Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*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. 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...
(The entire section is 1015 words.)
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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...
(The entire section is 997 words.)
Twain’s Seven Dialects
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...
(The entire section is 719 words.)
A sequel to Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn takes place in the 1830s or 1840s. It begins in St. Petersburg, a fictional town much like Hannibal, but its main action occurs on the Mississippi River. After Huck meets Jim on Jackson's Island, the two travel down river on a raft that comes to symbolize their brotherhood and freedom. Hoping to drift to Cairo, Illinois, where Jim can escape to freedom, they are diverted by a fog and travel southward to Arkansas instead. The trip ties together a series of adventures which, as many commentators have remarked, contrast the peace and freedom of the raft with the violence, corruption, and constraint of the shore.
(The entire section is 112 words.)
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,...
(The entire section is 830 words.)
The single most cohesive feature in the novel is Huck's engaging narration. Because the reader often knows more than Huck does, his naive narration lends irony to the work. As an artist, Twain was most conscious of language, providing not only for the richness of Huck's speech but for the variety of dialects represented.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn delivers its powerful message through Huck's narration. His rich language and humor remain fresh. Huck's journey down the river has become part of American mythology, and the issues of freedom and responsibility he confronts still concern American culture. Readable, entertaining, and significant, this novel deserves its status as a classic.
A sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes place in the 1830s or 1840s. It begins in St. Petersburg, a fictional town much like Twain's hometown of Hannibal, but its main action occurs on the Mississippi River. After Huck meets Jim on Jackson's Island, the two travel down river on a raft that comes to symbolize their brotherhood and freedom. Hoping to drift to Cairo, Illinois, where Jim can escape to freedom, they are diverted by a fog and travel southward to Arkansas instead. The trip ties together a series of adventures which, as many commentators have remarked, contrast the peace and freedom of the raft with the violence, corruption, and constraint of the shore. Although it begins with the warning, "Persons...
(The entire section is 384 words.)
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
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?
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...
(The entire section is 291 words.)
Chapters 2 and 3 Questions and Answers
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?
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...
(The entire section is 272 words.)
Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers
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.
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...
(The entire section is 346 words.)
Chapters 6 and 7 Questions and Answers
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.
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....
(The entire section is 294 words.)
Chapters 8 and 9 Questions and Answers
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.
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...
(The entire section is 282 words.)
Chapters 10 and 11 Questions and Answers
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.
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...
(The entire section is 257 words.)
Chapters 12 and 13 Questions and Answers
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...
(The entire section is 277 words.)
Chapters 14 and 15 Questions and Answers
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...
(The entire section is 292 words.)
Chapters 16 and 17 Questions and Answers
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 smallpox.
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.
(The entire section is 266 words.)
Chapters 18 and 19 Questions and Answers
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....
(The entire section is 268 words.)
Chapters 20 and 21 Questions and Answers
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 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...
(The entire section is 353 words.)
Chapters 22 and 23 Questions and Answers
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?
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...
(The entire section is 274 words.)
Chapters 24 and 25 Questions and Answers
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 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...
(The entire section is 357 words.)
Chapters 26 and 27 Questions and Answers
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 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 families?
1. The women make degrading comments about their food so that they can elicit compliments from their guests.
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...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Chapters 28 and 29 Questions and Answers
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 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 gone.
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...
(The entire section is 315 words.)
Chapters 30 and 31 Questions and Answers
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?
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...
(The entire section is 254 words.)
Chapters 32 and 33 Questions and Answers
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 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 Watson.
5. The stranger who arrives at the Phelps Plantation is Tom Sawyer who is disguised as Sid Sawyer, Tom’s brother....
(The entire section is 367 words.)
Chapters 34 and 35 Questions and Answers
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?
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.
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Chapters 36 and 37 Questions and Answers
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 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...
(The entire section is 295 words.)
Chapters 38 and 39 Questions and Answers
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. 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...
(The entire section is 284 words.)
Chapters 40 and 41 Questions and Answers
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.
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.
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Chapters 42 and 43 Questions and Answers
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.
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 water.
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...
(The entire section is 283 words.)
Although it begins with the warning, "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot will be shot," Huckleberry Finn contains these three elements. Major themes—freedom and responsibility, truth and falsehood, death and rebirth, and identity—support the action and provide structure. But the novel's ending has drawn extensive criticism. Critics argue that Tom Sawyer's coincidental appearance and his elaborate plan to rescue Jim make the ending highly improbable. Arguably, Huck's cooperation with Tom negates the moral development he has experienced and reduces Jim to the figure of fun he was at the books outset. Some defenders of Twain's ending suggest that it provides a circle, bringing the boy back to where he began, and others interpret the failure of Tom's plan as the destruction of the illusion of chivalry.
The book's loose structure may be classified as a picaresque narrative because its unity derives from following a central character through a series of episodes. Like Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605), Huckleberry Finn treats questions of illusion and reality by portraying Huck's contact with a number of levels of society. In addition, the novel's unity might be defined by Huck's education or initiation, his maturation through experience and insight.
The single most cohesive feature in the novel is...
(The entire section is 272 words.)
Although regarded as a classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has engendered controversy from the start. The Concord Public Library in Massachusetts banned it shortly after publication. In reporting approvingly of this action, the Boston Transcript noted that members of the library committee found the book "the veriest trash" and "rough, coarse, and inelegant." The Springfield Republican found the novel "a gross trifling with every fine feeling" and "harmful." These objections, grounded on the view that only idealized portrayals of young persons can be edifying, can be dismissed easily by contemporary readers; more serious, however, are charges that the book encourages racism.
In 1957 New York City junior and senior high schools dropped the novel from a list of approved books because it uses the term "nigger" and allegedly stereotypes Jim. More recently, a number of court cases have been fought to remove it from lists of required reading on grounds of racism. For example, in 1982 an administrative aide at, ironically, the Mark Twain Intermediate School in Fairfax County, Virginia, stated, "The book is poison ... it works against the idea that all men are created equal. . . anybody who teaches this book is a racist."
Some elements in Jim's character do suggest stereotyping — his superstition, his seeming passivity and gullibility — but he is generally superior to the book's white characters. Pap Finn's "whiteness" stands in contrast to...
(The entire section is 347 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a humorous novel about very serious subjects. Discussion leaders should beware that some people may resent having someone discuss the serious side of a novel they treasure for its comedy. Even so, the richness of the book cannot be fully appreciated unless its underlying seriousness is examined. The humor is used for a profound purpose in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, helping to make tolerable individual and social tragedies otherwise almost too painful to examine closely. Remember, Huck is a reporter who tries to honestly tell us what he sees, but he often does not understand the meaning of what he witnesses. Interpreting for yourself what Huck often misunderstands is a good way to guide a discussion through the humor to the themes that give the novel its depth.
The novel can arouse passions in its readers, which could erupt into arguments. The racial issues embodied in the relationship between Huck and Jim can particularly arouse the ire of some readers. One way to get past the misinformed notion that the book is racist is to focus on how the characterization of Jim is developed. Note how his life as a husband and father is revealed from one scene to the next; he becomes a richly rounded figure who wrestles with feelings of guilt over having hit a deaf daughter, who tries to understand a Bible that he cannot read, who grapples with difficult moral questions, and who applies courage and imagination to the...
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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.
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.
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Topics for Discussion
1. Throughout Huckleberry Finn a variety of lies are told. Discuss which seem to be useful and which harmful. Why?
2. How do the King and the Duke take advantage of society? Contrast them with Huck and Jim.
3. Death is everywhere in the book, from Huck's make-believe murder of himself, to his father's corpse in the floating house, the feud, Emmeline Grangerford's art, and the Wilks funeral. Does this make the book morbid? How does Huck handle his fear and understanding of death?
4. Huck tells a series of lies about his family. What do these reveal? How does he seek a sense of belonging?
5. At first Jim seems to be a simple character. What are some ways in which the author develops him?
6. How does Jim serve as a father figure to Huck? Contrast him with Pap Finn.
7. Pap Finn thinks only about himself, and at the beginning of the book Huck seems self-interested too. How is Huck brought to consider others?
8. The Grangerfords are "civilized" but engage in meaningless slaughter. How do Huck's impressions of them convey the author's social criticism?
9. Many critics have found flaws with the novel's ending. Do you believe it undercuts or contributes to the book? Why?
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Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. Compare the character of Tom Sawyer as it is developed in Tom Sawyer with its presentation in Huckleberry Finn. What are some major differences? What accounts for them?
2. Survey some critical essays on the ending of Huckleberry Finn. Choose the explanation of the ending you think best and defend it.
3. Prepare a report on Twain's early life. What parts of his experience does he use in Huckleberry Finn?
4. Critics have defined the raft as a symbol of freedom. Prepare a report on the symbolism of Huck's raft, tracing how its significance is developed.
5. Huckleberry Finn is a humorous book. Classify and discuss several different types of humor it employs.
6. Prepare a report on a film, musical, or television version of Huckleberry Finn. How does this version compare with the original? What changes have been made? Why?
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Topics for Further Study
- 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.
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The book's loose structure may be classified as a picaresque narrative because its unity derives from following a central character through a series of episodes. Like Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn treats questions of illusion and reality by portraying Huck's contact with a number of levels of society. In addition, the novel's unity might be defined by Huck's education or initiation, his maturation through experience and insight.
(The entire section is 70 words.)
As a major figure in American and world literature, Huckleberry Finn has appeared in every medium: illustration, film, radio, theater, television, and even cartoon. The most faithful of these is perhaps the 1986 PBS adaptation. The most interesting is probably John Seelye's The True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, 1970), which rewrites the book to suit its critics. Seelye provides rougher language and an unhappy "inevitable" ending. This experiment truly illuminates the original, and its introduction is a delightful history of critical response to the novel. Nat Hentoff s The Day They Came to Arrest the Book (New York: Delacorte Press, 1982) treats the controversy surrounding the book. Perhaps the most successful adaptation to appear in movie theaters was Huckleberry Finn (1939), directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Mickey Rooney, Walter Connolly, William Frawley, Rex Ingram, and Lynne Carver.
The Huckleberry Finn character is first introduced in Tom Sawyer, where he plays a secondary role but is established as a homeless orphan with a reputation as a troublemaker. The story about Tom Sawyer lacks the weighty themes of its sequel, but provides a highly enjoyable account of the imagination and abandon that characterize boyhood. Although Huckleberry Finn can be enjoyed without any prior familiarity with Tom Sawyer, the earlier book introduces Huck's relationship with...
(The entire section is 223 words.)
- 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 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,...
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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...
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For Further Reference
Anderson, Frederick, ed. Mark Twain: The Critical Heritage. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1971. This collection traces criticism of Twain's writing from the publication of his first novels to recent times.
Blair, Walter. Mark Twain and Huck Finn. Berkeley: University of California, 1960. This pioneering work explores the background and creation of Huckleberry Finn.
ed. Mark Twain's Hannibal, Huck and Tom. Berkeley: University of California, 1969. A collection of other works, most fragmentary, in which Twain uses materials from the Hannibal background. None of these possess any great merit, but they are interesting to contrast with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
Bradley, Sculley, et al., eds. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: An Annotated Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Essays in Criticism. 2d ed. New York: Norton, 1977. An edition of the novel with very good notes and major critical essays. Also contains a useful bibliography.
Ferguson, DeLancey. Mark Twain: Man and Legend. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1943. A reliable, balanced, and readable biography.
Hill, Hamlin. Mark Twain: God's Fool New York: Harper and Row, 1973. A picture of Twain's unhappy final years.
Kaplan, Justin. Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966. A controversial, though effective, biography stressing the duality in Twain's character....
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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.
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...
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Bibliography (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Adams, Richard P. “The Unity and Coherence of Huckleberry Finn.” In Huck Finn Among the Critics: A Centennial Selection, edited by M. Thomas Inge. Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1985. Summarizes previous critical opinion about the novel’s structure and argues that its organization of imagery results in symbolic patterns that include the organic ending.
Blair, Walter. Mark Twain and Huck Finn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960. Elegantly written classic essay on the writing of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Still valuable as an exploration of the novel’s background of characters and ideas.
Doyno, Victor. Writing “Huck Finn”: Mark Twain’s Creative Process. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992. The most nearly definitive essay on the creation of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Fishkin, Shelley Fisher. Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. This original and important work demonstrates conclusively that the major sources for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were black.
Quirk, Tom. Coming to Grips with “Huckleberry Finn”: Essays on a Book, a Boy, and a Man. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993. Explores issues in the novel and presents factual contexts for them. Examines Twain’s attitude toward race....
(The entire section is 350 words.)