
Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.
I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I
knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there
thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost
and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and
I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight,
sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I
couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see
him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see
him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the
swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey,
and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at
last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so
grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he's got
now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to
decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my
breath, and then says to myself:
“All right, then, I'll go to hell”—and tore it up.
Huck has learned that the king has sold Jim back into slavery on the Phelps Plantation for forty dollars. Aside
from the anger that the king would do such a thing, Huck has been brought to the final point where he must
deal with his conscience. He feels terrible for “stealing another person’s property,” namely Jim, who as a
Essential Passages by Theme: Moral Law vs. Civil Law 66
slave was indeed Miss Watson’s “property.” He has tried to pray for forgiveness so that he can be the kind of
boy he knows he should be, but his prayers seem empty and unheard. Thinking that he cannot pray because of
his “sin” of breaking the Fugitive Slave Law, he writes a letter to Miss Watson, informing her of Jim’s
whereabouts. Immediately he feels washed and clean of sin, until he thinks about the adventures that he and
Jim had on the river. He remembers the many times that Jim saved his life and watched over him, even
sacrificing his own comfort for Huck. He remembers that Jim claimed that Huck was his best friend, and only
friend, in the whole world. Finally making his final moral choice, Huck tears up the letter, proclaiming that he
is willing to go to hell if that is what it takes to see Jim on the road to freedom.
Analysis of Essential Passages
Throughout the novel, Huckleberry Finn is routinely faced with a choice: to follow the civil law and turn Jim
in as a runaway slave, or to follow the moral law, which instructs him that it would be wrong to betray a
friend. In the antebellum South, following the civil law (embodied in the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793) was
akin to moral law. To do right was to follow the law. In this case, the law states that Huck is obligated to
notify the authorities of the location of an escaped slave. To fail to do so makes him liable to prosecution; to
aid in a slave's escape was even more serious. Huck is not ready to seriously consider that disobeying the law
would be the right thing to do.
Initially, Huck is more than willing to keep Jim’s escape a secret, even if he should be called a “low down
Abolitionist.” However, this is not yet a moral choice, but rather the choice for adventure. The thrill of
defying authorities is the benefit that he sees, not taking a stand against slavery. It becomes an uneasy choice
throughout the course of his adventures, as time and time again he is confronted with the possibility that he is
committing a sin by breaking the law.
Huck has little use for organized religion, but he still has a sense of “sin,” though it is seriously skewed in its
interpretation. He views God as just one more authority figure, bent on making sure that His laws and man’s
laws are adequately followed. Huck makes little distinction between the two, and he definitely has not
developed his philosophy to the point that civil law and moral law may in fact be in conflict. Although he
does not consciously realize this, he does identify the difficulty of the choice.
As Jim is finally sold back into slavery on Phelps Plantation, Huck has come to the crucial point in the
dilemma. He must make a final choice. At first, he feels relieved that he has stepped onto the side of civil law.
Huck has written a letter to Miss Watson informing her of the location of her escaped slave, but while doing
so, he remembers the humanity of Jim throughout their adventures. The love that Jim showed to Huck begins
to tip the balance. Though Huck does not come to the point of separating moral law from civil law, he
nevertheless recognizes that moral law is in fact a higher law. If breaking the civil law is a sin, resulting in his
eternal condemnation, he is willing to accept it. He chooses moral law and refuses to betray his friend. Huck
chooses love over law.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Characters
Aunt Polly
Tom Sawyer's guardian. She arrives at the Phelps's farm and reveals Tom and Huck's true identities.
Aunt Sally
See Mrs. Sally Phelps
During his travels with the King and Duke in "Arkansaw," Huck meets Boggs, a drunk in Bricksville. Boggs
continually curses at townspeople, and despite several warnings, he provokes the wrath of Colonel Sherburn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Characters 67
and is killed by him.
Widow Douglas
The Widow Douglas has adopted Huck and attempts to provide a stable home for him. She sends him to
school and reads the Bible to him. Although at first Huck finds life with Widow Douglas restrictive,
eventually he gets "sort of used to the widow's ways, too, and they warn't so raspy on me." Later, when Huck
refers to her, she represents all that is good and decent to him. Nevertheless, at the close of the novel Huck
decides to "light out for the Territory" instead of returning to her home.
The Duke
On their journey down the Mississippi, Huck and Jim pick up two con men who claim to be descendants of
royalty. The Duke is a young, poorly dressed man of about thirty. Although they had never met before, the
King and Duke soon join forces to concoct a number of scams to play on the innocent inhabitants of the
various towns along the riverbanks. Even though he is aware of their true characters, Huck plays along—he has
little choice, since the two men are stronger and can turn Jim in at any time. Eventually, however, Huck
betrays them when they scheme to cheat the Wilks sisters out of their inheritance. The King and Duke later
turn Jim in for a meager reward. The men later get their reward when they are tarred and feathered by an
angry crowd. With these two characters, Twain ridicules the aristocratic pretensions of some Americans.
Huck Finn
See Huckleberry Finn
Huckleberry Finn
The narrator and hero of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the title character, the fourteen-year-old son
of the town drunk who was introduced in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. At the end of that book, Huck was
adopted by the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson, who brought him to live in town where he could
attend church and school. But at the beginning of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, we learn that their
attempts to "sivilize" him have been only partially successful. Huck learns to read and write, but he continues
to climb out of his window at night to meet up with Tom Sawyer's gang.
Huck's life in town is abruptly ended when his father returns and kidnaps him, hoping to lay his hands on
Huck's fortune. But Huck escapes by faking his own death, and he heads to Jackson's Island. There he meets
up with Jim, Miss Watson's slave, who has run away because of her threat to sell him "down the river." The
two of them embark on a journey down the Mississippi River and live a life of freedom on the raft, which has
become their refuge from society. On their trip, Huck confronts the ethics he has learned from society that tell
him Jim is only property and not a human being. By this moral code, his act of helping Jim to escape is a sin.
Rather than betray Jim, though, Huck decides, "All right, then, I'll go to hell." Huck learns to decide for
himself in various situations the right thing to do.
In the last third of the book, Huck defers to Tom Sawyer, whose outlandish schemes to free Jim direct the
action. Huck is no longer in charge, and his moral quest appears to have been abandoned. But once Jim is
freed, Huck decides he will "light out for the Territory" to escape the civilizing influence of another mother
figure, this time Tom's Aunt Sally. For some critics, this decision redeems Huck from the charge that he has
allowed Tom to distract him from discovering his inner code of ethics. To others, it means that Twain sees no
hope for civilization to redeem itself: because it cannot rid itself of fundamental failures like slavery, someone
like Huck must escape its influence altogether.
Pap Finn
Huck's father, Pap, is an irredeemable drunk who schemes to get Huck's fortune away from him. When he
returns to find Huck living at the Widow Douglas's and going to school, he accuses Huck of trying to be better
than his father. Pap kidnaps Huck and brings him to a cabin in the woods where he beats his son and confines
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Characters 68
him to their shack. Pap also submits Huck to his drunken tirades against a free black man, reflecting the
attitudes poor southern whites had about blacks who had the right to vote and were highly educated. Shortly
after Huck escapes, Pap is killed, although Huck does not learn this until the end of the book.
The Grangerfords
Huck is taken in by the Grangerfords after the raft is broken up by a larger boat on the river. The family is
wealthy and Huck is impressed by their gaudily decorated home, although the reader is aware of their shallow
faithfulness to ideals of gentility and decorum. Their feud with the Shepherdsons, based on a brutal, senseless
code of honor, makes Huck "sick." He leaves after one of the Grangerfords's daughters runs off with one of
the Shepherdson boys, and most of the men in the family are killed in the ensuing battle.
Buck Grangerford
The youngest son of the Grangerford family. He is Huck's age, but is killed in the feud with the Shepherdsons.
Huck "haint ever heard anything" like how Buck swears after missing an opportunity to kill Harney
Shepherdson. Nevertheless, he cries when he discovers Buck's body, "for he was mighty good to me."
Emmeline Grangerford
One of the Grangerfords's daughters, who died in adolescence and left behind a large number of sentimentally
morbid poems and drawings that Huck admires. Her family tells Huck, "She warn't particular; she could write
about anything . . . just so it was sadful."
Jim, a runaway slave who has escaped from his owner, Miss Watson, for fear of being sold to a plantation in
New Orleans, is Huck Finn's companion as they travel on a raft down the Mississippi river. He has been
recognized by critics as a complex character, at once a superstitious and ignorant minstrel-show stereotype but
also an intelligent human being who conveys more depth than the narrator, Huck Finn, is aware of. As their
journey progresses, however, Huck does grow to see Jim as more than a stereotype, despite comments like,
"he had an uncommon level head for a nigger." Jim confronts Huck's prejudice when he scolds Huck for
trying to play a trick on him without taking his feelings into consideration. Pointing to some leaves on the raft,
he tells Huck, "dat truck dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes
'em ashamed." On their journey, Huck becomes aware of Jim's humanity and decides he will assist Jim in his
quest to become free.
In the last third of the book, Huck enlists the help of Tom Sawyer to help free Jim, only to learn at the end that
Tom knew all along that Jim had been freed by Miss Watson. In this section, critics have argued, Jim is once
again cast as a shallow caricature of a gullible slave, and the novel's serious theme of race relations is reduced
to a farce. But other critics have seen a consistency of character in Jim throughout the book, as a slave who
wears the mask of ignorance and docility as a defense against white oppression, occasionally giving Huck
(and the reader) glimpses behind the mask. Forrest G. Robinson has argued that Jim learns Huck "is quite
unprepared to tolerate the full unfolding of the human being emergent from behind the mask," and so the real
Jim retreats in the last third of the book to ensure that Huck will continue to help him. But according to
Chadwick Hansen, Jim is never a "fully-rounded character" in his own right; rather he serves the function of
making Huck confront his conscience and overcome society's influence.
The King
On their journey down the Mississippi, Huck and Jim pick up two con men who claim to be descendants of
royalty. The King is a bald, grey-bearded man of about seventy years. Although they had never met before,
the King and Duke soon join forces to concoct a number of scams to play on the innocent inhabitants of the
various towns along the riverbanks. Even though he is aware of their true characters, Huck plays along—he has
little choice, since the two men are stronger and can turn Jim in at any time. Eventually, however, Huck
betrays them when they scheme to cheat the Wilks sisters out of their inheritance. The King and Duke later
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Characters 69
turn Jim in for a meager reward. The men later get their reward when they are tarred and feathered by an
angry crowd. With these two characters, Twain ridicules the aristocratic pretensions of some Americans.
Mrs. Judith Loftus
A sympathetic woman whom Huck meets while he is dressed up like a girl. She sees through his costume, but
inadvertently warns Huck that her husband is on his way to Jackson's Island to capture Jim.
Mrs. Sally Phelps
Tom Sawyer's aunt. When Huck arrives on the Phelps farm, they are expecting Tom, so Huck pretends to be
their nephew, while Tom pretends to be his brother, Sid. She good-naturedly scolds "Sid" for pretending to be
a stranger and then kissing her unasked.
Reverend Silas Phelps
Tom Sawyer's uncle. When Huck arrives on the Phelps farm, they are expecting Tom, so Huck pretends to be
their nephew, while Tom pretends to be his brother, Sid. Phelps appears to be a kindly, good-natured, and
trusting man, but he is holding Jim prisoner while waiting for his master to reclaim him.
Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer picks up where he left off in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by continuing to lead the other
boys in imaginative games based on his reading of romantic adventure literature. But in this novel, his antics
are much less innocent and harmless. At the beginning of Huck Finn, he provides comic relief in Huck's
otherwise straight-laced life at the Widow Douglas's. But his reappearance at the end has troubled many
critics. When Tom finds out that Huck is going to free Jim, he wholeheartedly takes up the challenge, creating
elaborate schemes to free the man when he could just tell the family that Jim has already been freed by Miss
Watson. Neither Huck nor Jim approve of Tom's "adventures," although they feel compelled to submit to his
authority in such matters. Many critics have noted the thoughtless, even cruel nature of Tom's games, as they
make Jim's life miserable and terrorize Aunt Sally. But Tom is ultimately punished for his forays into fantasy;
during Jim's escape he is shot and seriously wounded.
Colonel Sherburn
A Southern aristocrat who kills a drunk, Boggs, in the town of Bricksville, in "Arkansaw." He endures
Boggs's taunts and gives him a warning before shooting the man in front of his own daughter. The town
threatens to lynch him, but his scornful speech about the cowardice of the average American man and the
mobs he participates in breaks up the crowd.
Judge Thatcher
He keeps Huck's money safely out of Pap's hands by "buying" Huck's fortune for a dollar. Later he and the
Widow Douglas petition a higher court to take Huck away from his father, but the court's "new judge" says
families shouldn't be separated.
Miss Watson
The Widow Douglas's sister and Jim's owner. She represents a view of Christianity that is severe and
unforgiving. It is her attempts to "sivilize" Huck that he finds most annoying: "Miss Watson she kept pecking
at me, and it got tiresome and lonesome." When Jim overhears her admit the temptation to sell him down
South despite her promise not to do so, he runs away. Her guilt at this turn of events leads her to set Jim free
in her will.
Wilks sisters
The sisters—Mary Jane, Susan, and Joanna— are orphaned when their guardian uncle, Peter, dies. The King
and Duke impersonate their long-lost uncles in an attempt to gain their inheritance. Their trusting and
good-hearted nature in the face of the King and Duke's fraud finally drives Huck to take a stand against the
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Characters 70
two scoundrels.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Themes
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn both Huck and the runaway slave Jim are in flight from a society
which labels them as outcasts. Although Huck has been adopted by the Widow Douglas and been accepted
into the community of St. Petersburg, he feels hemmed in by the clothes he is made to wear and the models of
decorum to which he must adhere. But he also does not belong to the world Pap inhabits. Although he feels
more like himself in the backwoods, Pap's drunken rages and attempts to control him force Huck to flee. At
the end of the book, after Jim has been freed, Huck decides to continue his own quest for freedom. "I reckon I
got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me,
and I can't stand it. I been there before." Huck is clearly running from a civilization that attempts to control
him, rather than running in pursuit of something tangible. He is representative of the American frontiersman
who chooses the unknown over the tyranny of society.
As a slave, Jim has likewise been denied control over his own destiny, and he escapes to prevent being sold
down to New Orleans, away from his wife and children. But Jim is chasing a more concrete ideal of freedom
than Huck is. For Jim, freedom means not being a piece of property. Jim explicitly expresses his desire to be
free as they approach Cairo and the junction with the Ohio River: "Jim said it made him all over trembly and
feverish to be so close to freedom." But after they pass Cairo in the confusion of a foggy night, Jim's quest for
freedom is thwarted and he must concentrate on survival. After Jim's capture, Tom and Huck attempt to free
him in a farcical series of schemes that actually make escape more difficult and dangerous. Huck indicates
that a simple removal of the board that covers the window would allow Jim to escape, but Tom declares that is
too easy. "I should hope we can find a way that's a little more complicated than that, Huck Finn," Tom says.
After Jim escapes and is recaptured, Tom reveals that he has been free all along. Miss Watson had died and
left him free in her will. The irony of freeing a free man has concerned many critics, who believe Twain might
have been commenting on the failure of Reconstruction after the Civil War.
Huck's main struggle in the book is with his conscience, the set of morals with which he has been raised. As
they begin to approach Cairo, and Jim looks forward to his freedom, Huck says his conscience "got to
troubling me so I couldn't rest." He rationalizes that he didn't lure Jim away from his owner, but "conscience
up and says every time, 'But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you 'could 'a' paddled ashore
and told somebody.'" During this scene he wakes up to the fact that he is helping a slave gain freedom,
something he has been brought up to believe is wrong. So in an attempt to relieve his guilt, he sets off for
shore, telling Jim he is going to find out if they have passed Cairo, but really intending to turn Jim in. When
he meets up with two men looking for a runaway slave, he confronts a true test of conscience, and fails, in his
eyes. The two men ask him about the man on board, and Huck protects Jim by making up an elaborate tale
about his father who is dying of smallpox, a highly contagious disease. When he returns to the raft, Jim
rejoices in his cover-up, but Huck instead is "feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well I had done
wrong." He decides that he is naturally bad, and that he only did what made him feel better. Not being able to
analyze his actions, Huck fails to recognize that he has taken a stand against a morally corrupt society. Later,
after Jim has been turned in by the King and Duke, Huck must again wrestle with his conscience as he decides
to play an active role in freeing Jim. Up until this point he had only protected Jim from discovery; now he
must help Jim escape, an even more serious crime. But rather than let his "conscience" guide him, Huck
listens to his heart, which tells him that Jim is a human being, not property. He turns his back forever on
society's ethics and decides he'd rather "go to hell" than turn his back on Jim. Through Huck, Twain attacks
that part of the conscience that unquestioningly adheres to society's laws and mores, even when they are
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Themes 71
Race and Racism
Probably the most discussed aspect of Huck Finn is how it addresses the issue of race. Many critics agree that
the book's presentation of the issue is complex or, some say, uneven. No clear-cut stance on race and racism
emerges. Despite the fact that Huck comes to respect Jim as a human being, he still reveals his prejudice
towards black people. His astonishment at Jim's deep feelings for his family is accompanied by the statement,
"I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n. It don't seem natural, but I
reckon it's so." And even after he has decided to help free Jim, Huck indicates that he still does not see black
people overall as human beings. When Aunt Sally asks "Tom Sawyer" why he was so late in arriving, he tells
her the ship blew a cylinder head. "Good gracious! Anybody hurt?" she asks. "No'm. Killed a nigger." "Well,
it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt," she responds. As some critics have pointed out, Huck never
condemns slavery or racial prejudice in general but seems to find an exception to the rule in Jim.
Nevertheless, the fact that Huck does learn to see beyond racial stereotypes in the case of Jim is a profound
development, considering his upbringing. He lived in a household with the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson
where slaves were owned. And Pap's rantings over a free black man indicate his deep racial prejudice. When
confronted with the fact that a free black man was highly educated and could vote, Pap decides he wants
nothing to do with a government that has allowed this to happen. He wants the free man, whom he calls "a
prowling, thieving, infernal, white-shirted free nigger," to be sold at auction. In other words, all black people
are slaves, white man's property, in his eyes. Such are the views on race with which Huck has been raised. But
there is no agreement as to what Twain's message on the subject of race is. While some critics view the novel
as a satire on racism and a conscious indictment of a racist society, others stress the author's overall
ambivalence about race. Critics have had a difficult time reconciling the stereotypical depictions of Jim and
other slaves in the book with Huck's desire to free Jim.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Style
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was a breakthrough in American literature for its presentation of Huck
Finn, an adolescent boy who tells the story in his own language. The novel was one of the first in America to
employ the child's perspective and employ the vernacular—a language specific to a region or group of
people—throughout the book. Many critics have characterized the smoothness of Huck's language as the most
unique feature of the book. Lionel Trilling sees Twain's creation of Huck's voice as a measure of his genius.
He writes that Huck's language has "the immediacy of the heard voice." Shelley Fisher Fishkin has suggested
that Twain created Huck's style of speech from that of a real boy, an African-American child that he met in
the early 1870s, combined with dialects of white people he had heard as a child. But Huck's unique
perspective is that of a lower-class, southern white child, who has been viewed as an outcast by society. From
this position, Huck narrates the story of his encounters with various southern types, sometimes revealing his
naivete and, at other times, his acute ability to see through the hypocrisy of his elders. Many readers have
commented on Huck's unreliability as a narrator, though, especially in his admiration of the gaudy taste
exhibited by the Grangerfords and his inability to see through his own prejudices when he tells Aunt Sally that
no one was hurt on board the ship, although a "nigger" was killed.
Another distinctive aspect of the novel is its setting. Because it takes place when slavery was at its height in
America, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn addresses in a roundabout way the prejudices of southern
whites that had laid the foundation for slavery and were still omnipresent in the Reconstruction South of
Twain's time. The discussion of slavery in the text, then, takes on a new meaning for a post-Civil War
audience. It forced them to confront the legacy of slavery in spite of their eagerness to forget its devastating
impact and rid themselves of its curse. The physical setting of the novel, most specifically the river and the
raft, has also drawn the attention of critics. The Mississippi River itself serves as a kind of no-man's land in
the text, a place outside of society that is governed by different rules. The raft becomes a new world for Huck
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Style 72
and Jim, where they can be themselves and make up their own rules by which to live. On either side of the
river lies the shore, which represents a return to society. Significantly, it is Huck who makes excursions into
towns along the river banks for food, information, and fun. While Huck can be a kind of vagabond, travelling
from one place to another without being a part of society, Jim must hide on the raft, the only place where he
can be safe.
Burlesques, or parodies of elevated or serious forms of literature, were popular as far back as Shakespeare, but
they were also the favorites of working-class theatergoers in America starting in the 1840s. In America,
burlesques often poked fun at aristocratic types who were subjected to the lowly conditions of the American
city or frontier, and they extolled the virtues of a democracy over the pretensions of Europe's high society.
Burlesques also became associated with minstrel shows as they were incorporated into the latter in the 1850s.
Mark Twain is well known for his adept adaptations of burlesques in his works. In The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn he used the technique to critique the aristocratic pretensions of the King and Duke, and the
romantic fantasies of Tom Sawyer. In fact, the last third of the book descends into burlesque, according to the
novel's critics, as Tom's outlandish schemes to free Jim take center stage. In addition, some scenes between
Jim and Huck are modeled on burlesques, especially their conversation about Frenchmen, in which Jim subtly
outsmarts Huck, revealing the wisdom of the supposedly ignorant.
Realism and Regionalism
Mark Twain was a major contributor to the interconnected Realist and Regionalist movements, which
flourished from the 1870s to the 1920s. Realism refers to the insistence on authentic details in descriptions of
setting and the demand for plausible motivations in character's behaviors. Writers of the Regionalist
movement also adhered to these principles as they explored the distinct and diverse regions of post-Civil War
America that they feared were being swallowed up by a national culture and economy. Realist and Regionalist
techniques are exemplified in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by the specific and richly detailed setting
and the novel's insistence on dialect which attempts to reproduce the natural speech of a variety of characters
unique to the Mississippi Valley region. In addition, Huck's momentous decision to free Jim, even if it means
going to hell, is seen as a classic episode of Realist fiction because it demonstrates the individual's struggle to
make choices based on inner motivations, rather than outside forces.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Historical Context
The issue of slavery threatened to divide the nation as early as the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and
throughout the years a series of concessions were made on both sides in an effort to keep the union together.
One of the most significant of these was the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The furor had begun when
Missouri requested to enter the union as a slave state. In order to maintain a balance between free and slave
states in the union, Missouri was admitted as a slave state while Maine entered as a free one. And although
Congress would not accept Missouri's proposal to ban free blacks from the state, it did allow a provision
permitting the state's slaveholders to reclaim runaway slaves from neighboring free states.
The federal government's passage of Fugitive Slave Laws was also a compromise to appease southern
slaveholders. The first one, passed in 1793, required anyone helping a slave to escape to pay a fine of $500.
But by 1850, when a second law was passed, slaveowners had become increasingly insecure about their
ability to retain their slaves in the face of abolitionism. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law increased the fine for
abetting a runaway slave to $1000, added the penalty of up to six months in prison, and required that every
U.S. citizen assist in the capture of runaways. This law allowed southern slaveowners to claim their fugitive
property without requiring them to provide proof of ownership. Whites and blacks in the North were outraged
by the law, which effectively implicated all American citizens in the institution of slavery. As a result, many
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Historical Context 73
who had previously felt unmoved by the issue became ardent supporters of the abolitionist movement.
Among those who were outraged into action by the Fugitive Slave Law was Harriet Beecher Stowe whose
novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) galvanized the North against slavery. Dozens of slave narratives—first hand
accounts of the cruelties of slavery—had shown white Northerners a side of slavery that had previously
remained hidden, but the impact of Stowe's novel on white Northerners was more widespread. Abraham
Lincoln is reported to have said when he met her during the Civil War, "So you're the little lady who started
this big war." White southerners also recognized the powerful effect of the national debate on slavery as it was
manifested in print, and many southern states, fearing the spread of such agitating ideas to their slaves, passed
laws which made it illegal to teach slaves to read. Missouri passed such a law in 1847.
Despite the efforts of southerners to keep slaves in the dark about those who were willing to help them in the
North, thousands of slaves did escape to the free states. Many escape routes led to the Ohio River, which
formed the southern border of the free states of Illinois and Indiana. The large number of slaves who escaped
belied the myths of contented slaves that originated from the South.
Although The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes place before the Civil War, it was written in the wake of
Reconstruction, the period directly after the Civil War when the confederate states were brought back into the
union. The years from 1865 to 1876 witnessed rapid and radical progress in the South, as many schools for
blacks were opened, black men gained the right to vote with the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870,
and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 desegregated public places. But these improvements were quickly
undermined by new Black Codes in the South that restricted such rights. White southerners felt threatened by
Republicans from the North who went south to help direct the course of Reconstruction. Most galling was the
new authority of free blacks, many of whom held political office and owned businesses. While prospects did
improve somewhat for African Americans during Reconstruction, their perceived authority in the new culture
was exaggerated by whites holding on to the theory of white superiority that had justified slavery.
Currier & Ives print of a riverboat titled "Wooding up on the Mississippi."
In response to the perceived threat, many terrorist groups were formed to intimidate freed blacks and white
Republicans through vigilante violence. The Ku Klux Klan, the most prominent of these new groups, was
formed in 1866. Efforts to disband these terrorist groups proved ineffective. By 1876, Democrats had regained
control over the South and by 1877, federal troops had withdrawn. Reconstruction and the many rights blacks
had gained dissipated as former abolitionists lost interest in the issue of race, and the country became
consumed with financial crises and conflicts with Native Americans in the West. Throughout the 1880s and
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Historical Context 74
1890s, new Jim Crow laws segregated public spaces in the South, culminating in the Supreme Court's
decision in the case Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which legalized segregation.
Minstrel Shows
As the first indigenous form of entertainment in America, minstrel shows flourished from the 1830s to the
first decade of the twentieth century. In the 1860s, for example, there were more than one hundred minstrel
groups in the country. Samuel Clemens recalled his love of minstrel shows in his posthumously published
Autobiography, writing, "If I could have the nigger show back again in its pristine purity and perfection I
should have but little further use for opera." His attraction to blackface entertainment informed The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where, many critics believe, he used its humorous effects to challenge the
racial stereotypes on which it was based.
Minstrel shows featured white men in blackface and outrageous costumes. The men played music, danced,
and acted burlesque skits, but the central feature of the shows was the exaggerated imitation of black speech
and mannerisms, which produced a stereotype of blacks as docile, happy, and ignorant. The shows also
depicted slavery as a natural and benign institution and slaves as contented with their lot. These stereotypes of
blacks helped to reinforce attitudes amongst whites that blacks were fundamentally different and inferior. The
minstrel show died out as vaudeville, burlesques, and radio became the most popular forms of entertainment.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Critical Overview
When it was first published, responses to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were fairly nonexistent until the
Concord Public Library in Massachusetts announced that it was banning the book from its shelves. This action
set off a public debate over the merits of the book. The most vocal were those who deemed the book to be
unsuitable for children, fearing their corruption by exposure to its lower-class hero. Howard G. Baetzhold
reports that beloved children's author Louisa May Alcott said about the book, "if Mr. Clemens cannot think of
something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses, he had best stop writing books for them." Critics who
demanded that literature be uplifting cited rough language, lack of moral values, and a disrespectful stance
towards authority as the book's faults. But some critics rallied behind the author and wrote reviews that
praised the book as a lasting contribution to American literature.
These early reactions are a fair indication of how the book has been received ever since. On the one hand,
respected scholars have claimed the book as the core text of an American literary canon, where it has enjoyed
a secure position since the 1950s. As Leo Marx claims, "Everyone agrees that Huckleberry Finn is a
masterpiece." H. L. Mencken went so far as to dub the novel "perhaps the greatest novel ever written in
English." Although some have questioned the formal coherence of the novel, arguing that the ending and
Tom's burlesque escapades disrupt the text's quest for freedom, the general consensus has emerged that The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most important works of American fiction ever written. But
despite this resounding stamp of approval from the nation's leading literary scholars, secondary schools
around the country have at various times questioned its suitability for students, even going so far as to ban the
book. Whereas detractors of the novel from the previous century had been primarily concerned with its lack of
decency and moral values, in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, the main concern of administrators,
parents, and librarians has become that it promotes racism and demeans African American children with its
extensive use of the word "nigger." Ultimately, the fear is that the complexity of the racial issues in the text
may be too much for schoolchildren to comprehend. As Peaches Henry explains, "Parents fear that the more
obvious aspects of Jim's depiction may overshadow the more subtle uses to which they are put."
Although in the past there have been sharp contrasts between the responses of scholarly and lay readers of The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the debate over the book's racial messages has more recently become the
center of debate amongst literary scholars as well. The crux of the controversy is whether or not the novel
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Critical Overview 75
presents an indictment of racism or simply reflects the generally accepted racist attitudes of the time period in
which it was written. For most critics, the issue boils down to the depiction of Jim. For some, Jim is nothing
more than a minstrel show stereotype, "the archetypal 'good nigger,' who lacks self-respect, dignity, and a
sense of self separate from the one whites want him to have," in the words of Julius Lester. In these critics'
eyes, Twain reveals his racism when he allows Tom to derail and hence belittle Jim's serious attempts to gain
freedom and Huck's efforts to overturn society's view of blacks as property. But to others, a subtle satire on
slavery and racism emerges from the text and takes precedence over any stereotypical depictions of
African-Americans. Eric Lott argues, for example, "Twain took up the American dilemma (of race) not by
avoiding popular racial presentations but by inhabiting them so forcefully that he produced an immanent
criticism of them." According to Lott, the use of minstrel show stereotypes, exaggerated and ridiculous
depictions of whites's false perceptions of blacks, has the effect of "making nonsense out of America's racial
structures." Many critics agree with Lott, seeing the novel itself as a critique of the racism expressed by its
narrator, Huck.
For many critics, however, Twain's conscious intentions about racial messages are not the issue. They see
instead a variety of perhaps unconscious effects in the novel that point to new ways to understand the text's
complex evocation of America's racial predicament. For example, Forrest G. Robinson sees a depth to Jim
that he thinks previous scholars have missed. Jim is both the stereotypical "darky" and the complex human
being, wearing a mask of contentment and gullibility that represents the kind of prejudice whites have about
him as an African American. But behind the mask, the real Jim is a shrewd agent in his own defense. In
essence, Robinson argues that whether Twain was aware of it or not, Jim is a complex African American
character that reflects the situation of slaves at the time as they attempted to survive in a racist society. Such
readings draw attention to the complex ways the novel addresses, in Robinson's words, "the nation's most
painful and enduring dilemma." These readings accept Twain's ambivalence and contradictory responses to
the issue, rather than attempting to vilify the author or insulate him from accusations of racism. In a related
vein of argument, Peaches Henry declares that we may not be able to decide once and for all whether the
novel is racist or subversive, but the book deserves our attention because "[t]he insolubility of the race
question as regards Huckleberry Finn functions as a model of the fundamental racial ambiguity of the
American mind-set."
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Character Analysis
Huck Finn
Huck Finn is a loner, an adventurer, and the protagonist and narrator of the novel. We see the events of the
book through his eyes and learn as he learns about his world and his place in it. Huck is a no-nonsense boy
who rebels against the restraints of his society, both in word and in deed; part of his rebellion has racial
overtones, making this book controversial both at its time and today.
Huck is the 13-year-old son of St. Petersburg, Missouri’s town drunk, an abusive man who seems to care
little for anything but the bottle. After one beating too many, Huck finally leaves their shack on the banks of
the Mississippi River to find another world. But despite his “street smarts,” Huck is vulnerable to the
characters he meets on his journey down the river – only Jim, the escaped slave who is vulnerable in his own
way, treats Huck as an equal. The “schooling” Huck has received is spotty at best, unlike that of a Tom
Sawyer. Although the Widow Douglas tries to “civilize” him, it’s in Huck’s nature to be wild, at least
within the confines of his world. Out in the “real world,” Huck is forced to think for himself and make
difficult choices, often outthinking the adults who seem to be taking advantage of his youth and inexperience.
Huck’s youth is what enables him to get away with his actions and the change of attitude he undergoes in the
novel – an adult like Mark Twain couldn’t question his society and its morals without social stigma and
closed minds. Through the voice of a child, wild though he may be, Twain is allowed to challenge accepted
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Character Analysis 76
norms of power, race, religion and humanity in his society. Stealing Jim is a crime, yet freeing him, from
Huck’s perspective, is the right thing to do. When Huck lies to the slave-hunters he is forced to reevaluate his
position on lying – is it always wrong, or does the morality of helping Jim find a normal life make it all right?
Huck’s imperfections offer a model for readers – if he can resist “civilization” and become a fully realized
human being, perhaps we can, too. His questions become our own, and although he is very much a product of
his time, Huck is a symbol of sorts for the kind of future Mark Twain imagines.
Jim is a paradoxical figure in Huckleberry Finn – he is at once the weakest and the strongest character in the
novel. As an escaped slave, he is vulnerable to every aspect of society, even Huck, who helps him escape
from Miss Watson’s house. Jim is constantly on the run and at risk of being caught and returned to servitude,
so he must act accordingly with the role he has been given, at least until he can be free and return to his
On the other hand, Jim functions as the only true adult in the novel. His childish superstition conceals a true
intelligence and an understanding of the natural world, as evidence on Jackson Island. He is the only genuine
father figure Huck has, teaching him the ways of the world and sheltering him from danger – it is telling that
Jim obstructs Huck’s view of his “natural” father’s corpse and conceals the news from Huck until he feels
the boy is ready to know.
Jim is therefore a kind of role model – he is strong and determined despite a world that won’t allow him to
express his true feelings or live a free life. Jim teaches Huck about inner strength, and that people’s
differences are less important than their respect for each other as individuals.
Tom Sawyer
Tom moves from the forefront in the book bearing his name to a supporting player in Huckleberry Finn. He is
a dreamer to Huck’s realist – Tom’s prime purpose in the book seems to be convincing Huck to live a life
based on adventure books, when Huck’s true life is far more of an adventure story than those books could
ever tell. Tom helps Huck free Jim near the novel’s end with his adventure-book tricks, but his presence in
the novel seems to be primarily as a foil – Tom is a product of the very “civilized” society Huck is escaping
from, and eventually learns to reject.
Widow Douglas/Miss Watson/Judge Thatcher
The wealthy sisters and the judge are examples of one life Huck doesn’t want to lead – the Widow could be
said to represent proper society, Miss Watson, religion, and the judge, punishment. Their influence is
something both Huck and Jim must overcome to grow.
Huck’s drunken, abusive father is the example of the other life Huck doesn’t want to lead – society’s
complete outcast. Pap is a failure as a father and as a white man, and whether he knows it or not Huck aspires
to more. Pap is a role model for what could happen to Huck if he doesn’t give in to the more “civilized”
forces or undertake his journey.
The Duke/The Dauphin
This pair of con men, supposedly the deposed Dauphin (King) of France and Duke of Bridgewater, are
Huck’s teachers for a significant part of his journey. They represent a life on the road (and sometimes on a
raft) in which anything can happen and innocents are taken advantage of. Huck and Jim realize the two are
scoundrels, but they are helpless to do anything for fear of being given over to “authority figures” – in fact,
the “nobility” sell Jim to a local farmer before being tarred and feathered themselves. Society’s vengeance
on the pair show Huck that there are good aspects to being “civilized,” if only in working together to
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Character Analysis 77
eliminate a threat to that society’s well-being.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Essays and Criticism
Huckleberry Finn: An Overview
Told in the voice of its first-person narrator, the central themes of Mark Twain's The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn necessarily reflect the values, interests and concerns of an affable but unruly adolescent
who is, by his own account, a petty thief, an inveterate idler, and a liar to boot. In Huck's vernacular
vocabulary, the key evaluative word is "comfortable." At any given point in his story, Huck appraises his
situation by the degree to which he feels comfortable. As Twain manipulates it, "comfortable" is a multivalent
term. On the one hand, Huck clearly wants to be free of external restraint, of work, and of punishment for his
misdeeds. Capture and rescue serve as a recurrent pattern within the novel's plot. At the same time, Huck
wants to be rid of the pangs of his own conscience, particularly the ironic guilt that he experiences as he
becomes increasingly involved in helping the runaway slave Jim attain freedom. Ultimately, Twain's unlikely
hero moves toward the adoption of a standard that enables him to resolve his misgivings on this count,
embracing a variation of the Golden Rule. In the course of his narrative, Huck develops the capacity to place
himself in the shoes of other people. This is, however, an imperfect solution because many of the people
whom he encounters along the Mississippi are con artists, gullible victims, or outright hypocrites.
The connection between being comfortable and being free from established authority is established at the
outset of Twain's book as Huck finds himself rankling under the care of the Widow Douglas and Miss
Watson. Although he appreciates his foster parents desire to raise him as a conventionally "good" boy, he is
uncomfortable with their program to "sivilize" him. Huck attaches value to education, religion, and
middle-class manners, but he resists the confinements of school and church, of wearing respectable clothes
and being reminded to sit up straight at the dinner table. In response to the continuous "ecking of his
benevolent, self-appointed parents, Huck seeks refuge in Tom Sawyer's gang of robbers. But he quickly
becomes bored with the imaginary freedom that being part of the gang offers to him.
When his Pap arrives in St. Petersburg and essentially kidnaps his son, Huck finds himself free of all these
"sivilizing" restraints. Despite his captivity at the hands of a cruel task-master, he initially takes to the
freedom that Pap's position outside of society provides to him, recalling that "it was kind of lazy and jolly,
laying off comfortable all day, smoking and fishing, and no books or study" (p.21). Yet Huck soon finds
himself the object of his drunken Pap's hickory switch, and escapes from the arbitrary punishments of the
cabin by faking his own murder. On Jackson Island, he is once again free but his alliance with Jim forces him
to take flight anew, entering into the "world elsewhere" of rafting along the river. Nevertheless, this form of
freedom brings him (and Jim) into contact with charlatans, and the need to escape from the clutches of the
King and the Duke. At the novel's end, Huck still seeks comfort in an illusory freedom that may lie
somewhere that he has never been. Fearing that Tom's Aunt Sally will try to "sivilize" him, he vows "to light
out for the Territory ahead of the rest" (p.263). In contrast to Jim, who conceives freedom in positive terms,
feeling "trembly and feverish" as they approach they approach the free northern state of Illinois, Huck sees
freedom in terms of the absence of external compulsion.
Even if Huck were able to achieve a state of comfortable liberty, he finds himself liable to another type of
constraint, one that makes him even more uncomfortable than external coercion, the pangs of his own
conscience. While he and Tom scheme to arrange Jim's escape from Phelps farm, Huck proclaims, "it don't
make no difference whether you do right or wrong, a person's conscience ain't got no sense, and just goes for
him anyway. If I had a yaller dog that didn't know no more than a person's conscience does, I would poison
him" (p.194) Despite his surface amorality, Twain's misfit lad periodically experiences twinges of guilt. He
easily surmounts his sense of guilt while watching friends search for his corpse in the wake of his "murder."
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Essays and Criticism 78
And he is able to rationalize the borrowing of farmer's crops, when Jim suggests that they should only steal a
few items, allowing him to declare that "we warn't feeling just right, before that, but it was all comfortable
now" (p.58).
The enduring source of Huck's internal discomfort stems from being "conscience" that by shielding Jim, he is
committing an offense against the slave's owner, Miss Watson. At a relatively early juncture in his adventures,
Huck's conscience accuses him with the thought, "What had poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could
see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say a single word?" (p.75). After the King and the Duke
sell Jim to the Reverend Phelps, Huck's feelings of guilt about Jim surface again. He writes a letter to Miss
Watson, apprising her of the whereabouts of her property, and recalls, "I felt so good and all washed clean of
sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life" (p.179). But Huck doesn't send this message, and by doing
so, he defies his conscience and, by his own lights, consigns himself to damnation, replying to his inner voice,
"'All right then I'll go to hell'---and tore it (the letter) up" (p.180). Huck shoves his guilt feelings aside, and
resolves to "steal" Jim out of slavery, but he is still convinced that this is a shameful course.
Although he does not acknowledge it as such, it is Huck's development of a higher standard than that of
contemporary mores that enables him to partially overcome the dictates of his conscience and act the part of a
"nigger-stealer." After tricking Jim into believing that he died in their raft's crash with a steamboat, Huck
experiences unexpected remorse. Seeing his companion alive, Jim is characteristically heartened, but he then
expresses his resentment at feeling grief while "all you wuz thinkin 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv
ole Jim wid a lie" (p.73). Huck apologizes to Jim, humbling himself to a nigger, because he empathizes with
his victim and puts himself in Jim's position. Gradually, Huck embraces the Golden Rule of doing unto others
as you would have them do unto you. The most explicit expression of this moral yardstick comes from Mary
Jane Wilks, a young woman whom Huck openly admires for having "sand." When Huck is caught in a blatant
lie, Mary Jane chastises his interrogator by demanding "How would you like to be treated so?" (p.147). This
remark clearly leaves a powerful impression on Huck, for he immediately decides to double-cross the King
and the Duke by re-stealing the gold that they have robbed from Mary Jane and her sister.
Huck's movement toward an ethical code is complicated by the superstitious gullibility of the adults around
him. He is himself a trickster in a world of ready-made victims, fools with whom he cannot identity lest he be
labeled a fool as well. Jim recognizes that "dese kings o' ourns is regular rapscallions; dat's jist what dey is;
dey's reglar rapscallions," but Huck sees nothing amiss here because "all kings is mostly rapscallions, as fur as
I can make out" (p.129). Watching the King and Duke "work" small-town crowds, Huck is more offended by
the credulity of the dupes than by the duplicity of the con artists. As the mountebanks pull the wool over the
family and neighbors of the late Peter Wilks, it is the responses of the victims, their slavish willingness to
believe, that Huck finds disconcerting, declaring that, "it was enough to make a body ashamed of the human
race" (p.137).
Twain furnishes Huck with ample cause to be ashamed of the human race, for many of the good adults whom
he encounters in his adventures are hypocrites. While Miss Watson extols the virtues of honesty, her promises
to Jim that she would never "sell him South" are evidently broken. The Reverend Phelps appears to be a
good-hearted and kindly soul, yet he purchases Jim with an eye toward receiving a reward from the slave's
rightful owner. Although Twain's Mississippi society is filled with such hypocrisy, it is in the feud between
the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons that the fundamental falseness of social interaction is most acutely
presented. Taken in by the Grangerfords, Huck is duly impressed by their wealth and respectability. But he
learns from Buck Grangerford that no one can recall "why the family is at war with the Shepherdsons." Huck
becomes part of the Grangerford clan, and recollects, "Next Sunday we all went to church. . . . The men took
their guns, so did Buck and kept them between their knees or stood them handy against the wall. The
Shepherdson's done the same. It was pretty ornery preaching---all about brotherly love, an such-like
tiresomeness. . . ."(p.93). The "admirable" figures in Huck's world overtly endorse Christian principles yet
hatred, greed, and fear often drive their actions. Even Huck's idol, Tom Sawyer, puts Jim through humiliating
Huckleberry Finn: An Overview 79
experiences for the ostensible end of "rescuing" him, knowing all the time that Jim is already a free man.
Whether slavery and race relations should be seen as an explicit theme of novel, they are at the heart of a
running critic controversy about the book and its author's intentions. Many modern readers have objected to
Twain's portrayal of Jim, who can be seen as superstitious, ignorant, and servile "Uncle Tom" Negro. At the
same time, Jim is one novel's most appealing adult characters in the book, a gentle and loyal individual, who
does not hate, cheat or trick anyone, who fears and evades violence but never commits any. There are also
intimations that Jim is wiser than he lets on to be, that he is able to con Huck into helping him. When the two
meet on Jackson's Island, Jim explains that he was forced to abscond from Miss Watson because he had
learned of her plans to "sell" him South. But he then adds, "she picks on me all de time, en treats me pooty
rough." (p.38). This statement is tailor-made to appeal to Huck's sensibility, for he too feels constantly
"pecked" by Miss Watson.
In the end, Twain sets Jim free from the shackles of slavery through the device of Miss Watson's will, but
Jim's wife and children remain in servitude, and Jim himself is still a "nigger" even in the eyes of those who
have sympathized with his plight. Whether Twain himself was a racist cannot be determined from the text.
Plainly Pap's form of racism is targeted for parody, an ignorant white man resenting the very idea of a "free
nigger" being able to read and write. Aunt Sally's relief at learning form Huck that only a "nigger" had been
killed in the steamboat crash is also qualified by a tone of ironic humor. But Huck himself appears to take Jim
as an exception to the rule that black people are inherently inferior to whites. He recognizes that Jim "cared
just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n" (p.131), but he still considers it a shame that the
"respectable" Tom Sawyer "stooped" to the business of helping to rescue Jim. Plainly, Twain's purpose in The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was not to present his opinion about broad social issues that continued to
confound people in his day, but to entertain them with an amusing, picaresque tale that touches upon timeless
subjects such as freedom as seen through the eyes of a highly particularized character.
Beyond the Popular Humorist: The Complexity of Mark
The popularity of the literary work of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, “ Mark Twain,” is a clearly known fact in
the history of American letters. Creator of two of the best loved heroes of this nation’s literature, Tom
Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the man from Hannibal, Missouri, nevertheless, might very well be described
as a challenge to those who would determine the bases for popular acceptance on the American literary scene.
Perhaps one of the more common interpretations given this matter is found in the following comment by
Hamlin Garland: “The people can never be educated to love the past. . . . Students may be taught to believe
they believe, the masses of American readers want the modern comment. They want the past colored to suit
their ideas of life. . . . There is small prophecy in it, after all. We have but to examine the ground closely . . .
we have but to examine closely the most naive and local of our novels, and the coming literature will be
foreshadowed there.” (FN1)
Certainly the appeal of Twain as a local colorist is beyond denial; the attraction of regional material, with its
consoling view of life and the charm of its novelty, is totally understandable. However, such an explanation of
the power of Mark Twain over generations of readers is, indeed, simplistic in the extreme. There is a texture
in the literary material of Mark Twain which, of necessity, invalidates easy resolutions. Initially, the warm and
spirited humanity of the writer issues from his pages; “The boys dressed themselves, and went off grieving
that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering what modern civilization could claim to have done to
compensate for their loss. They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of
the United States forever.” (FN2) However, later in his career, the writer treated similar situations in such a
manner as to bring out discordant values. The subject of Jim’s freedom, in The Adventures of Huckleberry
Beyond the Popular Humorist: The Complexity of Mark Twain 80
Finn, is a case in point:
“Him?” says Aunt Sally; “the runaway nigger: They’ve got him back, safe and sound, and
he’s in that cabin again, on bread and water, and loaded down with chains, till he’s claimed
or sold!” “They hain’t no right to shut him up . . . he’s as free as any cretur that walks this
earth! . . . Old Miss Watson died two months ago, and she was ashamed she was ever going to
sell him . . . and she set him free in her will.” “Then what on earth did you want to set him
free for, seeing he was already free?” “Sal, that is a question, I must say; and just like
women! Why, I wanted the adventure of it. . . ."(FN3)
Although the essentially humorous tone and colorful setting are not lost for a moment, Twain does manage to
introduce into this passage a very disturbing element. The injustice that characterizes Jim’s fate through the
course of the novel is inescapable. Huck frequently reflects upon the morality that demands Jim’s return to
his owner. The fact that the slave could have made good his escape, that he is, in point of fact, a free man, is
of no consequence to the crushingly ignorant standards that dictate the terms of man’s inhumanity to his
fellow creature.
Other works by Twain reveal a similar approach. The surface narrative maintains itself as a consistent and
flowing proof of the author’s strength, but there is an edge to the images depicted that is certainly discernible
as vivid satire to say the least. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, written in 1889, depicts the
modern sensibility transferred to a feudalistic society wherein the claims of chivalry and honor are seen as
shams and false displays. The hero becomes endeared to the heart of King Arthur by his feats of seeming
magic, which are actually the application of some of the more common principles of modern science being
applied to simple problems at opportune moments. The Boss, as he is termed, experiences life in a society in
which the value of the individual is dependent solely upon his lord; rights and dignities are privileges few
commoners can afford. During a particularly harrowing tour of Arthurian society, in which even the monarch
is himself shocked, the Boss reflects upon humanity at the site of a savage pillaging:
“The painful thing observable about all this business was the alacrity with which this
oppressed community had turned their cruel hands against their own class in the interest of
the common oppressor. This man and woman seemed to feel that in a quarrel between a
person of their own class and his lord, it was the natural thing for that poor devil’s whole
caste to side with the master….” (FN4)
The indictment of inhumanity and hypocritical reasoning is both direct and just. However, Twain’s vision
sees beyond this age of barbarity: “It reminded me of a time thirteen centuries away, when the ‘poor whites’
of our South who were always despised and frequently insulted by the slave-lords around them . . . were yet
ready to side with slave-lords in all political moves for the upholding and perpetuating of slavery. . . .” (FN5)
Although the charm and humor of this novel are never lacking, its depiction of life in an age of barbaric
custom strikes the modern reader with a sense of immediacy that is not to be dismissed. Indeed, it is
characteristic of Twain’s later, more mature work that an edge of cynicism touches most every scene. There
is not necessarily a distortion in any of this. The open-heartedness of his early materials is based primarily
upon an interpretation of the innate goodness and simplicity of the human character. With developing insights,
critical and stringent observations about the shortcomings and betrayals of that goodness are explicable. The
author’s disillusionment with men because of racial injustice should be noted primarily in reference to their
initial sense of equality. Twain’s growing sense of humanity is, perhaps, most effectively depicted in “The
Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.” The narrative is a simple recognition and affirmation that humanity has
within itself the seeds of its own destruction. More often than not, man will choose the easier way; there is
consolation in the fact that he has the resilience to stop and then retrace his steps.
Beyond the Popular Humorist: The Complexity of Mark Twain 81
There is in the writing of Mark Twain a complexity and sophistication that the term “local colorist” cannot
adequately sustain. His work is vividly American in its simplicity and its maturing disillusionment. “He wrote
books that have in them something eternally true to the core of his nation’s life.” (FN6)
1. Hamlin Garland, “Literary Prophecy,” Modern American Fiction: Essays in Literary Criticism, ed. A.
Walton Litz (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 31.
2. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (New York: The Heritage Press, Inc., 1936), p. 85.
3. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (New York: The Heritage Press, Inc., 1940), p. 340.
4. Mark Twain, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc.,
1960), p. 296.
5. Ibid. p. 298.
6. Jerry Allen, The Adventures of Mark Twain (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1954), p. 302.
Allen, Jerry. The Adventures of Mark Twain. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1954.
Garland, Hamlin. “Literary Prophecy.” Modern American Fiction: Essays in Literary Criticism. Ed. A.
Walton Litz. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963, pp. 25-31.
Spiller, Robert E. The Cycle of American Literature: A Brief History of American Writers and Writing. New
York: Mentor Books, 1961.
Twain, Mark (Samuel Langhorne Clemens). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: The Heritage
Press, Inc., 1940.
Twain, Mark (Samuel Langhorne Clemens). The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. New York: The Heritage Press,
Inc., 1936.
Twain, Mark (Samuel Langhorne Clemens). A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. New York:
Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc., 1960.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: History of
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been a source of controversy since its publication in 1884. It was
banned from many public libraries on its first appearance for being "trash." Although today it is widely
regarded as a—if not the—classic American novel, it still poses problems for its readers. Huckleberry Finn has
long been identified as expressing something essentially American: in the words of Bernard De Voto, "the
novel derives from the folk and embodies their mode of thought more purely and more completely than any
other ever written." In some ways, the debate about the Americanness of Huckleberry Finn reveals the larger
struggle to define American identity. Those who first condemned the novel as being "trash" objected to it on
grounds of both literary merit and racial, social, and economic class: they rejected its portrayal of a slave and
an uneducated, poor boy as the most typical kind of American citizens. The opposite point of view, which
celebrates the novel as an expression of the "folk," asserts its subject is the quintessential, or typical,
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: History of Controversy 82
American story characters without social advantages trying to "make good."
Twain creates the impression of American folk culture through his use of dialect and phonetic spelling, which
mimics speech, rather than writing. As he points out in his opening notice to the reader, different characters
use different dialects; in this world, where not everyone receives the same kind of education, people speak
differently from one another. Many critics read Huckleberry Finn as a lesson in the way that identity is
formed by social realities. They focus on the fact that Twain uses language to show that access to culture and
education defines character. Depending on how you read it, the spoken language can either make characters
more believable, complex, and therefore dignified, or it can make them seem merely uneducated, caricatured,
and "backward."
Twain's attempt to capture the sounds of vernacular (local) speech is part of the novel's realism, part of its
documentary quality. And yet, the novel also has elements of romance, which is the very opposite of realism.
For instance, Twain relies on unbelievable coincidences in his plot, like the fact that the Phelpses just happens
to be Tom Sawyer's relatives, and he just happens to be arriving on the same day that Huck comes to the farm.
Twain manages to merge elements of these two kinds of writing by using a third literary tradition to structure
his novel. This literary tradition is called the picaresque—the comedy of the road, the traveling adventure; only
here, instead of on a road, the journey takes place on a river. The episodes along the river suggest that the
Mississippi winds through a semi-wild frontier. Twain makes the American landscape a site of endless
adventures. The river, symbolizing both the power of nature and the inevitable passing of time, is what keeps
the raft, and the story, moving. This picaresque framework, although it is usually associated with romance,
makes the novel's realistic, documentary moments possible. As Huck and Jim move down the Mississippi,
they encounter a diverse swath of American society. Huck gives firsthand descriptions of feuding families, a
camp-meeting religious revival, a lynch mob, and other complex social phenomena. Twain connects the
picaresque structure, which leaves room for endless variation and adventures, with the endless variation of
America's inhabitants. As in his earlier novel, Life on the Mississippi, Twain draws on his own childhood
experience and his knowledge as a river man to give the book its convincing details. Samuel Clemens even
took his pseudonym, "Mark Twain," from his life on the river.
If Huckleberry Finn is the authentically American adventure story, it also explores one of America's most
lasting problems: racism. Many critics have questioned Twain's portrayal of "the nigger Jim." Twain's
consistent use of the word "nigger" is itself troubling to readers today. It is important to notice that Twain uses
a great deal of irony in general, and that what Huck thinks is not the same thing that Twain thinks. There are
two main questions here: does Twain simply use stereotypes? And if he does, does he do so in order to make
those stereotypes seem true, or to show them as false and oversimplified? On the one hand, Jim's humanity
makes him the novel's most appealing character. Jim fills a gap in Huck's life: he is the father that Pap is not;
he teaches Huck about the world and how it works, and about friendship. But on the other hand, parts of Jim's
character belong to a traditional stereotype of the "happy darky"—an imaginary portrayal of the slave as
simple, childlike, and contented. Although Jim runs away, he does not strike the reader as overtly "rebellious"
or dangerous. Jim never seems to suspect Huck's crisis of conscience about whether or not he should be
helping a slave to escape. And, instead of being angry with Tom Sawyer for the trick he plays at the end of the
novel, Jim is simply happy to take his forty dollars.
How we read Jim influences how we read the novel's primary structural "problem," its ending. One way of
thinking about this problem is to ask whether Huckleberry Finn seems to go in a line, or in a circle. On the
journey down the river, Huck learns that Jim has real feelings, recognizes his humanity, and vows not to play
any more tricks on him. If the novel is a bildungsroman—a narrative about a character coming of age—this is
the moment in which Huck learns his most valuable lesson. Huck seems to be traveling onward, in a line of
development. But the ending chapters seem to circle us back into the childlike, irresponsible world of boyish
adventure that Huck has supposedly left behind. The long and drawn out trick that Tom Sawyer plays on Jim
makes the reader doubt if any real development has taken place. Which side of the joke is Huck on? Even
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: History of Controversy 83
though he does not know that Jim has been freed, he lets Tom turn the escape into a game, and seems to feel
little, if any, remorse for toying with Jim's fate. He seems to have forgotten what he learned about the
importance of Jim's feelings. Finally, even though Jim is technically "free," he is not recognized as a man by
the other characters, or by the larger social world he inhabits. Toni Morrison argues that the novel needs Jim's
enslavement to make the other characters seem free by contrast. She explains, "freedom has no meaning to
Huck or to the text without the specter of enslavement, the anodyne to individualism; the yardstick of absolute
power over the life of another; the signed, marked, informing, and mutating presence of a black slave." At the
end of the novel, for instance, Huck plans to "light out for the Territory" in search of more adventures. But
Jim's wife and children are still slaves. Because of his racial identity in a racist society, Jim always remains
more confined than Huck does.
Writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn took Mark Twain several years. He began the project as a sequel
to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, as another children's book. But as he wrote, it became more complex; it
raises questions that make it a challenging book for readers of all ages. To understand the novel's complexity,
one has to take its dual historical context into account. Twain locates the action in the past, before the civil
war, and before the legal abolition of slavery. But much of the novel speaks to Twain's contemporary
audience, who lived during Reconstruction, a time when the South especially was trying to deal with the
effects of the Civil War. The "king" and "duke" owe something of their depiction to the post-Civil War
stereotype of carpetbaggers (a derogatory stereotype of Northerners come to prey on the defeated South). Jim
belongs, at least partially, to a postwar Vaudeville tradition of the "happy darky," played on stage by white
men in blackface, who used a parodied version of black dialect. This popular stereotype conveyed a white
nostalgia, and enacted an imaginary construction of the slave before Emancipation, before the
"disappointments" of Reconstruction. Twain tries to come to terms with this nostalgia, but whether he
critiques it, or indulges in it, is up for debate.
During his lifetime, Twain was best known for being a humorist, a user of irony and a writer of satire. In this
novel, he uses Huck as a relatively naive narrator to make ironic observations about Southern culture and
human nature in general. As usual, Twain finds a likely object of satire in religious fervor, in the cases both of
Miss Watson and of the visit the "king" pays to the camp-meeting. But the irony in Huckleberry Finn exists at
several levels of narration: sometimes Twain seems to aim his irony at Huck, while other times, Huck himself
is an ironic and detached observer. For instance, when the rascally "king" and "duke" come aboard the raft,
Huck tells the reader:
It didn't take me long to make up my mind that these liars warn't no kings nor dukes at all, but
just low-down humbugs and frauds. But I never said nothing, never let on; kept it to myself;
it's the best way; then you don't have no quarrels, and don't get into no trouble. If they wanted
us to call them kings and dukes, I hadn't no objections, 'long as it would keep peace in the
family, and it warn't no use to tell Jim, so I didn't tell him. If I never learnt nothing else out of
Pap, I learnt that the best way to get along with his kind of people is to let them have their
own way.
This passage ironically undercuts the way we think Huck has been relating to the two frauds; he does not, in
fact, "feel right and kind towards" them. In fact, the connections among the foursome on the raft are extremely
tenuous. Huck's choice of metaphor compounds the irony: he compares the two men to his father, and decides
to think of them as part of his "family," throwing the whole notion of "family" into an ironic light. Huck
thinks he can avoid "trouble" by pretending not to know that they are frauds, but trouble is all they bring.
Huck's decision to "let them have their own way" is wishful, because he really has no choice. Finally,
although Huck seems to condemn them, he recognizes them as liars partially because he is one himself—he
tricks people out of money on more than one occasion. This passage explicitly reminds us that Huck can
dissemble and pretend, just as Twain does in his writing. As readers of Huckleberry Finn, we are continually
challenged to locate the multiple objects of the novel's satire.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: History of Controversy 84
Twain's irony complicates the question of race and racism in the world of Huckleberry Finn. What the novel
make clear, though, as their journey continually separates and reunites Huck and Jim— white and black—is that
their fate is intertwined. Their destinies must be worked out in relation to each other. For Twain, that is the
great, and greatly troubled, American adventure.
Source: Pearl James, in an essay for Novels for Students, Gale, 1997. James is a doctoral candidate at Yale
Huck's Final Triumph
Throughout the book Huck's attitude toward the life around him is remarkably ambivalent. Though he clearly
is rebelling against respectability and civilization, he rebels because they make him uncomfortable and ill at
ease. He fights them by running away. When he can no longer abide the "pecking" of the Widow and Miss
Watson, and the privations they force upon him, he flees, but only to the rags and sugar-hogshead of the other
side of town. He does not need to go farther. In fact, he must stay within commuting distance of respectable
folk. And he quickly and easily returns when a lure is held up to him. The agent who entices Huck back from
rags to respectability is, of course, Tom Sawyer. Tom at this time clearly symbolizes Huck's ideal.
Tom seems to be a rebel. He battles the world around him. He attacks the status quo, and seemingly threatens
to overturn it. Yet his battles are all shams. If he ever overthrew his paper dragons, his crusading spirit would
collapse. He lives happily in his society. After the lark of playing battler, he always joyously returns to the
safety and security of Aunt Polly. This clash of danger and safety appeals to Huck, and it is epitomized in the
person of Tom. Huck will therefore make any sacrifice for his hero, even to giving up the comfort and
freedom he so immensely enjoys. Tom has saturated and captivated Huck's consciousness. Near or far he is
the older boy's evil genius.
But Huck is not satisfied or happy for long in his enslavement. Though he sees the world through Tom's
rose-colored glasses, and though his spontaneous reaction to any situation is usually Tom's, Huck is restive.
He is galled by his fetters and tries to break away. The fact is that he cannot live without Tom—or with him.
He seeks a modus vivendi [a manner of living] with Tom and his world, but cannot find it. Huck's victory over
this forced compromise constitutes one of the great achievements in the book.
Demonstration of Huck's ambivalence begins at the outset of the novel. Huck recounts how in Tom Sawyer he
was adopted by Widow Douglas, could not tolerate her "sivilizing" him and therefore ran away to his rags,
where he was "free and satisfied." But Tom lured him back with the promise that he could become a member
of the band of robbers. "So I went back," Huck states matter-of-factly. The close bond between the two boys
is further revealed when Miss Watson tries to get Huck, who is hell-bent, to reform and thus prepare for the
other destination; Huck is content with hell when Miss Watson assures him that Tom will be there too: "I
wanted him and me to be together."
But no sooner does Huck join the band of robbers than the two boys' incompatibility manifests itself and he
begins to drag his feet. After playing robber for a month, Huck resigns. He can no longer pretend that hogs are
"ingots" and turnips are "julery." He wants to see the "di'monds," A-rabs, and elephants. For his protests, Tom
calls him a "numskull," and "perfect sap-head." Huck's revulsion overcomes him, "I judged that all that stuff
was only one of Tom Sawyer's lies. It had all the marks of a Sunday school." Tom the romantic dreamer, the
sham adventurer, thus symbolizes everything that frightens Huck: St. Petersburg civilization, religion,
romantic literature. From this monster Huck flees.
Yet fly as he will, Huck cannot shake off Tom, who is a ghost that refuses to be laid. When Huck "kills"
himself to escape from Pap, he does it on Tom's terms. "I did wish Tom Sawyer was there, I knowed he would
Huck's Final Triumph 85
take an interest in this kind of business, and throw in the fancy touches ...." Again, on the night of the storm,
when Huck is trying to convince Jim to board the wrecked Walter Scott, the force that drives Huck aboard is
not the promise of loot—of "seegars" and "solid cash"—but the irresistible urge to imitate Tom. "I can't rest,
Jim, till we give her a rummaging. Do you reckon Tom Sawyer would ever go by this thing? Not for pie, he
wouldn't ... I wish Tom Sawyer was here."
Later, in Tennessee while the King and Duke play Peter Wilks' brothers, when Huck has adroitly maneuvered
Mary Jane away from the house and has satisfactorily lied to the other girls, he congratulates himself, with his
inevitable comparison: "I felt very good, I judged I had done it pretty neat—I reckon Tom Sawyer couldn't a
done it no neater himself." Still later, in Pikesville, when Huck discovers that the King has turned in Jim for
the sum of forty dollars, he decides to write home and have Jim's owner send for him. But he automatically
thinks of writing to Tom and having him tell Miss Watson where Jim is. The point is that in Huck's mind St.
Petersburg—that world—and Tom are one and the same, inseparable, with Tom the symbol.
With Tom so constantly and completely—and so heavily—on his mind, Huck naturally—and not
surprisingly—acquiesces in the deception when Aunt Sally mistakes him for Tom. Huck's first impulse has
always been to give in to Tom. Why should he not be flattered to be Tom? Indeed, discovering that he was
supposed to be Tom Sawyer "was like being born again," in the sense of being reborn into the world of St.
Petersburg and of Tom. "Being Tom Sawyer was easy and comfortable," Huck confesses immediately. Once
it is settled that Huck will be Tom and Tom will be Sid, the future looks rosy. Everything will be "easy and
comfortable." Huck relaxes completely, suspending his mental processes—becoming again the blind disciple.
For example, it is inconceivable that the Huck of the voyage, with his mind alerted for signs of Jim, could see
a slave enter an isolated cabin with food—part of it watermelon—and not suspect its purpose. Yet the
somnolent Huck does: "Well, it does beat all, that I never thought about a dog not eating watermelon. It shows
how a body can see and don't see at the same time."
But in Huck's acquiescence there immediately becomes manifest the old attraction-revulsion tug-of-war he
felt m St. Petersburg. And after the initial joy of being Tom has worn off, Huck begins to protest. In the old
environment, the last time the boys shared an adventure, it took Huck a month to break away. Now, however,
Huck's new nature shows through quickly. When he and Tom are concocting schemes for the release of Jim,
Huck gives his plan first, then sits back waiting for the "superior" one; when Tom springs his, Huck reflects
ironically: "I see in a minute it was worth fifteen of mine, for style, and would make Jim just as free a man as
mine would, and maybe get us all killed besides "
After this initial resistance, Huck protests each new detail of the plan, as the more mature person realizes the
absurdity of Tom's childish pranks. He protests, but he gives in each time. Each protest, in fact, is weaker than
its predecessor. In this increasing weakness lies Huck's downfall. His resistance—his maturity—is being
abraded. He is coming more and more under the mesmeric influence of Tom. Finally he capitulates
completely: "Anyway that suits you suits me," he says when Tom wants him to dress up like a servant-girl to
deliver the warning of the release of Jim.
Throughout the remainder of the evasion, Huck protests not at all. During the actual escape he apparently
enjoys himself. It is action, of course, instead of romantic theorizing, and therefore appeals to the pragmatic
Huck. But—far more significantly—Huck's new self is being subsumed under Tom's. (© So fast
has been the activity since Tom's arrival that Huck has not had a chance to be alone and to reflect, and it is
only when he has searched his soul through active thinking that his true self emerges. Now, caught up in
activity, he is becoming the old Huck again, so completely under the influence of Tom that he is ready to
"slide out" with Tom and Jim and "go for howling adventures amongst the Injuns, over in the Territory, for a
couple of weeks or two."
Huck's Final Triumph 86
At this point Huck is faced with the greatest crisis of his life. Once before he was confronted with a mighty
decision, when he had to choose between being respectable and returning Jim to Miss Watson, and being
himself, listening to the voice of his heart, not returning Jim—and going to hell. He chose the latter course, but
only after great soul-searching, in solitude and silence: "I ... set there thinking—thinking ... And went on
thinking. And got to thinking ...." In this even greater crisis if the new boy is to prevail over the old, clearly he
needs time to think and think. Luckily time is provided.
Source: Ray B. Browne, "Huck's Final Triumph," in Ball State Teacher's College Forum, Vol. 6, No. 1,
Winter, 1965, pp. 3-12.
The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn
At the beginning of the second chapter of Huckleberry Finn, we meet one of the most important characters in
the novel. "Miss Watson's big nigger, named Jim, was setting in the kitchen door. . . ." Jim is to play a role
second only to that of Huck in this novel, but the reader is seldom conscious at any one point of the extent of
Jim's importance. Even in Jim's biggest scenes, we more often than not come away thinking of Huck rather
than Jim. The main point I wish to make in this paper is that Jim is not merely a noble cause or an ignoble
foil, in either of which cases he would be more particularly important for the action episodes of the book than
he in fact is; he is rather what one might call a moral catalyst, and thereby of central importance in the
portrayal and illumination of the character of Huckleberry Finn. True, the action depends upon the presence of
the runaway slave, and from this status evolves the double search for freedom which Professor [Edgar
Marquess] Branch defines [in his The Literary Apprenticeship of Mark Twain (1950)] as the explicit theme of
the book: "Huck's story of his struggle to win freedom for himself and Jim." His role as the runaway slave
may certainly be argued as showing Jim's indirect importance to the varied action in the book, but it is my
thesis that Jim's primary function is to further the characterization of Huckleberry Finn: by his presence, his
personality, his actions, his words, to call forth from Huckleberry Finn a depth of tenderness and moral
strength that could not otherwise have been fully and convincingly revealed to the reader. For Mark Twain's
gift for characterization was, as Professor [Edward] Wagenknecht has observed [in his Mark Twain: The Man
and His Work (1935)], a very great "ability to evoke character, as distinct from constructing it."
It is Jim's openness, his unashamed dignity, that makes Huck's struggle with and conquest of his pride, that is,
his ashamed dignity, deeply moving and fully significant. We have seen earlier in the book touches of
gentleness in Huck, we have seen that he does not mean to hurt the feelings of the Widow Douglas, and later
we are to see him grieving that he has deceived and brought sorrow to Aunt Sally. But it is this incident [when
Huck lies to Jim] which, above all others, shows his concern about "hurting others" in its full meaning, as a
deep and affectionate respect for human dignity. We have seen and are to see this concern carried far beyond
respect for the visible and admirable dignity of Jim, the Widow Douglas, Mary Jane Wilks, and Aunt Sally, to
include respect for the besmirched if not invisible dignity of the Duke and Dauphin as, tarred and feathered,
they are ridden out of town astride a rail (Ch. XXXIII). And there is Huck's attempt to secure rescue for the
stranded murderers: "I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix I says to
myself, there ain't no telling but I might come to be a murderer myself yet, and then how would I like it?"
Professor Wagenknecht comments: "What a triumph of Christian humility! What a triumph of understanding
and imagination' It is Mark Twain's version of the generally misquoted and misattributed utterance of old John
Bradford, on seeing some criminals on the way to execution. 'But for the grace of God there goes John
Jim is a gentle and loyal person; he is not vengeful, he does not hate, he cannot cheat or trick another. He fears
and evades violence, but he does not commit violence—as do so many of the characters in this book, whether
as individuals or with the clan or mob. His most memorable speeches are characterized by an open honesty
and a deep capacity for unselfish love. We recall the wounded love for Huck that brought about Jim's angry
The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn 87
speech quoted above, and the love for his little deaf daughter in that other powerfully dramatic, though brief,
narration (Ch. XXIII). In a world peopled by Pap Finn, the Duke and the Dauphin, lynchers, feuders, and
murderers, Huck is almost constantly on the defensive. It is when he is alone with Jim in the secure little
world of the raft drifting down the Mississippi that Huck hears a voice of love that makes sense in a world of
hatred, and can reply from his own heart with his apology and with his famous moral victory "All right, then,
I'll go to hell." Mr. Branch has pointed out in considerable detail the significance of the Widow Douglas, but
she was not a comrade to Huck. Huck was ill at ease with her, and they sometimes simply could not
understand each other's thoughts and feelings. With Jim, this barrier of age, position, sex, and background
does not exist. It is in response to the open tenderness in Jim that there is the opportunity and the necessity for
the tender side of the "realistic" Huck Finn to be spontaneously and convincingly revealed to the reader. Mr
Branch pays tribute to the integrity that lies back of and gives strength to this tenderness in Jim: of those
people in Huck's world who live consistently from the heart. "Jim, of course, is foremost in selflessness and
magnanimity. Because he is incapable of deceit, his innocence, whether comic or pathetic, is haloed with
grandeur. His search for freedom is carried forth in humility and sanctified by elemental justice." When Jim's
dignity is violated without remorse, it is by the amoral Tom, not the moral Huck, and this will be discussed
later in this paper.
Jim's personality is strongly influenced by his faith in superstition, especially evil omens. His first serious
appearance in the novel, after his brief appearance as the butt of Tom's prank, is to cast a rather ominous
prediction for Huck by means of this ox hair-ball. The reader has been prepared before this for a serious
attitude on the part of the characters towards superstition, when, in the first chapter, Huck is terrified to realize
that he has accidentally killed a spider. Even the simile with which he describes the atmosphere takes on Hie
morbid touch of his fear: "I set down again, a-shaking all over, and got out my pipe for a smoke; for the house
was all as still as death now, and so the widow wouldn't know." After Jim has completed his splendidly
ambiguous prophecy with the disheartening sentence: "You wants to keep 'way firm de water as much as you
kin, en don't run no resk, 'kase it's down in de bills dat you's gwyne to git hung," this chapter concludes with a
one-line paragraph: "When I lit my candle and went up to my room that night there sat pap—his own self"
Thus enters for the first time a genuinely evil force into the novel, in the form of the malicious and dangerous
town drunkard. Later, the wreck of the raft, which leads to the Grangerford feud episode, is also preceded by
an evil omen: Huck carelessly handles a snake-skin. (On this is also blamed—accurately—Jim's rattlesnake bite
and—inaccurately— the near disaster on the Walter Scott.) As a final instance of the direct role of superstition
in the plot, there is the fact that the rescue episode would have been foiled at the start if the great superstitious
fear of Uncle Silas had not made communication with the prisoner Jim not only possible but relatively easy.
Jim is, as Mr Branch observes, Huck's mentor in this dark and shifting realm. But he is more than an instructor
in fear, as Mr. Branch might seem to suggest; he is here again the voice of love and conciliation in an
erratically malicious and quarrelsome world, although a voice touched with fear in this realm as with grief in
the human realm. Jim's only rebellion in the human realm was born of love, not hate: he planned (though
futilely) to free his wife and children, to steal them away from their "rightful owners." Huck and Jim are
essentially not rebels: they seek to escape, not to fight. They ask only to be left alone. This is true in the
human realm, and it is true as they try to ward off "bad luck" with charms and magic formulas.
We need not smile with condescension on this superstitious response to unseen malevolence. This "mythical,
fatalistic level" is merely more picturesque in Huck's world than in our present world. It would be hypocritical
of us to laugh at Jim and Huck's belief in the concrete existence of evil as Evil Powers, merely because the
present unwritten code observes a different form. We no longer put in our time with dead cats and salt shakers
in order to save ourselves from harm. Instead, we modern realists construct fierce, nationalistic mythologies
peopled with spotless heroes and mustachioed villains, the roles remaining the same, but the cast changing
every twenty years. So we who have humbled ourselves before one huge fear, who accept the supremacy of
Evil or Violence, and struggle to clothe ourselves most adequately in his livery, hoping that our stockpile of
A-Bombs will prove the highest in the end, laugh in relieved contempt at the multitude of little fears we no
The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn 88
longer share. Still, even this side of a graceful admission of a common weakness, the reader who reads this
novel responsively is eventually saturated by the awe and humility of these people (I mean especially Huck
and Jim) towards what they do not understand but feel to exist above and beyond their limited power. The
reader is aware of the more-than-human struggle that tinges the novel throughout, through all the petty and
tragic human struggles. And that more-than-human struggle is most often made vivid through the words and
actions and personality of Jim.
Source: Frances V. Brownell, "The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn," in Boston Studies in English, Vol. 1,
1955, pp. 74-83.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Suggested Essay
Chapter 1
1. The Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, are both trying to “sivilize” Huck. Compare and contrast
their attitudes toward Huck. What method does each one use in her efforts to turn him into a “respectable”
citizen? How do those methods differ? How are they the same? Cite examples from the novel to support your
2. Analyze the scene where Huck flips the spider into the candle. Why does he feel that this would bring him
bad luck? How does this scene foreshadow superstition in the novel? Support your answer with examples
from the novel.
3. Twain chooses a 13-year-old boy as narrator for his novel. In what way does this help to accomplish
Twain’s purpose? Discuss the ways in which a young, innocent narrator can make a profound statement
about the hypocrisy of his society. Explain your answer.
Chapters 2-3
1. Although Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are presented as contrasting characters in the novel, they are alike in
many ways. Compare and contrast the characters of Huck and Tom, giving examples from the novel to
support your argument.
2. Analyze Jim’s idea that he has been ridden around the world by witches. Why was he proud? Were the
slaves the only ones who believed Jim’s story? Does Huck believe it? Explain your answer.
3. Analyze the role of respectability in Tom Sawyer’s supposedly lawless gang. Why is it mandatory for each
member to have a respectable family? Examine the idea that Huck, who has had more experience with
breaking the law than any of the others, comes close to being excluded from the gang.
Chapters 4-5
1. Superstition is a recurring theme in the novel. Analyze Twain’s satiric treatment of the hairball scene.
Examine the answers Huck receives about his life. How does Jim keep the hairball’s comments believable?
2. Analyze the relationship of Huck and his father. In what ways was he different from the ideal? How did this
influence Huck’s feelings about society as a whole? Explain your reasoning.
3. Analyze Judge Thatcher’s reactions to Huck’s request to take his money. Why did the judge exchange one
dollar for six-thousand dollars? Was he cheating Huck? Explain your answer.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Suggested Essay Topics 89
Chapters 6-7
1. Huck seems to adapt to almost any situation. He has become accustomed to civilized life with the Widow
Douglas. Later he finds life in the woods carefree and easy. Analyze the character of Huck. Discuss possible
reasons for his adaptability to different situations. Use examples from the novel to support your argument.
2. In the novel Pap does not appear to be a civilized man. Discuss ways in which he does, however, fit into the
larger society. Does he compare to the Widow Douglas in any way? Explain your answer.
3. Huck wishes Tom Sawyer were with him to add some “fancy touches” to his plan of escape. Discuss the
difference between Huck’s scheme of faking his death and the attack on the “A-rabs” and “Spaniards” in
Chapter 3. Cite examples from the novel to support your ideas.
Chapters 8-9
1. Huck’s most poetic language is prompted by a severe thunderstorm on the island. Discuss the reasons for
this. In what way does the storm inspire him? Why is he not afraid of the storm? Use examples from the novel
to support your argument.
2. If Huck keeps Jim’s secret of his escape, people will call him a “low-down Abolitionist.” In what way are
those words more effective when spoken by a young narrator? Explain the irony in Huck’s statement. What is
Twain’s message about the hypocritical values of his society? Explain your answer with examples from the
3. Miss Watson could sell Jim for eight hundred dollars. He, therefore, feels rich because he owns himself.
Explain Twain’s use of satire in Jim’s statement . What was Twain’s attitude toward slavery in this passage?
Explain your answer.
Chapters 10-11
1. Huck’s growing concern for Jim’s welfare is evident in many ways. Discuss the events where this concern
is reflected in Huck’s behavior. In what ways does he protect Jim from danger? Cite examples from the novel
to support your argument.
2. Huck’s ability to tell a story in order to get himself out of a “tight” situation is one of his greatest
strengths. How does this apply to his encounter with Mrs. Judith Loftus? What does he do when she realizes
he is a boy? Explain your answer.
3. When Huck curls up the snake at the foot of Jim’s blanket, he does not tell Jim that he has done it. What is
his reason for keeping his little joke a secret? What lesson does Huck learn from it? How would Jim have felt
if Huck would have told the truth? Discuss your answer.
Chapters 12-13
1. Huck’s journey on the river is filled with adventures, but it is also a symbolic journey. What does his
journey symbolize? How does his relationship with Jim tie in to the symbolism? Compare the symbolism of
the shore to that of the river. Use examples from the novel to support your view.
2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often referred to as the embodiment of mythological characteristics.
In what way does the journey down the river represent these characteristics? How is Huck’s escape from
society and his love for the natural world of the river incorporated into this idea? Explain your answer.
3. Twain uses satire to expose people’s ability to rationalize their wrongdoings. In what way does Twain
employ that device in the incident where Huck “lifts chickens” and “borrows watermelons”? What do the
words “lifts” and “borrows” connote? Give examples from the novel to support your argument.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Suggested Essay Topics 90
Chapters 14-15
1. The relationship between Huck and Jim is brought into focus in these chapters. How does their frightening
separation in the fog draw them closer together? How do they feel about each other at this point in the novel?
Give examples from the novel to support your viewpoint.
2. Huck and Jim carry on a lengthy conversation about royalty. In what way does Twain satirize royalty in
these chapters? What is Jim’s opinion of King Solomon? Why does he feel that way? Give examples from the
novel to support your argument.
Chapters 16-17
1. Huck makes a moral decision concerning Jim’s freedom in Chapter 16. How does this decision affect Huck
as a character in the novel? Discuss the first time in the novel that he made a decision to help Jim escape to
freedom. How did the decision affect him then? Cite examples from the novel to support your view.
2. There is irony in the statement Jim makes about stealing his children. In what way is it ironic that Jim’s
children belong to someone else? Why did Huck feel it was morally wrong for Jim to claim his children as his
own? Give examples from the novel to support your argument.
3. Critics believe Twain stopped writing the novel for a few years after he finished Chapter 16. Why would
this have been a difficult place for Twain to continue? How does the setting of the novel change at this point?
Explain your answer.
Chapters 18-19
1. Harney Shepherdson and Miss Sophia are victims of the feud between the Grangerfords and the
Shepherdsons. Compare and contrast their conflict with that of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In what way
was their situation the same? How was it different? Was Huck sympathetic with the young couple? Give
examples from the novel to support your argument.
2. Twain employs satire throughout the novel to speak out against the hypocrisy and corruption in his society.
In what way is the church service, attended by the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons, an attack on the
religion of Twain’s day? How does the hog incident add to the satire? Explain your answer.
3. In these chapters life on the raft is contrasted sharply with the violence and bloodshed Huck has recently
encountered on the shore. How does this contrast bring out the theme of freedom in the novel? How does
Huck feel about life on the raft? How does Jim feel? Use examples from the novel to support your viewpoint.
Chapters 20-21
1. In the novel Huck continually tells stories to get himself out of tight situations. Why doesn’t this bother
Huck’s conscience? In what way is Huck forced to tell a lie? Is Huck morally wrong in doing so? Defend
your argument with examples from the novel.
2. It is during a natural phenomenon such as a thunderstorm that Huck uses his most artistic language. Discuss
Huck’s feeling about the thunderstorm. Why is he not afraid of the storm? How does this symbolize his life
on the river as opposed to life on the shore? Explain your answer.
3. There are many examples of gullibility in the novel. In what way does Twain satirize the gullibility of the
people at the camp meeting? How does the king trick them into taking up a collection? Why do they believe
him? Support your argument.
Chapters 22-23
1. Twain is satirizing the lynch mob in these chapters. In what way can the individuals in a mob be seen as
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Suggested Essay Topics 91
cowards? Discuss the psychology of a lynch mob. Why is Sherburn successful in breaking up the mob? Cite
examples from the novel to support your argument.
2. Through the characters of the duke and the king, Twain is satirizing royalty. What qualities in a king would
make him a “rapscallion?” How does Huck’s reference to kings throughout history prove his point? Explain
your answer.
3. The relationship between Huck and Jim is growing deeper as the novel progresses. How is Jim’s humanity
expressed through the eyes of Huck? How does Jim feel about Huck? How can Huck tell? Explain your
Chapters 24-25
1. In these chapters Twain satirizes the gullibility of the townspeople who believe an imposter like the king,
but, ironically, do not believe Dr. Robinson. Write an essay comparing the gullibility of the townspeople to
people in today’s world. In what ways are people gullible? What makes them gullible? Explain your answer.
2. Huck has become more critical of the duke and the king than he was in preceding chapters. Why has this
change taken place in his character? Explain Huck’s moral development as it relates to previous chapters in
the novel. Cite examples from the novel to support your argument.
3. The ultimate sacrifice in the eyes of the townspeople is when the king and the duke give the Wilks girls the
whole six thousand dollars. Why do they give it away? What is their motive? What do they hope to gain?
Support your argument with examples from the novel.
Chapters 26-27
1. The king and the duke have been involved in several fraudulent schemes along the river. Compare and
contrast the Wilks episode to The Royal Nonesuch in the last town. Why does Huck take action against the
frauds in the Wilks episode? Why was he merely an observer in The Royal Nonesuch? How do they compare?
How are they different? Use examples from the novel to support your argument.
2. The two frauds have supposedly been duped through their sale of the slaves. In what way do the king and
the duke judge the slaves by their own standards? In what way do they think the slaves have played a game in
order to get away with the money? Defend your argument with examples from the novel.
3. The separation of families through the selling of slaves is a recurrent theme in the novel. What is Twain’s
attitude about this controversial issue? Cite at least two examples from the novel that deal with the separation
of families and point out the way in which Twain satirizes the issue.
Chapters 28-29
1. The novel is filled with examples of stories Huck tells when he is in a tight situation. In Chapter 28 he
decides that truth is better than lies, however. Why does he have a change of heart in this chapter? How does
Huck feel about Mary Jane? Does he trust her with the truth? Does he ever lie to her? Why does he depend on
lies to get through difficult situations? Cite examples from the novel to support your argument.
2. Throughout the course of the novel, Twain uses descriptions of thunderstorms. Compare and contrast the
description of the thunderstorm in Chapter 29 with descriptions in other parts of the novel. How are they the
same? How is this one different? Cite examples from the novel to support your argument.
3. Mary Jane is one of Huck’s favorite people in the novel. What qualities does she possess that makes Huck
fond of her? How is she different from her sisters? Explain your answer.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Suggested Essay Topics 92
Chapters 30-31
1. Huck makes his ultimate moral decision in Chapter 31 of the novel. What is Twain satirizing in this
episode? Explain Huck’s natural morality as opposed to society’s morality. Use examples from the novel to
support your answer.
2. Twain sheds a slightly different light on the duke in these chapters. What is different about the actions of
the duke? How does this make us feel about him? Is the duke less evil than the king? Explain your answer.
3. Huck faces a moral decision to help Jim escape in three different epiodes of the novel. Explain each
dilemma and describe how it affects Huck’s development as a character. Cite examples from the novel to
support your argument.
Chapters 32-33
1. Twain paints a bleak, depressing picture of the Phelps Plantation. Compare and contrast Huck’s view of
life on the plantation to life on the raft. In what way is his view affected by his recent loss of Jim? Cite
examples from the novel to support your argument.
2. Huck is shocked when Tom Sawyer tells him he will help steal Jim out of slavery. What does Tom know
about Jim and how does that affect his decision? How does Huck view Tom as a member of society? How
does he view himself? Support your answer with examples from the novel.
3. Jim acts as an informant in the case of the king and duke’s Royal Nonesuch show. In what way is justice
being done? Why do you think Jim is seen in a different light in this section of the novel? Do his actions seem
believable? Defend your argument with examples from the novel.
Chapters 34-35
1. The contrasting personalities of Huck and Tom provide the reader with the satiric humor in these chapters.
In what way do their personalities contrast? How are Tom’s romantic notions brought out in the plan to free
Jim? How does Huck disagree? Cite examples from the novel to support your argument.
2. Tom and Huck disagree on the idea of stealing and borrowing. What does Huck call borrowing? What does
Tom consider stealing? When does Tom consider stealing all right? When is it wrong? Support your argument
with quotes from the novel.
3. In this section of the novel Tom already knows that Jim has been freed by Miss Watson. In view of this
fact, how do you interpret his actions in the plan of escape? Is Tom unusually cruel to Jim by making him
wait unnecessarily? Why doesn’t he tell Huck and Jim? Explain your answer.
Chapters 36-37
1. Two different types of morality are demonstrated in the novel. Contrast Huck’s morality with Tom’s. How
are they different? Explain the origins of each of the boys’ sense of morality? Cite examples from the novel
to support your argument.
2. Twain often satirizes the religious sensibilities of his day through the characters in the novel. In what way is
he satirizing Uncle Silas’s prayers with Jim? Do you feel Uncle Silas is being kind to Jim? Why does Jim feel
his kindness? Explain your answer.
Chapters 38-39
1. Jim is taken out of his prison to help Huck and Tom with the grindstone. In what way is this humorous
incident ironic? Why does Jim go back to his prison? Why doesn’t he leave while he has the chance? Why
don’t the boys help him to escape? Explain your answer.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Suggested Essay Topics 93
2. Tom often prescribes cruel treatment for Jim in order to carry out his elaborate plan of escape. How does
one account for his lack of sensitivity to Jim’s feelings? Is Tom a cruel person? How does Tom treat other
people in the novel? Cite examples from the novel to support your argument.
3. Tom works on a coat of arms for Jim. Does he have sufficient knowledge of this subject? Is his knowledge
limited? Why doesn’t he give Huck the definitions of “fess” and “bar sinister”? Support your answer with
examples from the novel.
Chapters 40-41
1. Jim unselfishly gives up his freedom so they can get a doctor for Tom. Does this act seem consistent with
Jim’s character? Why does he do it? Describe one other instance in the novel where Jim is unselfish. Cite
examples from the novel to support your argument.
2. Tom is happy when they reach the raft in spite of the fact that he has a bullet in his leg. Why is he happy?
Why doesn’t he want to see a doctor? What instructions does Tom give Huck about the doctor? How is this a
part of Tom’s plan of escape? Explain your answer with examples from the novel.
3. Huck invents stories throughout the novel to get himself out of tight situations. Is Huck’s story to the
doctor as believable as his stories have been in the past? Does the doctor doubt Huck? Are there any flaws in
his story. Use examples from the novel to support your argument.
Chapters 42-43
1. Jim is often referred to as a noble character in the novel. In what way is his nobility shown in the last few
chapters. How does he show courage by helping the doctor? Why does he do it? What price does he pay?
Support your answer with examples from the novel.
2. The men who are attending to Jim want to hang him as an example to other slaves who might attempt to
escape. Why do they decide against it? How does this incident satirize the morality of the men? Cite examples
from the novel to explain your answer.
3. At the end of the novel Huck wants to escape so Aunt Sally will not try to “sivilize” him. How has the
meaning of the word “sivilize” changed for Huck? In what way has Huck grown as a character in the novel?
Give examples from the novel to support your argument.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Sample Essay
The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the novel as a whole and to analyze
important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help get you started.
Topic #1
Humor is a tool Mark Twain uses in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to satirize the evil in his
society. Write a paper analyzing the satiric situations in the novel that suggest the hypocrisy and
ridiculousness of society’s prevailing attitudes toward the institutions of religion, education, and
slavery before the Civil War.
I. Thesis Statement: Mark Twain exposes the evil in his society by satirizing the institutions of
religion, education, and slavery.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Sample Essay Outlines 94
II. Twain satirizes religion
A. The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson
1. Miss Watson’s prayers are never answered
2. Widow Douglas tucks her head down to pray before meals
B. The Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons
1. The feuding families sit calmly in church together
2. The families have forgotten the reason for their feud
C. Huck’s decision not to turn Jim in as a runaway slave
1. Huck decides to “go to hell” rather than turn in his friend Jim
2. Huck struggles with his conscience over harboring a runaway slave
III. Twain satirizes education
A. Huck drops out of school
1. Twain uses Huck, an uneducated narrator, to criticize society’s corruption, including education
B. Tom Sawyer reads books, but his plans and schemes fail because they are impractical
C. Jim is a loving father-figure to Huck. He cannot read but is wise beyond book-learning
IV. Twain satirizes slavery
A. The slaves come in for prayers at night at the Widow Douglas’ house
B. Jim escapes from his owner
1. He has overheard her saying that she cannot resist selling Jim.
2. He would be sold down river where slaves were mistreated
C. Jim wants to go north to earn his freedom
1. To free his wife and children, Jim plans to buy them
D. Jim and Huck’s close relationship
1. On the raft, away from civilization, Jim and Huck are almost equals
V. Conclusion: The satire in this novel is a critical commentary on the hypocrisy in the institutions of
religion, education, and slavery.
Topic #2
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often referred to as “The Great American Novel.” Write a
paper showing how the novel vividly depicts the American scene along the Mississippi River before
the Civil War. Describe the lifestyle, language, and mode of travel of the townspeople along the river.
I. Thesis Statement: In the novel, Twain represents American life along the Mississippi River before
the Civil War through his authentic depiction of the lifestyles, dialects, and modes of travel of the
townspeople who lived there.
II. Twain depicts American lifestyles along the river
A. Lifestyle of the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson
1. Superstitious beliefs
2. Attitudes about civilized life and education
3. Religious beliefs
B. Lifestyles of the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons
1. Aristocratic life
2. Feuding families
C. Lifestyle in Bricksville, Arkansas
1. Sherburn shoots Boggs
2. Lynch mob goes after Sherburn
D. Fraudulent activities of the king and the duke
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Sample Essay Outlines 95
1. Cheating the Wilks sisters out of their inheritance
2. Pretending to be Peter Wilks’ brother at the funeral
E. Lifestyle on the Phelps Plantation
1. Attitudes about slavery
2. Family relationships
F. Behavior of the townspeople
1. Tar and feather the king and the duke
2. Threaten a runaway slave with guns
III. Twain depicts American dialects along the river
A. Missouri Negro
1. Jim and some minor characters
B. Southwestern
1. Arkansas gossips (Sister Hotchkiss)
C. Ordinary “Pike County”
1. Huck, Tom, Aunt Polly, Ben Rogers, Pap, and Judith Loftus
D. “Pike County”
1. Thieves on the Walter Scott
2. The King
3. Bricksville loafers
4. Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas Phelps
IV. Twain depicts American modes of travel along the river
A. Steamboat episodes
1. The wrecked Walter Scott
2. The steamboat that wrecked the raft
3. The King and Duke arrive at Peter Wilks’ place on a steam boat
B. Rafts
1. Simple and inexpensive travel
2. Used by Huck and Jim
C. Canoes
1. Used to travel from the raft to the shore
2. Used for travel upstream
V. Conclusion: The novel depicts the lifestyles, modes of travel, and colloquial speech of Twain’s
day and is therefore a genuine American novel.
Topic #3
Mark Twain would have us believe that aristocrats were ridiculous and out of place in frontier
America. Write a paper analyzing the aristocratic characters Twain satirizes in the novel. Explain the
way in which he used these characters as a harsh commentary on the whole idea of an aristocracy.
I. Thesis Statement: Twain ridicules the aristocratic characters in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by portraying them as fraudulent, pretentious, overly sentimental, and violent.
II. Aristocratic characters in the novel
A. Fraudulent activities of aristocratic characters
1. The so-called king and duke defraud the townspeople
B. Violent activities of aristocratic characters
1. The Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons kill each other for revenge, yet sit across from each other
in church with guns propped against the pews
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Sample Essay Outlines 96
2. Colonel Sherburn kills Boggs
3. Phelps neighbors use guns to hunt a runaway slave
C. Sentimentality of aristocratic characters
1. The sentimental art and poetry of the Grangerfords is satirized
2. Wrecked steamboat is named after Walter Scott, whose sentimental fiction glamorized the
D. Pretentiousness of aristocratic characters
1. The king and the duke pretend to be royalty
2. The king and duke lower themselves to associate with “two felons on a raft” (Huck and Jim)
3. Grangerfords are pretentious about their house and furnishings
III. Conclusion: Twain satirizes aristocracy through the subtle ridicule of the aristocratic characters in
the novel.
Topic #4
Through the eyes of a 13-year-old narrator who simply speaks his mind, Twain reveals the conflicts
inherent in the society of his day. Write a paper discussing Huck’s point-of-view in the novel. In
what ways does his natural innocence help to expose the hypocrisy of people and institutions in the
I. Thesis statement: Through Huck’s innocent point-of-view, we see the conflict between individual
freedom in the natural world and the constraints society places on the individual in the civilized
II. Huck’s point-of-view and the conflict between natural freedom and civilized society
A. The Widow Douglas tries to “sivilize” Huck
1. Proper dress and manners
2. Proper education
B. Huck’s father
1. Exploits Huck for his money
2. Locks Huck in the cabin all day
3. The new judge grants his father custody of Huck
4. Huck is physically abused by his father
C. Religious hypocrisy
1. Miss Watson’s slaves come in for prayers every night
2. Holding him captive, Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas pray with Jim
D. Religious teachings about slavery
1. If you help a runaway slave to freedom, you will go to hell
E. Slavery from Huck’s point-of-view
1. Decides to tear up the letter to Miss Watson and steal Jim out of slavery again
2. Huck’s point-of-view brings out Jim’s humanity
III. Conclusion: Through the point-of-view of a young narrator who longs for the freedom of the
natural world, we are led to condemn the hypocrisy of a constraining society.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Compare and Contrast
1840s: Under the Slave Codes, enacted by individual southern states, slaves could not own property,
testify against whites in court, or make contracts. Slave marriages were not recognized by law.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Compare and Contrast 97
1884: As the result of Black Codes enacted by states during Reconstruction, African Americans could
now legally marry and own property, but the codes also imposed curfews and segregation. The
Fifteenth Amendment granted black men the right to vote, but individual states prohibited them from
doing so.
Today: The right to vote is universal for all citizens above the age of eighteen, and other rights are
not restricted by race.
1840s: The steamboat was the most popular mode of travel and the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers were
the main thoroughfares in the West.
1884: The railroad had taken over as the means of mass transportation all across America.
Today: Most goods are transported within the U.S. by truck, and airplanes and cars allow people to
travel long distances in short periods of tune.
1840s: Means of entertainment were beginning to flourish in America. Among the many new kinds of
literature available were slave narratives and romantic adventures. The first minstrel show was staged
in 1843.
1884: The field of literature, in the form of books and periodicals, had become the province of the
masses. The minstrel show continued to be popular, as did the music of ragtime which was associated
with it.
Today: Entertainment, especially film, television, and music, is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
1840s: The Mississippi River ran freely, making travel dangerous, due to snags, large pieces of trees
lodged in the river.
1884: The Mississippi River Commission had been founded in 1879 to improve navigation. Over the
next decades, a series of levees were built which also alleviated flooding problems.
Today: The level of the Mississippi River and its banks are tightly controlled so that navigation is
very safe and floods are less frequent.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Topics for Further
Study the history and form of the minstrel show in the nineteenth century and find evidence in
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that Twain was influenced by minstrels in his creation of the novel.
Research the history of the novel's censorship in America, and argue for or against the exclusion of
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from a school's curriculum.
Using history texts and primary sources like slave narratives, research the conditions under which
slaves lived in the 1840s to gain a deeper understanding of what Jim's life might have been like, and
tell Jim's story from his perspective.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Media Adaptations
In the 1930s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was adapted twice as a black-and-white film under
the title Huckleberry Finn, once in 1931 by director Norman Taurog for Paramount, and then in 1939
by MGM. The latter is the most famous of the novel's adaptations. It was directed by Richard Thorpe
and starred Mickey Rooney as Huck and Rex Ingram as Jim. The 1939 film is available on video from
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Topics for Further Study 98
MGM/UA Home Entertainment.
An adaptation of the novel was produced for the "Climax" television program in 1954 by CBS. It
starred Thomas Mitchell and John Carradine and is available from Nostalgia Family Video.
Another film version of the book was released by MGM in 1960, this time in color as The Adventures
of Huckleberry Finn. Directed by Michael Curtiz, the film starred Eddie Hodges as Huck, Archie
Moore as Jim, and Tony Randall as the King. This adaptation is also available on video from
MGM/UA Home Entertainment.
PBS produced a version titled The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for "American Playhouse" in
1986. The movie was directed by Peter H. Hunt and the cast included Sada Thompson, Lillian Gish,
Richard Kiley, Jim Dale, and Geraldine Page. It is available from MCA/Universal Home Video.
Walt Disney produced The Adventures of Huck Finn in 1993. This film, starring Elijah Wood as Huck
and Courtney B. Vance as Jim, deleted racial epithets and translated the characters' dialects to suit
modern tastes. It was directed by Stephen Sommers, who also wrote the screenplay. The film is
available from Walt Disney Home Video.
In 1994, the novel was updated in the film adaptation Huck and the King of Hearts produced by
Crystal Sky Communications. In this version, Chauncey Leopardi plays Huck, who lives in a trailer
park, and Graham Green plays Jim, who is a Native American con artist fleeing a hoodlum from
whom he has stolen drug money. The movie was directed by Michael Keusch and written by Chris
Sturgeon. It is available on home video.
The novel has also been recorded on sound cassettes many times since 1980. Unabridged versions are
available from Books, Inc. and Books in Motions. Abridged versions are available from Metacom,
Listen for Pleasure Ltd., and Time Warner Audiobooks, which released a study guide along with the
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: What Do I Read Next?
Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi (revised, 1883) tells of the author's years as a steamboat pilot
through a series of short articles.
Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) is the most prominent slave
narrative written, and depicts his development from slave to free man.
A Short History of Reconstruction (1990) by Eric Foner, an abridged version of his award-winning
study Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, explains the complex reasons for the failure
of Reconstruction.
In Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South (1990), James Oakes presents a thorough
history of slavery as it was practiced and preached during the period in which Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn takes place.
Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) depicts the inhumanity of an institution
which separates slave families on the auction block and corrupts southern whites by giving them
absolute power over their slaves.
In his essay "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience," published in 1849, Henry David Thoreau argues
that each person is responsible for acting on his own principles, no matter what the laws of the state.
He applied this reasoning specifically to slavery.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Bibliography and
Further Reading
Baetzhold, Howard G. "Samuel Longhorn Clemens." In Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography:
Realism, Naturalism, and Local Color, 1865-1917. Gale, 1988, pp. 68-83.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Media Adaptations 99
Bridgman, Richard. Traveling in Mark Twain. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
Camfeld, Gregg, ed. The Oxford Companion to Mark Twain. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Chadwick-Joshua, Jocelyn. The Jim Dilemma: Reading Race in "Huckleberry Finn." Jackson, Miss:
University Press of Mississippi.
Fishkin, Shelly Fisher. Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1993.
Graff, Gerald, and John Phelan, eds. Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Case Study in Critical
Controversy. Boston, MA: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1995.
Hansen, Chadwick. "The Character of Jim and the Ending of 'Huckleberry Finn'." In The Massachusetts
Review, Vol. V, No. 1, Autumn, 1963, pp. 45-66.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Green Hills of Africa. Scribner, 1935.
Henry, Peaches. "The Struggle for Tolerance: Race and Censorship in Huckleberry Finn." In Satire or
Evasion? Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn, edited by James S. Leonard, Thomas A. Tenney, and
Thadius Davis. Duke University Press, 1992, pp. 25-48.
Howe, Lawrence. Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 1998.
Kravitz, Bennett. Dreaming Mark Twain. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1996.
Lester, Julius. "Morality and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." In Satire or Evasion? Black Perspectives on
Huckleberry Finn, edited by James S. Leonard, Thomas A. Tenney, and Thadius Davis. Duke University
Press, 1992, pp. 199-207.
Lott, Eric. "Mr. Clemens and Jim Crow: Twain, Race, and Blackface." In Criticism and the Color Line:
Desegregating American Literature, edited by Henry B. Wonham. Rutgers University Press, 1996, pp 30-42.
Marx, Leo. "Mr. Eliot, Mr. Trilling, and Huckleberry Finn." In The American Scholar, Vol. XXII, 1953, pp.
Mencken, H. L. "Final Estimate." In his H. L. Mencken's "Smart Set" Criticism, edited by William H. Nolte.
Cornell University Press, 1968, pp. 182-89.
Rasmussen, R. Kent. Mark Twain A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Writings. New York: Facts
on File, 1995.
Robinson, Forrest G. "The Characterization of Jim in Huckleberry Finn." In Nineteenth-Century Literature,
Vol XLIII, No. 3, December, 1988, pp. 361-91.
Sloane, David E. E. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: American Comic Vision. Boston, MA: Twayne, 1988.
Trilling, Lionel. "The Greatness of Huckleberry Finn." In Huckleberry Finn Among the Critics, edited by M.
Thomas Inge. University Publications of America, 1985, pp. 81-92.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Bibliography andFurther Reading 100
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, edited by Henry Nash Smith. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin
Company, 1958.
Wieck, Carl F. Refiguring Huckleberry Finn. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2000.
For Further Study
Berret, Anthony J. Mark Twain and Shakespeare: a Cultural Legacy. University Press of America, 1993. A
contextualization of Shakespeare in Twain's time, debates about authorship, Twain's identification with
Shakespeare, and popular productions.
Boker, Pamela A. The Grief Taboo in American Literature: Loss and Prolonged Adolescence in Twain,
Melville, and Hemingway. New York University Press, 1996. In this study, Boker looks at the relationship
between loss and coming-of-age issues as they are expressed in the works of several prominent American
Bridgman, Richard. Traveling in Mark Twain. University of California Press, 1987. A study of how journeys
express several themes in Twain's works.
DeVoto, Bernard. Mark Twain's America. Houghton Mifflin, 1932. DeVoto thoroughly analyses the novel's
structure and reception.
Fishkin, Shelley Fisher. Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture.
Oxford University Press, 1997. A new study of how Twain's focus on issues relating to the frontier reflect a
uniquely American experience.
Hoffman, Andrew Jay. Twain's Heroes, Twain's Worlds: Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and Pudd'nhead Wilson. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988.
A study which interprets Twain's characters, including Huck Finn, according to various theories of heroism.
Knoper, Randall K. Acting Naturally: Mark Twain in the Culture of Performance. University of California
Press, 1995. A study which places Twain's work in the popular culture of his time, placing special emphasis
on the theatrical forms of entertainment popular in Twain's day and their influence on his work.
Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Vintage, 1992, pp. 54-7.
Morrison interprets the importance of Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and relates Twain's
portrayal to other writers' fascination with and use of African-American characters in American literature.
Sewell, David R. Mark Twain's Language: Discourse, Dialogue, and Linguistic Variety. University of
California Press, 1987. This linguistic study uses sophisticated language theory to analyze Twain's writing.
Although a scholarly study, this work is relatively free of jargon.
Sloane, David E. E. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: American Comic Vision. Twayne Publishers, 1988. This
volume in the Twayne "Masterwork Series" examines Huck Finn and how it fits within the American tradition
of comic literature.
Stahl, J. D. Mark Twain, Culture and Gender: Envisioning America Through Europe. University of Georgia
Press, 1994. This study looks at two trends in examining Twain's work: first, Twain's treatment of and
concern with gender issues; and second, Twain's use of encounters with Europe as a means to explore and
define the American identity.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Bibliography andFurther Reading 101
Sundquist, Eric J., ed. Mark Twain: A Collection of Critical Essays. Prentice Hall, 1994. A collection of
scholarly essays, three of which examine The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in particular. A good
introduction to recent scholarly approaches to Twain's work.

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