Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer had found a box of gold in a robber’s cave. Later, after Judge Thatcher takes the money and invests it for the boys, each receives the huge allowance of one dollar a day. The Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, take Huck home with them to try to reform him. At first, Huck cannot stand living in a tidy house where smoking and swearing are forbidden. Worse, he has to go to school and learn how to read. He does, however, manage to drag himself to school almost every day, except for the times when he sneaks off for a smoke in the woods or goes fishing on the Mississippi River.
Life is beginning to become bearable to him when one day he notices a boot print in the snow. Examining it closely, he realizes that it belongs to his worthless father, whom he has not seen for more than a year. Knowing that his father will be looking for him when he learns about the money, Huck rushes to Judge Thatcher and persuades him to take the fortune for himself. The judge is puzzled, but he signs some papers, and Huck is satisfied that he no longer has any money for his father to take from him.
Huck’s father shows up one night in Huck’s room at the Widow Douglas’s home. Complaining that he has been cheated out of his son’s money, the old drunkard later takes Huck away with him to a cabin in the Illinois woods, where he keeps the boy a prisoner, beating him periodically and half starving him. Huck is allowed to smoke and swear, however, and before long he begins to wonder why he ever liked living with the widow. His life with his father would be pleasant except for the beatings. One day, he sneaks away, leaving a bloody trail from a pig he kills in the woods. Huck wants everyone to believe he is dead. He climbs into a canoe and goes to Jackson’s Island to hide until the excitement subsides.
After three days of freedom, Huck wanders to another part of the island, and there he discovers Jim, Miss Watson’s black slave, who tells Huck that he ran off because he overheard Miss Watson planning to sell him down South for eight hundred dollars. Huck swears he will not report Jim. The two stay on the island many days, Jim giving Huck an education in primitive superstition. One night, Huck paddles back to the mainland. Disguised as a girl, he calls on a home near the shore. There he learns that his father disappeared shortly after the people of the town concluded that Huck was murdered. Since Jim disappeared just after Huck’s apparent death, there is now a three-hundred-dollar reward posted for Jim’s capture, for most people believe that he killed Huck.
Knowing that Jackson’s Island will soon be searched, Huck hurries back to Jim, and the two head down the Mississippi on a raft they have found. They plan to sell the raft at Cairo, Illinois, and then go on a steamboat up the Ohio River into free territory. Jim tells Huck that he will work hard in the North and then buy his wife and children from their masters in the South. Helping a runaway slave bothers Huck’s conscience, but he reasons that it would bother him more if he betrayed a good friend. One night, as they are drifting down the river on their raft, a large steamboat looms before them, and Huck and Jim, knowing that the raft will be smashed under the hull of the ship, jump into the water. Huck swims safely to shore, but Jim disappears.
Huck finds a home with a friendly family named Grangerford, who are feuding with the nearby Shepherdson family. The Grangerfords treat Huck kindly and leave him mostly to himself, even giving him a young slave to wait on him. One day, the slave asks him to come to the woods to see some snakes. Following the boy, Huck comes across Jim, who has been hiding in the woods...
(The entire section is 1528 words.)
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