Study Guide

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Mississippi River

*Mississippi River. The novel’s primary backdrop, the Lower Mississippi is the motive force that drives both the raft and the narrative. Most of the novel’s action actually takes place ashore, but no character ever strays far inland, and the river’s presence always looms. Rich in symbolism, the river washes away sin (such as bawdy houses and murderers), bestows wealth (including bountiful fish and valuable flotsam), and wreaks destruction (destroying both steamboats and towns), all the while inexorably carrying everything upon it ever deeper into the South and its harsh plantation slavery—exactly where Huck and Jim do not want to go. They allow the river to carry them south because they lack the means to navigate upriver and because forces beyond their control repeatedly prevent them from obtaining such means.

Twain was intimately acquainted with the river. He spent his childhood on its banks and as a young man piloted steamboats between St. Louis and New Orleans. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does a masterful job of conveying the river’s beauty and terrible majesty through the eyes of its ingenuous narrator, Huck.

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg. Sleepy riverfront Missouri village in which Huck lives with the Widow Douglas and her sister when the novel opens. It is modeled on Twain’s boyhood home of Hannibal, Missouri. The village and the widow’s proper home represent decency and the forces of civilization, against which Huck rebels. After his alcoholic father kidnaps him and takes him upstream to a crude hut on the Illinois shore, Huck initially feels liberated. However, after his father repeatedly abuses him, Huck runs off on his own. He never expresses an interest in returning to St. Petersburg. Indeed, the novel ends with him expressing a wish “to light out for the Territory”—presumably an allusion to the untamed West.

Jackson’s Island

Jackson’s Island. Mississippi River island below St. Petersburg to which Huck flees on a canoe after faking his own murder. There he finds Jim, a slave running away from St. Petersburg because he fears he is about to be sold “down the river”—every Missouri slave’s worst nightmare. The island is easy swimming distance from the free state of Illinois, but that state offers no refuge to Jim because fugitive slave laws make its western shores the dangerous hunting ground of slave catchers. Huck and Jim remain on the island until the prospect of imminent discovery spurs them to load their things on a raft and flee downriver.

Raft

Raft. Flat craft on which Huck and Jim float down the river. After a brief idyll on the island, Jim and Huck learn that slave catchers are coming and flee together on a lumber raft with a pine-plank deck about fifteen feet long and twelve feet wide that they have salvaged from flotsam delivered by the rising river. Their primary home through most of the remaining narrative, the raft represents their most reliable sanctuary from the evils of the shore and thus symbolizes the freedom they both seek. Huck’s descriptions of life on the raft contain several idyllic masterpieces.

*Cairo

*Cairo (kay-ROH). Town at Illinois’s southern tip where Huck and Jim intend to land, sell their raft, and buy steamboat passage up the Ohio River into free territory. In a critical juncture in the narrative, however, they drift past Cairo in the fog. The Mississippi continues carrying them ever deeper into slave territory and thwarts every plan they make to return upstream.

*Ohio River

*Ohio River. Major tributary of the Mississippi River, which it joins below Cairo. As the major physical barrier separating northern “free” states from southern “slave” states, the Ohio represented a threshold of freedom to African Americans and was thus an appropriate choice as Huck and Jim’s primary destination. Although Huck and Jim never actually see the river, the distinct clear-water channel that its water creates in the muddy Mississippi alerts Huck to the fact that he and Jim have drifted past Cairo. A detailed and colorful explanation of the differences between the waters of the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers is a crucial part of the novel’s so-called “raft chapter,” which has been omitted from most editions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because Mark Twain used it earlier in Life on the Mississippi (1883).

Grangerford home

Grangerford home. Prosperous plantation apparently located on the Kentucky side of the river. After their raft is smashed by a steamboat, Huck is separated from Jim and taken in by the prosperous Grangerford family, whose home represents the thin veneer of southern civilization. It offers everything Huck wants in life, but after all the Grangerford men are killed in a senseless feud that unmasks southern degeneracy, he returns to the river with Jim, who has repaired the raft while hiding nearby.

*Pike County

*Pike County. Real Missouri county, about fifteen miles south of Hannibal, from which Huck claims to come when he meets the King and Duke, scoundrels who board the raft and take control, again making it impossible for Huck and Jim to return upriver. The county was notorious as the birthplace of worthless frontier characters before the Civil War and is thus another symbol of the South’s decadence.

Bricksville

Bricksville. Arkansas town in which Huck witnesses still more depravity: a shooting, a would-be lynch mob, and the King and Duke’s lurid stage show, the Royal Nonesuch. “Bricksville” is ironically named, as its streets are all mud, and its houses are rotting wood-frame structures gradually sliding into the river.

Pikesville

Pikesville. Shabby Arkansas village that is the raft’s last stop. Jim becomes a prisoner on the nearby farm of Tom Sawyer’s Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally Phelps. In a wholesale departure from the tone and movement of the narrative, Huck and Tom spend the novel’s last chapters in a farcical plot to free Jim. Afterward, Huck rebels against Aunt Sally’s plan to adopt and “sivilize” him and proposes “to light out for the Territory”—presumably the vast Indian territory west of Arkansas and Missouri.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Historical Context

Riverboat Print Published by Gale Cengage

Slavery
The issue of slavery threatened to divide the nation as early as the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and...

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Twain’s Seven Dialects

Twain’s Seven Dialects in the “Explanatory”
Twain’s “Explanatory” in The Adventures of Huckleberry...

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Setting

A sequel to Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn takes place in the 1830s or 1840s. It begins in St. Petersburg, a fictional town much like...

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Literary Style

Narrator
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was a breakthrough in American literature for its...

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Literary Techniques

The single most cohesive feature in the novel is Huck's engaging narration. Because the reader often knows more than Huck does, his naive...

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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?

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(The entire section is 291 words.)

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?

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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...

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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?

Answers
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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...

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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?

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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....

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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?

Answers
1. Jim said he did not want any more adventures because he did not want to risk...

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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?

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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...

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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?

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 vaults”?

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...

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Chapters 22 and 23 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who faces the mob single-handed?

2. Who is Twain satirizing in this situation?

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?

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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?

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 supper?

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...

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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?

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...

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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?

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...

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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?

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?

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(The entire section is 254 words.)

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?

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...

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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?

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?

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(The entire section is 284 words.)

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?

8. What do Huck and Tom do to confuse Aunt Sally about her silverware?

9. Why do they need a bedsheet?

10. Why...

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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?

10....

(The entire section is 284 words.)

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...

(The entire section is 254 words.)

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?

Answers
1. The doctor, Jim, and the...

(The entire section is 283 words.)