|Title||The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn|
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Mark Twain’s masterpiece. The book is humorous and the author shines a revealing light on traditions that the South still followed at the time of its publication, which was after the Civil War. Huckleberry Finn is the main character and narrator, who is writing his story. Through him, the reader judges society on its faults and strengths. Huck’s buddy during his adventures is Jim, a runaway slave. The two share friendship and adventure as they travel down the Mississippi River on a raft.
At the start of the story, Huck tells the reader what has happened since The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He describes the treasure found by the boys and how it was invested for them. Huck spends some time complaining about being cared for by the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson. He hates having to be on time, act politely, pray, and study.
Early in the story, Huck finds Pap’s distinctive boot prints in the snow and realizes his abusive father has returned. Huck "sells" his treasure to Judge Thatcher so that Pap can’t get it. Judge Thatcher and the Widow try to get custody of Huck, but a new judge won’t allow it and Pap kidnaps Huck and imprisons him. When Pap goes to town to drink, Huck fakes his own death and hides out on Jackson’s Island. He discovers that Miss Watson’s slave, Jim, is also hiding on the island. Jim has run away to avoid being sold. Huck and Jim join forces.
With the Mississippi rising, Huck and Jim explore a house floating by, finding some money and provisions. They also find a dead body that Jim realizes is Pap. He doesn’t tell Huck, however. Huck returns to town disguised as a girl and learns that both Jim and Pap are suspected in his apparent murder. Jim and Huck leave the island to avoid discovery. The two float downriver sharing stories and adventures. They head toward Cairo intending to take a steamship to a free state. In the middle of a deep fog, they pass Cairo.
A while later, a steamboat runs over their raft and Huck and Jim jump for their lives. Huck reaches shore and is taken in by the Grangerfords, a family involved in a feud with another family, the Shepherdsons. Huck finds Jim hiding in a swamp. After the feud erupts and the Grangerford men are killed, Huck and Jim take off again on a new raft.
Downriver, Huck finds two scam artists, the Duke and the King. They take control of the raft, cheating townspeople as they travel along. After making 400 dollars on a scam called the Royal Nonesuch, the scam artists invent a con to trick three orphaned girls out of their inheritance. They pretend to be the girls’ uncles and trick a large bag of gold from them. Huck steals the gold from the King and hides it in the girls’ father’s coffin. When their real uncles arrive, the Duke and King are challenged to prove their identities by describing a tattoo on the dead father’s chest. When the man is exhumed, the gold found, and the Duke and King proved wrong, Huck and Jim take off on the raft, with the Duke and King in hot pursuit.
Later, the Duke and King turn Jim in as a runaway slave. Huck finds Jim at, of all places, Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Sally’s house. Huck pretends to be Tom and, when Tom arrives, he pretends to be his brother, Sid. They find and release Jim, only to be chased by townspeople with guns. Tom gets shot in the leg. Huck leaves Tom and Jim in hiding to get a doctor. The doctor returns to town with Tom and Jim, in chains. Tom’s Aunt Polly turns up after hearing that Tom and Sid are both with her sister. She, of course, knows that Sid is with her. She informs the townspeople that Jim is a free man because the Widow freed him just before she passed away. Jim tells Huck that his Pap is dead, so he can return home. Huck turns down an offer from Aunt Polly to adopt him.
Huck concludes his story by saying he hadn’t realized how long it would take to write it down.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn CharactersHuckleberry Finn is the central character and storyteller in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He is thirteen and the son of a drunken father. They live in St. Petersburg, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Huck, as he is known, often is abandoned by or runs away from his father and has to survive on his own. Although he is unschooled, he is intelligent and opinionated about society and the rules others expect him to live by. His opinions are often anti-establishment, but he can be influenced to change them by his friends and life experiences.
Tom Sawyer is Huck’s friend. Tom is creative, bossy, and loves to re-create crazy adventures found in novels. Tom’s solid belief in the truth of these novels causes him to do stupid, sometimes cruel things. Tom totally believes in and tries to follow society’s rules, which Huck thinks is ridiculous and refuses to do.
The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson are two rich sisters who live together and adopt Huck. Miss Watson represents hypocritical religious and ethical beliefs, while the Widow Douglas is a bit more open-minded and more patient with Huck. Huck feels bad when he can’t live up to the Widow Douglas’ expectations, but often he doesn’t see any sense in doing so.
Jim is one of the sisters’ slaves. He is superstitious, intelligent, practical, and often degraded by other characters in the novel. Jim is unselfish and loves his family (from whom he is separated), Huck, and Tom. Jim, a black man and runaway slave, teaches Huck that compassion isn’t found only in the white race.
Pap is Huck’s father, the town’s drunken bum. He is illiterate and beats Huck regularly, especially for going to school. Pap is the worst kind of family and represents the worst that society has to offer.
The duke, age 30, and the dauphin, age 70, are a couple of con men rescued by Huck and Jim as they are run out of a river town. They join Huck and Jim on their raft. The dauphin swears he is the son of King Louis XVI and heir to the throne of France. The duke claims to be the Duke of Bridgewater. Huck and Jim know that these two are swindlers, but can’t do much about them since Huck is so young and Jim is a runaway slave.
Judge Thatcher, a local magistrate, also cares for Huck and is responsible for the money Huck and Tom found in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. When Pap shows up, Huck signs his money over to the judge, who vows to keep it for him. In this book, the judge’s daughter, Becky, is called Bessie.
The Grangerfords are a family who befriend Huck and offer him a place to stay after a steamboat hits his raft. They are involved in a feud with another family, the Shepherdsons, which eventually gets many of them killed. The author uses these families for humorous relief and to poke fun at overdone family honor.
The Wilks family is made up of three sisters, who are rich, kind, and vulnerable. When the duke and dauphin learn that the girls’ father, Peter, has died, they claim to be Peter’s two brothers from England, in order to claim an inheritance. This is one of the duke and dauphin’s cruel attempts to swindle innocent people.
Silas Phelps and Sally Phelps are Tom Sawyer’s aunt and uncle, whom Huck finds in his search for Jim after the con men sell him. They hold Jim and try to return him to his owner. Huck can’t stand their “sivilizing” attempts.
Aunt Polly is Tom Sawyer’s aunt and Sally Phelps’s sister. Aunt Polly identifies Huck and Tom at the end of the story, after Huck claims to be Tom and Tom claims to be his brother, Sid.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter Summaries
The chapter begins with the voice of Huckleberry Finn, explaining that the reader won’t know about him unless they have read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He states that, for the most part, that book, written by Mark Twain, is a true story with "some stretchers" of the truth. Huck mentions his friend Tom Sawyer, Tom’s Aunt Polly and sister Mary, and the Widow Douglas. Then, he reveals that, at the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom and Huck had found money hidden in a cave, $6,000. each. He explains that Judge Thatcher invested the money and he and Tom were making $365. per year in interest. He tells us that Widow Douglas has taken him in and is trying to civilize him, but that he couldn’t stand it, and ran away to be free. However, Tom found him and persuaded him to return by promising Huck he could be in Tom’s band of robbers.
Huck describes having to wear new clothes and how he feels sweaty and cramped. He complains about having to be on time for meals and say grace. One of his worst complaints is that he isn’t allowed to smoke, but the Widow takes snuff! Huckleberry tells the reader how he is chastised for fidgeting, putting feet on the furniture, and stretching. The Widow Douglas tells Huck he’ll go to hell if he continues to misbehave and Huck replies that he wishes he were there!
Miss Watson is the Widow Douglas’ sister and she keeps on Huck about learning to spell and soon Huck feels lonely and unhappy. In his candlelit room, Huck hears an owl, "who-whooing about somebody that was dead," a dog, "crying about somebody that was going to die," and the wind, "trying to whisper something to me." He thinks he hears a ghost making sounds in the woods, grieving and unable to rest. When a spider crawls onto his shoulder, he flips it into the candle and knows that that will bring bad luck. Huck turns around three times, crossing himself, and ties up a lock of his hair to keep witches away, but he has no faith that this will stave off the bad luck.
When the town clock chimes midnight, he hears "meow, meow." He replies by meowing, climbs out the window, and makes his way down to the ground. In nearby trees, Tom Sawyer is waiting for him.
Tom and Huck crawl away and Tom suggests tying the slave, Jim, to a tree. Huck says no because he doesn’t want it to be discovered that he is gone. The boys steal some candles from the kitchen and Tom takes Jim’s hat and hangs it in a tree. Later, Jim uses the hat as proof that witches had bewitched him and rode him all over the world! Jim becomes so proud and conceited telling this tale over and over that he almost is ruined as a slave. Tom and Huck join up with a group of boys and Tom takes them to a cave to swear an oath in blood that they will be true to Tom Sawyer’s Gang of robbers. The oath Tom invents is taken from adventure books and the boys are highly impressed by it. Tom explains that they will rob people, kill them, or hold them for ransom, which the boys decide means to kill them, too. Tom also explains that they will not kill the women, but will keep them until the women fall in love with them. Tom is elected captain of the Gang. Huck returns home at daybreak, dirty and tired.
Miss Watson scolds Huck for leaving and the Widow Douglas cleans him up and looks very disappointed. Miss Watson tells Huck that if he prays, he will get whatever he asks for. After trying prayer, Huck decides that it doesn’t work. When he seeks advice from the Widow Douglas, she counsels him to care for and help others and never think about himself. Since Huck can see no advantage for himself in this, only for others, he decides to "just let it go."
Huck's father, Pap, had been gone for a year when a body was found in the river, drowned. The townsfolk are convinced it is Pap and bury him. Huck wonders how a drowned man could float on his back, like the one found. He decides that the body was not his Pap, but a woman dressed as a man. He knows Pap will turn up eventually.
After a month, all the boys quit the robber Gang, because they hadn’t actually robbed or killed anyone. Tom made up exciting scenarios, which proved to be only make-believe, such as the one about Arabs and their treasures coming to town. When the Gang rushes the "Arab" camp, it turns out to be a Sunday school picnic. Tom claims the boys can’t see the Arabs and their treasure because they are enchanted. When Huck questions the logic of this, Tom calls him a "perfect saphead" and says he doesn’t know anything.
A few months later, Huck has attended school and learned to spell, read, and write a little. He has learned some of the multiplication tables and has learned not to hate school. When it gets tiresome, he plays hooky and gets a "hiding." This cheers him up. Once in a while, he sleeps in the woods, but is slowly getting used to his new home. The widow tells him she’s not ashamed of him anymore.
When Huck goes outdoors, in the snow, he sees tracks. The boot tracks show that the left boot heel has a cross in it, made with nails. Huck realizes immediately that Pap has returned. He runs to Judge Thatcher’s house and begs the judge to take and keep his money. The Judge is confused, but decides that Huck wants to sell him the money, so he writes a contract and has Huck sign it. The agreement states that Huck can have his money back for a payment of one dollar at any time.
Huck goes to Jim and asks Jim to answer some questions for him, using a magic hair ball taken out of the stomach of an ox. Huck wants to know what Pap is going to do and where he will stay. The hair ball says (through Jim, of course), "Yo' ole father doan' know yit what he's a-gwyne to do. Sometimes he spec he'll go 'way, en den agin he spec he'll stay. De bes' way is to res' easy en let de ole man take his own way. Dey's two angels hoverin' roun' 'bout him. One uv 'em is white en shiny, en t'other one is black. De white one gits him to go right a little while, den de black one sail in en bust it all up. A body can't tell yit which one gwyne to fetch him at de las'. But you is all right..."
When Huck returns home, Pap shows up, in his room.
At first Huck is scared, but then he realizes that Pap is old, dirty, gray haired, and has no color in his face. He’s wearing rags. He accuses Huck of being too good for his Pap. Huck tells Pap about the Widow. Pap threatens to stop the Widow from meddling in Huck’s life. He says that no boy should "put on airs" over his own father and act better than the father. Then he tells Huck to read something. Huck reads something about General Washington and Pap knocks the book from his hand, in shock that Huck can actually read, when no one else in the family ever has. He threatens to beat Huck if he goes back to school or "gets religion."
Pap then tells Huck that he’s heard he is rich and he wants the money by the next day. Huck denies he has money, but Pap thinks he’s lying. He takes Huck’s dollar for a drink. The next day, Pap tries to make Judge Thatcher give him the money, but the Judge refuses.
Pap goes to court and a new judge refuses to separate a boy from his father and Pap gets Huck back. After a drunken spree, the new judge takes Pap home and attempts to clean him up and sober him up. The judge has Pap sign a pledge (i.e.; make his mark). The same night, Pap sneaks out to get drunk and breaks his arm falling off the porch trying to get back into the judge’s house. The judge is peeved and gives up.
Pap takes Judge Thatcher to court, to get Huck’s money. He also beats Huck for going to school, and Huck determines to continue to go just to spite him. Occasionally, Huck borrows a few dollars to give to Pap to appease him and avoid the beatings. The Widow Douglas orders Pap to leave her property and Pap, in anger, catches Huck, takes him upriver, and locks both of them in an old cabin. Huck’s life consists of fishing, hunting, and beatings. The Widow hires a man to bring Huck back, but Pap drives him away with a gun. Soon Huck falls back into his old ways of fishing, smoking, and lazing around. He starts to enjoy not studying, cursing, and being dirty. After two months, Huck becomes tired of the beatings and being locked in the cabin for days at a time and he starts to saw a hole out of the cabin. Meanwhile, Pap is suffering from delirium tremens and tries to kill Huck with a knife. Luckily, he fails.
Huck discovers a nice canoe just drifting downriver and hides it for his upcoming getaway. When Pap goes to town to sell some drift logs, Huck finishes his escape hole and loads the canoe with food, whiskey, coffee, ammunition, a bucket and cup, a saw, coffeepot, fish lines, matches, and blankets. He covers his escape hole and takes Pap’s gun and kills a wild pig in the woods. He uses Pap’s axe to smash the door of the cabin and uses the pig’s blood to spread on the floor and around the cabin. He fills a sack with rocks and drags it to the river, where he sinks it. Huck pulls out some of his hair and sticks it to the axe, which he throws into a corner. He carries the pig’s carcass to the river and leaves a trail of cornmeal to a lake in the opposite direction of the river.
As Huck waits for nightfall in the canoe, he plans to go to Jackson Island. Huck falls asleep, and when he wakes, he sees Pap returning to the cabin in his skiff. Huck waits for Pap to land and then quickly takes off in the canoe. Soon he arrives at Jackson Island and hides the canoe in the reeds.
The next morning, Huck hears some loud booms. He sees it’s a ferryboat firing a cannon over the water to make his body come to the surface. Huck knows that loaves of bread with quicksilver in them will be floated on the river to try to locate his body, so, being hungry, he grabs a long stick and spears one of the loaves to eat. When Huck is hiding in the bushes, he sees Pap, Judge Thatcher, Tom Sawyer, Aunt Polly, Sid, and Mary on the boat and hears them talking about his "murder." The irony in the chapter was that they almost killed Huck when firing the cannon and they would have found the dead body they were looking for. Later, Huck builds a camp for himself and catches a catfish for dinner. He also finds strawberries, grapes, and raspberries to eat.
Wandering over the island, Huck finds a campfire, still smoking. Being scared of whose campfire it might be, Huck dismantles his camp and hides. Later, he decides to find out who is staying in the campsite. He soon discovers it’s Jim, Miss Watson’s slave, and he reveals himself, scaring Jim to death. He convinces Jim he’s not a ghost and Jim tells Huck he has run away because Miss Watson plans to sell him "down to Orleans" and get 800 dollars for him.
Huck and Jim find a cavern in which to keep their provisions. They stay near the cavern during twelve days of rain and start to collect pine boards floating downriver. They explore a house floating past and collect some knives, candles, and other useful items. They find a dead man as well. Jim examines the dead man and realizes he’s Pap, but doesn’t tell Huck. (The reader doesn't discover the dead man's identity until the end)
Huck is curious about the dead man in the house, but Jim refuses to discuss him because he fears the bad luck it will bring. Huck and Jim find eight dollars sewed into the lining of an old coat they found in the house. Huck kills a rattlesnake and places him on Jim’s blanket for a joke. When Jim sits on the blanket, the snake’s mate bites him.
Jim has Huck chop off the snake’s head, skin the body, and roast part of it. Jim eats it and drinks whiskey. He has Huck tie the rattles around his wrist; Jim is very superstitious. Jim’s leg and foot swell up and for four days and nights, he experiences pain and is delirious. Miraculously, he recovers.
Huck and Jim decide that Huck should go to town and find out what is going on. Jim suggests that Huck dresses in the girl's clothing they had discovered while exploring the floating house so that he won’t be recognized. Huck takes the canoe and heads off to town. In a shanty on the riverbank he sees a woman who is a stranger to him. He knocks on the door.
The woman invites him in and asks him to sit down. Huck introduces himself as Sarah Williams. The woman says she has only lived in town for two weeks. She tells Huck all about her family and then tells him that some people in town think that "old Finn" (i.e.; Pap) killed his son. She tells Huck that Pap was nearly lynched, but that the townsfolk changed their minds and now believe that Jim murdered Huck. She says there’s a reward of $200. for Pap and $300. for Jim. She says that some townsfolk still think that Pap murdered Huck to get his money.
The woman tells Huck that she told her husband she had seen smoke on Jackson’s Island and that her husband was going over there to look for Pap and Jim. Huck gets very scared, and, in order to busy his hands, he attempts to thread a needle. The woman watches and gives him a curious look. Huck says that he wishes he could get the reward money to give to his mother and asks the woman when her husband will be going to the island. She says he will go later that night after borrowing a boat.
She asks Huck for his name again. Huck replies, "M -- Mary Williams." Realizing he has made a mistake, he says that his full name is Sarah Mary Williams. The woman tosses Huck a hank of yarn and Huck closes his legs together and catches it. The woman immediately knows that he is a boy and not a girl because girls will catch things in their skirts by spreading their legs apart, whereas boys put them together to grasp an item.
Huck makes her promise not to tell and he spins a tale about running away from a mean man to whom he was apprenticed. He claims to be going to Goshen. The woman tells him he’s in St. Petersburg. She grills him on questions only a country boy could answer and he answers all correctly. He says his name is George Peters. She sends him off with some food and advice on how to act like a girl. When Huck gets back to the island, he rouses Jim and they hurriedly pack their things onto the raft they built and take off.
The next day, Huck and Jim tie up the raft on the Illinois side of the river and hide out. Huck tells Jim all about his visit to the shanty. Jim builds a wigwam for the raft and the two of them take off at dusk, drifting downriver, swimming, fishing, and talking. Five nights later they arrive in St. Louis. Huck has been using a few cents to buy cornmeal or bacon and stealing a chicken whenever he can. He also steals watermelon, pumpkins, and corn from fields.
During a lightning storm, they come upon a beached steamboat and Huck wants to board her. Jim is reluctant, but gives in. On board, they hear voices. Jim runs for the raft, but Huck crawls along until he can see three men. Two are threatening the third, who is tied up. The two men decide to rob the steamboat and leave the tied man to drown when she breaks up.
Huck finds Jim and suggests that they find the men’s boat and untie her, leaving all three stranded. Jim tells Huck that their raft has drifted away from its mooring and they are stranded on the steamboat.
Huck controls his panic and he and Jim frantically start searching for the boat that belongs to the men. Finding it, they jump in, cast off, and float away. Some time later, they catch up with their raft and get back aboard. Seeing a watchman on a ferryboat, Huck creates a tale about his mom and pop and sister who are marooned on the wreck and convinces him to go "rescue" the family. Huck is sure that the Widow Douglas would be proud of him for getting the "rapscallions" rescued.
Huck and Jim spend time discussing how kings and princes lived in other countries in times gone by and how people speak different languages. Jim can’t understand why people would speak a language different from English and Huck eventually decides that it’s impossible to argue with him since he doesn’t know how to argue!
Huck and Jim decide that they will sell the raft once they reach Cairo, about three days away. They will get on a steamboat and journey to the free states in the north, where Jim will be free and no one can send him back into slavery. On a foggy night, they tie up to a sapling on the shore, but the rough water tears the raft loose and it takes off downriver with Jim on board, leaving Huck on shore. Huck jumps into the canoe and takes off after the raft, but soon realizes that, in the fog, he has no idea which way to go. He lets the canoe drift.
Then, he starts to whoop and listen. Soon, he hears Jim whooping back. Huck starts paddling in the direction of Jim’s voice. As he paddles, he gets confused as Jim’s voice seems to come first from ahead, then from behind him. Then, it disappears. Huck decides they’ve been separated by a big island, so he relaxes and eventually falls asleep. When he wakes, the fog is gone and he’s in a "monstrous big river." He starts chasing specks ahead of him and eventually catches up with Jim, who’s asleep on the raft.
Huck jumps on board and when Jim wakes, he tries to convince him he’s been on board the whole time and that Jim has dreamed the fog and Huck’s absence. He manages to convince Jim and then he reverses his joke and convinces Jim of the truth. Jim is highly irate because Huck has made a fool of him. Huck feels low and "humbles" himself to ask Jim’s forgiveness. Huck decides to play no more mean tricks.
As the raft approaches Cairo, Jim gets "all trembly" knowing he’s going to be free soon and Huck starts to worry that he’ll be in trouble for "helpin’ a nigger" to freedom. Jim starts to tell Huck how he’s going to get a job and save his money and buy his wife and two children’s freedom. That makes Huck worry more because he’s helping Jim and he fears he’ll be the cause of more trouble if Jim tries to steal his children, which he says he will, if their owner won’t sell them. Huck privately decides he will paddle ashore at daybreak and tell someone about Jim being a runaway slave.
When Jim calls out that Cairo is approaching, Huck says he’ll take the canoe and go see. As Huck gets into the canoe, Jim goes on and on about how Huck is his only true friend and the only white man who never lied to him. Huck starts to regret his decision to rat on Jim. When two men in a boat ask Huck who is on the raft, he claims it’s his sick family. The men become convinced that there’s a family with smallpox on the raft and they send Huck downriver, claiming he will get help there. The two men feel guilty and each gives Huck a twenty dollar gold piece. When they leave, Huck feels tremendous guilt. But, he decides that he couldn’t be right no matter which choice he made -- to turn Jim in or not to -- so he gives up on worrying about it. Huck and Jim continue downriver and soon realize they must have passed Cairo the night of the fog. They decide to backtrack, using the canoe, but while they sleep, the canoe disappears! Then, they decide to continue downriver until they can buy a canoe. They blame their bad luck on the snakeskin. The next night, the raft is run over by a steamship. Both Huck and Jim dive for their lives. Huck pops up and swims for shore. He doesn’t see Jim. On shore, he is cornered by a bunch of dogs, near a log house.
Someone calls out to Huck from the log cabin, asking his name and why he is prowling around. Huck claims to have fallen off a steamboat. The man tells Huck to enter, as long as he’s not a Shepherdson. When he enters, he sees three men and three ladies, the men all holding guns. A young man about Huck’s age, Buck, is called from a back room and brings dry clothes for Huck. Huck spins a tale about how all his family is dead and he’s on his own. The Grangerford family invites him to stay with them as long as he wants to. Huck gets to know and like the family.
Colonel Grangerford is a gentleman and the family is well born. He is kind, but stern and everyone minds their manners when he’s around. Each family member has a slave to wait on them, including Huck! Huck learns that three sons and one daughter have died. The Colonel owns many farms and more than 100 slaves.
A nearby family, the Shepherdsons are also well born and rich. The two families use the same steamboat landing. One day, when Buck takes a shot at a member of the Shepherdsons, Huck learns that the two families have been involved in a feud for thirty years! Neither family can remember what started the feud. Both families are proud of their courage in facing down members of the other family. One of the young ladies, Sophia, sends Huck to get her prayer book that was left in church one Sunday. In it, Huck finds a note arranging for a meeting. When he returns the book to Sophia, she cautions him not to tell anyone about it. The same day, Huck’s slave invites him down to the river to "show you a whole stack o’water-moccasins." This seems odd, but Huck goes along. The slave takes Huck into the swamp and shows him where Jim is hiding! Jim had followed Huck to shore after the raft was run over, but was too afraid to call out and maybe be captured. Jim tells Huck the slaves have been bringing him food and water. He also tells Huck he’s been patching up the raft! The next morning Huck wakes to find that Sophia has run off to marry Henry Shepherdson. All the family has gone to bring her back and kill Henry. Huck takes off to find the family and ends up in a tree watching Buck and his cousin shoot at some of the Shepherdsons. Buck and his cousin take refuge underneath Huck’s tree and tell him that Sophia and Henry made it across the river, but that the Shepherdsons ambushed the Grangerfords and killed Buck’s father and two brothers. Several of the Shepherdsons were killed too. Suddenly, the Shepherdsons return and shoot both Buck and his cousin, killing them. Huck is heartsick.
Huck finds Jim and they shove off downriver in the raft.
Huck and Jim float downriver at night. They fish and swim, sleep and talk. They tie up during the day, hiding the raft in the cottonwoods. One day, Huck is hunting for berries, when two men come tearing along and beg him to save their lives. He allows them on the raft. One man is about 70, the other about 30. They claim not to know each other. Each describes a scam he runs and how he almost was run out of town on a rail.
As the conversation progresses, the young man claims to be a duke in disguise, the Duke of Bridgewater. Both Huck and Jim feel very sorry for him, to have been brought so low. The Duke requires that they call him "Your Grace" and wait on him. After awhile, the older man gets very quiet and then confesses that he, too, is in disguise. He claims to be the late Dauphin, Louis XVII, the rightful King of France. He wants to be called "Your Majesty" and be waited on also. Huck and Jim are so proud to be in his presence that they begin to wait on him, too. It doesn’t take Huck long to realize that these two are liars, not a King and a Duke, but he doesn’t say anything because Pap taught him that the best way to get along with people is to let them have their own way.
When the Duke and the King ask if Jim is a runaway slave, Huck spins a tale about how his family is all dead, but he and Jim, his slave, are going south to meet an uncle and live with him. The Duke and the King decide to work out some kind of plan so that the raft can run during the day. The King and Huck attend a camp meeting at the next town and the King grabs the heart of the crowd with a story about how he is a poor pirate. The crowd takes up a collection for him and he comes away with $87. 75. Meanwhile, the Duke has used a printing office to create a reward poster for Jim, saying he’s a runaway slave. He tells Huck that they can float downriver during the day and if anyone challenges them, they’ll say they’re returning Jim for the reward.
The Duke and the King begin to practice playacting in order to put on a show at the next town. They rehearse Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet’s soliloquy, and sword fighting. At the next town, they post playbills advertising their "Shaksperean Revivial." Admission is 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children and "niggers." While they are setting up for the Revival, one of the townsmen shoots a drunk in the street. After a while, all the townspeople begin to call for his lynching.
As the mob of townspeople reach the house of the murderer, he faces them down with a shotgun. After calling them cowards and daring them to come back in the dark, they break and run away.
That night, the Duke and the King put on their show, but only a dozen people show up and they spend the evening laughing at the thespians. The Duke is royally angry and decides to get back at them. He paints large signs, advertising "The Royal Nonesuch. 3 Nights only! World-Renowned David Garrick and Edmund Kean! Admission - 50 cents. Ladies and children not admitted."
That night, the playhouse is full of men. The Duke introduces the "tragedy" and onto the stage prances the King, stark naked. He cavorts and capers. When the audience is told that is the entire show, they are ready to lynch the Duke and the King, but decide it will be better to con the rest of the town into coming the following night, so that they all will be made fools. The next night, the same thing happens. On the third night, the audience is full of the same fools who attended the first two nights and this time they’re carrying rotten eggs, cabbages, and dead cats. The Duke advises Huck to run for the raft and he quickly follows. They cast off and Huck is feeling sorry for the King, when he crawls out of the wigwam and asks how it went. The Duke and King have made $465. from their scam. Jim tells Huck he can’t stand any more of the Duke and King and Huck agrees.
As they float further downriver, they run across a young man who tells them of a family named Wilks who recently lost their father, Peter, a rich man with houses, land, and cash. He tells the Duke and the King that the family consists of three girls and two more of Peter’s brothers, who live in England. The King grills the young man on all the details about the family and everyone in the town. Then the Duke, King, Huck, and Jim set off for the town, where they inquire about the home of Mr. Peter Wilks. The Duke and King, claim to be the English brothers of Mr. Peter Wilks.
The three sisters, Mary Jane, Susan, and Joanna welcome the King and the Duke with open arms. The Duke and the King carry off their roles with aplomb, crying with grief, loving their "nieces," and giving speeches. The King gives his speeches in English with an English accent; the Duke pretends to be deaf and mute and gives his speeches in "sign language." When the will is read, the girls receive the house and $3,000 in gold. Peter’s brothers receive a business, houses and land, and $3,000 dollars in gold. The King and Duke offer to retrieve the $6,000 from the cellar. They count it and decide to give it all to the three girls to gain their trust. They know they can steal it back later.
They take the money upstairs and the King makes a speech about the gift. Everyone is overcome by their generosity, especially the three girls. Only the town doctor calls them frauds and is brutally criticized for it. When he asks Mary Jane to turn the frauds out, she responds by giving all $6,000 to the King and asks him to invest it for them, with no receipt required. The doctor washes his hands of the situation, after warning them one more time.
A big dinner is held for all the townsfolk, except the doctor, and the King and Duke are asked to stay on. Joanna, the youngest girl, grills Huck about England and the church he attends and whether he’s ever seen the King. Joanna accuses Huck of telling some whoppers and her sisters chastise her and make her apologize. Huck feels very guilty for letting these three kind ladies get robbed by the King and the Duke. Huck decides to get their money back for them.
Huck hides in the Duke’s room and sees him and the King hide the money in the mattress. As soon as they leave, Huck grabs the bag of gold and runs with it. Temporarily, he hides the gold in his room.
As soon as Huck ascertains that the Duke and King are asleep, he takes the gold and hides it in Peter’s coffin in the parlor. The day after the funeral, the Duke and King sell the slaves and set up an auction for the house and land. When they discover the gold is missing, Huck persuades them that one of the slaves must have stolen it. Since the slaves were sold, the Duke and King can do nothing to get it back.
When Huck finds Mary Jane crying over the sale of the slaves and the separation of the mothers from their children, he blurts out that they’ll be home soon. He makes her promise to go away for four days and tells her that the King and Duke are frauds and that, when this is discovered, the sale will be held invalid and the slaves returned. He tells her to hide out until nine that evening and then return home. He says if he doesn’t turn up by eleven that night, she can turn in the Duke and King and get them jailed, because he’ll be gone and safe. He warns her that if he doesn’t get away, she must stand behind him and his story. She agrees. Huck sends her away so that her innocent face doesn’t give away the fact that she knows the truth. He also tells her where to find the gold.
That afternoon, the house and other items are sold at auction. A bit later, two gentlemen alight from the steamboat, claiming to be the girls’ uncles from England. One of them is a young man with his arm in a sling, the same one who talked with the King for so long. The townspeople are anxious to see how this conundrum will be solved.
The Duke and King don’t turn a hair upon seeing the real uncles. The King claims that the new uncles are frauds. A man from the steamboat claims to have seen the Duke, King, and Huck upriver before the funeral, not on a steamboat heading to the funeral. The doctor says that the King and the Duke must get the gold and let him keep it until they are proven not to be frauds. The King informs everyone that the gold has been stolen by a slave.
For the next few hours, the uncles (all four) and Huck are questioned and must tell and retell their stories. Finally, one of the real uncles asks the King to tell what is tattooed on Peter Wilks’ breast. The King claims there’s a blue arrow tattooed on Peter’s chest. The real uncle claims there are initials tattooed on his chest. The men who laid Peter out say that they saw nothing on his chest. Then, someone suggests digging Peter up to look. Everyone takes off for the graveyard, dragging Huck, the King, and the Duke along. When the coffin is dug up, the bag of gold is discovered. Huck grabs that moment, amidst the chaos, to take off running, as do the Duke and the King. Huck gets to the raft and yells for Jim to cast off. A few minutes later, the King and Duke pull up alongside in a skiff, followed by the sounds of rifle shots.
The King furiously grabs Huck by the collar and accuses him of abandoning them. Huck convinces him that the man who had him in tow had let him go so he wouldn’t be hanged. He says he ran because there wasn’t anything he could do to help the King and the Duke. The Duke points out to the King that he hadn’t stopped to look for Huck when they took off. The King and the Duke proceed to accuse each other of stealing the gold and hiding it. When they fall into a drunken sleep, Huck tells Jim the whole story.
The raft floats downriver without stopping, day after day, further and further south. Soon the King and Duke decide they’re safe and begin to run their scams again -- temperance lectures, dancing schools, elocution lessons, doctoring, telling fortunes. They make nothing. So, they begin to "think up some devilment" as Huck says.
The raft stops at a town into which the King goes to observe. Later, Huck and the Duke follow him. Huck takes his chance to go back to the raft to escape from them and finds that Jim is gone. A boy tells Huck that Jim has been captured by Silas Phelps as a "runaway nigger." The boy also tells Huck that "an old man" turned Jim in and got a fourty dollar reward for him. Huck can’t figure out what to do.
Huck thinks and thinks and finally comes up with a plan. He moves the raft and hides it. The next day he takes the canoe and goes back to town. He hides the canoe and heads for Phelps's Sawmill. In town he finds the Duke, putting up Royal Nonesuch flyers. Huck spins a tale about how he has lost the raft and believes a man has stolen Jim. The Duke tells Huck that the King has sold Jim and spent all the money. The Duke lies to Huck and tells him Jim is forty miles away and tells Huck he must go get him. Huck, of course, knows where Jim really is. He is determines to get rid of the King and the Duke.
Huck arrives at Phelps’ plantation to look for Jim and is quickly surrounded by dogs, barking and howling. A slave woman sends them packing and the lady of the house comes out and greets Huck by saying, "It’s you at last!" He has no idea who she thinks he is, but he tells her, "Yes’m." She introduces him to her little children as cousin Tom, and she introduces herself as Aunt Sally.
She asks Huck to give her all the news from home, but before he can, her husband comes home and she introduces Huck as Tom Sawyer! After that, Huck has no problem telling all the news from home. Huck decides to go to town and meet the steamboat in case the real Tom Sawyer shows up.
On the way to town, Huck encounters Tom Sawyer on his way to Aunt Sally’s by wagon. Huck explains he wasn’t murdered and tells Tom the fix he’s in. Tom thinks and then tells Huck to take his trunk and go back and he’ll come along in a bit. Huck tells Tom he’s looking for Jim and Tom offers to help steal Jim. Huck goes back to Aunt Sally’s.
Soon, Tom arrives at Aunt Sally’s. He tells everyone he’s Sid Sawyer, Tom’s brother. They are delighted to see him. One of the cousins lets on that a couple of loafers will be putting on a show that evening. As soon as they are supposed to be in bed, Huck and Tom head for town. On the way, the boys fill each other in on what’s happened.
Soon, they run into a crowd of townspeople with torches, hollering and yelling. They’re running the Duke and King out of town on a rail, after tarring and feathering them.
Tom tells Huck he knows where Jim is. He says Jim must be in the hut by the ash-hopper because he saw a "nigger" go into the hut with "vittles." Both boys think and come up with plans to rescue Jim. Huck’s plan is rejected for being too simple. Tom’s plan is approved because it has a lot of style, will free Jim, and "maybe get us all killed besides." Of course, Tom’s plan relies heavily on the romantic adventure stories he has read. Huck and Tom examine the hut and decide to use a small shed built against the hut as cover while they dig Jim out. The next day, one of the slaves shows them Jim in the hut. They manage to tell Jim that they’re going to dig him out and that he should pretend not to know them.
Tom is quite disappointed that getting Jim out is going to be easy. He rejects getting Jim out through the window as too easy, working with a lantern as too easy, and wishes they could drug the slave who is sent, with a key, to feed Jim. He decides it wouldn’t be good, or necessary, to saw Jim’s leg off to get rid of his chains. He says they will get a rope ladder for Jim to hide in his bed, even though he’ll have no need for it. Tom decides the rope ladder will be a good clue for others to find when they’re gone. Tom also decides that Jim must use his own blood to write a journal, even though he can’t write and that he and Huck will use knives, instead of the nearby shovels and picks, to dig Jim out. Huck thinks it’s all foolish, but goes along with it.
That night, they begin to dig. At midnight, when they’ve made no headway and their hands are blistered, Tom decides they’ll have to use the picks. So, calling the picks and shovels "case knives," they get to work. The next night, they finish the hole and crawl through it into Jim’s hut.
Aunt Sally is highly irate that a shirt, sheet, and other things are missing. Huck and Tom use the shirt for Jim’s journal, the sheet for his ladder, and the other things to smuggle into the hut. To pacify her, the boys take and return sheets and spoons several times until Aunt Sally doesn’t know how many she has and doesn’t care anymore. Jim goes along with all Tom’s ideas, even though he can’t figure out why the boys are making him do all of this, when he could escape at any time.
Tom and Huck create a coat of arms for Jim and invent an inscription for him to leave in the hut. They steal a grindstone, bring it to the hut, and write the inscription on it, using nails, chisels, a bolt, and a hammer. Meanwhile, Tom tries to figure out how to get spiders and a rattlesnake into the hut for Jim’s "pets", scaring Jim, who declares he will leave if Tom brings anything like that into the hut. Then Tom decides to get Jim a plant to "water with his tears." Jim wants to know why he can’t use the spring water he’s given each day to water the plant. Tom lectures Jim for being so ungrateful and unwilling to be a prisoner who "follows the rules." Jim promises to behave.
Huck and Tom catch fifteen rats and hide them under Aunt Sally’s bed. One of the children finds the rats and lets them loose, causing Aunt Sally to "raise Cain." She gives both Huck and Tom a "dusting" with a hickory stick and makes them catch all the rats. Then, Huck and Tom catch some snakes and put them in a bag in their room; when they return, the snakes are gone! Needless to say, Aunt Sally nearly loses her mind and gives them another beating. They put the rats, snakes, and spiders in the hut and nearly drive Jim out of his mind. Next, the boys write an anonymous note to the family: "Beware. Trouble is brewing. Keep a sharp lookout. UNKNOWN FRIEND."
They draw a skull and crossbones in blood on the front door and a coffin on the back door. The family is scared to death. The final note says:
"Don't betray me, I wish to be your friend. There is a desprate gang of cut-throats from over in the Indian Territory going to steal your runaway nigger to-night, and they have been trying to scare you so as you will stay in the house and not bother them. I am one of the gang, but have got religgion and wish to quit it and lead an honest life again, and will betray the helish design. They will sneak down from northards, along the fence, at midnight exact, with a false key, and go in the nigger's cabin to get him. I am to be off a piece and blow a tin horn if I see any danger; but stead of that I will BA like a sheep soon as they get in and not blow at all; then whilst they are getting his chains loose, you slip there and lock them in, and can kill them at your leasure. Don't do anything but just the way I am telling you; if you do they will suspicion something and raise whoop-jamboreehoo. I do not wish any reward but to know I have done the right thing.
The next night, Huck checks to make sure the raft is safe. At bedtime, he and Tom dress in Aunt Sally’s and a female slave’s clothes and get ready to release Jim. Aunt Sally catches Huck and wants to know what’s going on. She sends him into the parlor, where fifteen farmers are waiting, with guns! Huck slips away to warn Tom and just then they hear the farmers coming to catch the slave stealers.
Huck, Tom, and Jim slip out the hole, but Tom’s pants catch and make a noise. They start running with bullets whizzing around them. The men and dogs chase them through the woods. Huck, Tom, and Jim hide and the dogs give them a quick sniff and tear off.
Huck, Tom, and Jim get to the canoe and cast off. They get to the raft and discover that Tom has a bullet in his leg, which thrills him. Huck and Jim insist that Huck must get a doctor. Tom doesn’t want him to, but agrees as long as Huck blindfolds the doctor and keeps their location a secret.
Huck finds the doctor and spins a tale about how Tom got shot by kicking his gun during a dream and getting shot in his sleep, while they are hunting. The doctor refuses to travel in the canoe, so Huck tells him where the raft is. On Huck’s way back, he runs into Uncle Silas, who wants to know where he and "Sid" have been. Huck explains they’re looking for the runaway slave. Uncle Silas makes Huck return home and stay there. Both he and Aunt Sally are worried about where "Sid" has gone. Aunt Sally is so kind and so worried that Huck begins to feel very guilty. She makes him promise not to go out. He feels worse when he sees her crying and worrying in the parlor.
The next morning, Uncle Silas shows Aunt Sally and Huck a letter from Tom’s mother, Aunt Sally’s sister. Before she can read it, the doctor shows up with Tom on a mattress and Jim with his hands tied. Tom is put to bed and Jim is chained up in the hut with armed guards outside. The doctor praises Jim for helping to treat Tom and risking his freedom to do so. Huck hides the letter.
The next morning Tom wakes and claims that he and Huck were the ones who set Jim free. He explains how they did everything to Aunt Sally. Tom is proud and happy. Aunt Sally is furious. Then, she tells Tom that Jim is not free, he is chained in the hut. Tom informs her that Jim is actually a free man, having been freed by Miss Watson in her will.
Just then, Aunt Polly appears! Of course, Aunt Polly immediately reveals who Huck and Tom really are. Aunt Polly supports Tom’s statement that Jim is a free man. She explains that she came to the plantation because of the letter Aunt Sally had sent her, telling her about Tom and "Sid" coming to visit, when Sid was at home.
When Tom and Huck have a chance to talk privately, Tom explains that even though he knew Jim was a free man, he wanted the three of them to go downriver on the raft and have adventures, before telling Jim he was free. Then, he planned to send Jim back on a steamboat and have him met with a torchlight procession, as a hero.
Jim is freed from the hut and his chains, is given a good meal, and praised thoroughly. Tom gives Jim forty dollars for being so patient and Jim is happy that he is now a rich man. Jim tells Huck about Pap being dead and Tom tells Huck his six thousand dollars is still his.
Everyone returns home and Huck decides to "light out" for the "Injun territories" soon because Aunt Sally wants to adopt him and he can’t go through that again!
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Essay Questions
1. Why does Twain use a child as the narrator and main character in this book?
- By using a 13-year-old child, Twain is comparing the vulnerability and helplessness of childhood to the situation of blacks in American before the Civil War. Huck also demonstrates the differences between the often hypocritical, unchanging, moral ethics of society and Huckleberry Finn’s moral ethics, which are based on Huck’s own experiences and are still capable of change.
2. How does Twain use symbolism in the novel?
- The river is a symbol of freedom and change in society. It’s a peaceful and free place compared to the towns on its banks. The river changes as the novel progresses into a force that will take Huck and Jim into the deep South, where further dangers from society will threaten them with loss of freedom.
- The feuding families are symbols of persons hidebound by tradition and the unexamined, foolish values of family honor.
- Jim is a symbol of the caring and compassion found in the Negro race.
- Pap is a symbol of the worst kind of person in terms of family values.
- Huck and society are symbols that represent opposite poles in terms of moral ethics, one is curious, questioning, and capable of change; the other is reactionary, unquestioning, and unwilling to change.
3. Explain how Twain uses moral ethics and values in this novel. From where do they come? Does Twain feel one source is more acceptable than the others? If so, which one and why? Does he disapprove of the other sources? If so, why?
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Discussion Topics
- Debate whether The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a racist book or not.
- Discuss the use of various types of families as symbols and plot devices in the novel. When should society intervene in a family?
- Why did Twain set the novel before the Civil War (1861-1865) when slavery was a given, even though it was actually published in 1885, after the slavery was abolished?
- How does Twain use superstition as a plot device and a way of describing the society of the time?
- Have societal values changed since this book was written? If yes, explore which ones and why the changes have taken place. Should and will such changes continue in the future?
- According to the time the book's setting is in, is Jim considered an antagonist for running away?
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Important Quotes
“But 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.”
“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.’…I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.”
“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 neither if I’d ’a’ knowed it would make him feel that way.”