Mark Twain blends many comic elements into the story of Huck Finn, a boy about 13 years old, living in pre-Civil War Missouri. Huck, the novel’s narrator, has been living with the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, in the town of St. Petersburg. They have been trying to “sivilize” him with proper dress, manners, and religious piety. He finds this life constraining and false and would rather live free and wild. When his father hears that Huck has come into a large amount of money, he kidnaps him and locks him in an old cabin across the river. To avoid his father’s cruel beatings, Huck elaborately stages his own death and then escapes to Jackson’s Island. He finds Jim, Miss Watson’s runaway slave, on the island, and the two decide to hide out together. To avoid danger of discovery, they decide to float down the river on a raft they had found earlier. Sleeping during the day and traveling at night, they plan to connect with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois, which would lead them north into the free states, where slavery is outlawed. They miss Cairo in the fog one night and find themselves floating deeper into slave territory. While they are searching for a canoe, a steamship hits the raft and damages it. Huck and Jim are separated.
Huck swims ashore where he meets the feuding Grangerfords and Shepherdsons. He claims to be George Jackson, a passenger who fell from a steamboat and swam to shore. After witnessing a violent eruption of the feud in which many people are killed, he finds Jim, and they return to the raft.
They continue down the river. Two conmen, calling themselves a king and a duke, find their way to the raft. In one of the towns the king and the duke impersonate the two brothers of Peter Wilks, who has just died and left a small fortune. Huck thwarts their plan to swindle Wilks’ family out of their inheritance. The king and the duke escape, but further down the river the two decide to sell Jim to Silas Phelps, who turns out to be Tom Sawyer’s uncle.
Visiting his aunt and uncle, Tom persuades Huck to join him in an elaborate, ridiculous plan to free Jim. Huck prefers a quicker escape for Jim but caves in to Tom’s wishes. Only after Tom’s plan has been played out, and Jim recaptured, does Tom reveal that Miss Watson had actually freed Jim two months earlier, just before she died. Huck decides to “light out for the Territory,” to head west toward the frontier before anyone can attempt to “sivilize” him again.
List of Characters
Huckleberry Finn—Narrator of the novel. Son of the town drunkard. The Widow Douglas, his guardian, tries to “sivilize” him.
Jim—Miss Watson’s black slave. Huckleberry Finn’s traveling companion on the raft. Widow Douglas—Huck’s guardian while his pap is gone. She is determined to civilize Huck.
Miss Watson—The widow’s sister who tries to improve Huck’s manners.
Tom Sawyer—Huck’s best friend who conjures up intriguing plans derived from his imagination and the books he reads.
Pap—Huck’s drunken father who kidnaps Huck and locks him in a cabin.
Aunt Polly—Tom Sawyer’s aunt and guardian.
Judge Thatcher—The good-hearted judge who invests Huck’s money.
Tommy Barnes, Jo Harper, and Ben Rogers—Members of Tom and Huck’s gang.
Mrs. Judith Loftus—A lady whom Huck visits while he is disguised as a girl.
Bill and Jim Turner, Jake Packard—Men whom Huck discovers arguing on a sinking ship.
The Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons—Two feuding families. The Grangerfords adopt Huck for a time.
The duke and the king—Two conmen who pretend to be royalty. They join Huck and Jim on the raft. They also appear as impostors at the funeral of Peter Wilks.
Buck Harkness—He tries to turn the people against Colonel Sherburn.
Boggs—Drunkard in Arkansas who is shot by Colonel Sherburn.
Colonel Sherburn—The man who shoots Boggs.
Peter Wilks—A wealthy man who has died. The family is waiting for his brothers from England to attend the funeral.
Mary Jane, Joanna, and Susan—The three nieces of the dead Peter Wilks.
William and Harvey Wilks—Peter Wilks’ two brothers from England whom the duke and the king impersonate.
Levi Bell and Dr. Robinson—A lawyer and a doctor who suspect that the king and the duke are frauds.
Silas Phelps—Aunt Sally’s husband who buys Jim.
Aunt Sally Phelps—Silas Phelps’ wife. Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Sally.
Estimated Reading Time
The reading of the novel is slowed somewhat by an unfamiliarity with Twain’s use of regional dialects and nonstandard English. After the first few chapters, a familiarity with the unique speech of each of the characters should, however, speed the reading process. The reader should be able to finish the novel in approximately 12 hours.
Huckleberry Finn, one of the central works of American literature and a worldwide best seller, traces the moral education of a young boy whose better impulses overcome both self-interest and the negative forces of his culture. Huck, a homeless boy whose only relative is his disreputable father, is taken in by a respectable widow who seeks to educate him. She forces him to go to school, but Huck dislikes being "so cramped up and sivilized [sic] as they call it." His father abducts him, and Huck prefers the freedom of his father's shack to the constraint of more genteel surroundings.
Freed from civilizing influences and placed in the company of his father, a vicious racist who boasts of his own illiteracy, Huck seems like a poor candidate for moral growth. But when Pap Finn nearly kills the boy during an alcoholic delirium, Huck escapes and meets the runaway slave Jim, who provides him with the opportunity to make a significant moral choice. Huck has been shaped not only by his father's view that one should act out of self interest, but also by his society's belief that God's law mandates slavery. As he protects Jim, Huck feels certain that he will go to hell. Nonetheless, he transcends his upbringing and learns to value essential human bonds of trust beyond his own interest. Throughout the novel the boy witnesses a variety of human corruption, pretension, and violence, but maintains his integrity through his ability to identify with others....
(The entire section is 299 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Revised Second Edition)
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn had found a box of gold in a robber’s cave. After Judge Thatcher had taken the money and invested it for the boys, each had the huge allowance of a dollar a day. The Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, had taken Huck home with them to try to reform him. At first, Huck could not stand living in a tidy house where smoking and swearing were forbidden. Worse, he had to go to school and learn how to read. He did, however, manage to drag himself to school almost every day, except for the times when he sneaked off for a smoke in the woods or to go fishing on the Mississippi River.
Life was beginning to become bearable to him when one day he noticed a boot print in the snow. Examining it closely, he realized that it belonged to his worthless father, whom he had not seen for more than a year. Knowing that his father would be looking for him when he learned about the money, Huck rushed to Judge Thatcher and persuaded him to take the fortune for himself. The judge was puzzled, but he signed some papers, and Huck was satisfied that he no longer had any money for his father to take from him.
Huck’s father showed up one night in Huck’s room at Widow Douglas’ home. Complaining that he had been cheated out of his money, the old drunkard later took Huck away with him to a cabin in the Illinois woods, where he kept the boy a prisoner, beating him periodically and half starving him. Huck was allowed to smoke and...
(The entire section is 1557 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may at first have seemed to Twain to be an obvious and easy sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but this book, begun in the mid-1870 s, then abandoned, then taken up again in 1880 and dropped again, was not ready to be published until 1884. It was worth the delay. It proved to be Twain’s finest novel—not merely his finest juvenile work but his best fiction, and a book that has taken its place as one of the greatest novels written in the United States. In some ways it is a simpler novel than The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; it has nothing like the complication of plot which made that earlier novel so compelling.
Huck, harassed by the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, who want to give him a good home and a place in normal society, and by his brutal father, who wants to get his hands on the money that Huck and Tom found in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, decides to get away from it all, and he runs away. This time, he does not have the tempering influence of Tom Sawyer, who was prepared to run away to a nearby island but could not resist going home for his own funeral. Tom is only an occasional renegade, eager for the romance but not the long-term reality of rebellion. Huck is of tougher stuff, and he intends to go for good. No better indication of this is to be seen than in the simple fact that Tom tries to smoke but does not have the stomach for it: Huck does not play at it. He...
(The entire section is 1353 words.)
Summary (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
The story of a poor and uneducated boy from eastern Missouri, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is narrated by Huck himself. He relates his adventures as he travels down the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. The book satirizes antebellum Southern society and the constraints of civilization, which both Huck and Jim are attempting to escape. Mark Twain’s use of dialects is one of the most original and influential aspects of the novel, and in many ways sets it apart as a masterwork of American literature. However, his use of dialect has also sparked controversy.
Almost immediately upon publication, the rough language Huck uses evoked calls for excluding the book from libraries. As the Boston Transcript reported in March, 1885, that the Concord, Massachusetts, public library committee “decided to exclude Mark Twain’s latest book from the library. One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash.” Mark Twain responded that the calls for censorship would only help sell more copies.
Since the novel’s publication, it has been removed from libraries or schools in Denver (in 1902), New York City (1957), Winnetka, Illinois (1976), San Jose, California (1995), and many other places. As late as the mid-1990’s efforts to remove it from classroom use failed in Plano,...
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Chapters 1-7: Huck's Escape
Mark Twain begins The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a notice to the reader. He identifies Huckleberry Finn as "Tom Sawyer's Comrade" and reminds the reader that this novel resumes where The Adventures of Tom Sawyer left off: in St. Petersburg, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, "forty to fifty years" before the novel was written (so between 1834 and 1844, before the American Civil War). He tells the reader that several different "dialects are used," which have been written "painstakingly," based on his own "personal familiarity with these several forms of speech."
The novel's title character, Huckleberry Finn, narrates the story. He summarizes the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, in which he and Tom discovered a large amount of stolen gold. He lives now with the Widow Douglas, who has taken him in as "her son," and her sister, Miss Watson. His father, "Pap," has disappeared:
Pap hadn't been seen for more than a year, and that was comfortable for me; I didn't want to see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on me; though I used to take to the woods when he was around.
The widow attempts to "sivilize" Huck and teach him religion. Huck finds her ways confining. Miss Watson nags him to learn to read, to "set up straight," and...
(The entire section is 1567 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Huckleberry Finn: the protagonist and narrator
Widow Douglas: Huck’s guardian
Miss Watson: the widow’s sister
Tom Sawyer: Huck’s best friend
Huck Finn introduces himself as a character who has already appeared in Mark Twain’s earlier novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He briefly reviews the end of Tom Sawyer’s story, reminding the reader how he and Tom found money that robbers had hidden in a cave. Judge Thatcher has invested the money for them, six thousand dollars apiece in gold, and the interest alone is now worth a dollar a day, a large amount of money at that time.
The Widow Douglas has taken Huck in as her son, and is trying to civilize him by teaching him proper dress and proper manners. To make matters worse, the Widow’s sister, Miss Watson, lives with her and relentlessly nags Huck about his behavior.
Huck is lonely and discouraged despite the Widow Douglas’ efforts to give him a good home. He accidentally kills a spider and is sure it will bring him bad luck. Soon after the clock strikes midnight, Huck sneaks out of his upstairs bedroom window to answer Tom Sawyer’s mysterious call.
Discussion and Analysis
Twain’s choice of a 13-year-old narrator supplies much of the humor in the novel. The narrator, Huck Finn, reports the events and ideas through his own eyes, and...
(The entire section is 515 words.)
Chapters 2 and 3 Summary and Analysis
Jim: Miss Watson’s black slave
Jo Harper and Ben Rogers: two members of Tom and Huck’s gang
Tommy Barnes: the youngest member of the gang
As Huck and Tom Sawyer tiptoe through the garden, Huck stumbles over a root, which gets the attention of Jim, Miss Watson’s slave. He calls out, but the boys, afraid of being caught sneaking out at night, become extremely quiet. Jim sits down between them but falls asleep before he is aware that they are near enough to touch. Tom cannot resist the temptation to play a trick on Jim. He hangs Jim’s hat in the tree, knowing that Jim will wonder how it got there. The next day, seeing his hat in the tree, Jim conjures up stories about witches and how they rode him around the world. He is proud of this and consequently the envy of all the other slaves in the neighborhood.
Having sneaked out, Huck and Tom meet Joe Harper, Ben Rogers, and the other members of Tom’s “band of robbers.” Tom Sawyer’s gang is patterned after the “pirate books,” and “robber books” that he has read. They take a skiff down the Mississippi River for several miles to explore the cave that Tom has found earlier. As they organize their gang, the boys take an oath to keep the gang a secret, signing their names in blood. If anyone tells the secret, that boy and his family must be killed. Tom sets the rules. They will become masked...
(The entire section is 655 words.)
Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis
Judge Thatcher: former judge who invests Huck’s money for him
Pap: Huck’s father
The new judge: tries to reform Pap
The new judge’s wife: takes Pap into her house
Huck has been going to school for about three or four months and has learned to read and write. Although he plays “hooky” occasionally, he is learning to tolerate school. He is also becoming more comfortable living with the widow.
Huck has almost forgotten his father until one day he sees his footprints in the snow. Pap’s bootheel has left the imprint of a cross made of nails, used to ward off the devil. Afraid his father has come for his money, Huck wastes no time getting to Judge Thatcher’s whom he begs to take the six thousand dollars and one hundred fifty dollars interest. The judge, surprised and puzzled, finally buys the “property” from him for a dollar.
Huck then consults Jim, who relies on his hairball from the stomach of an ox to tell Huck’s fortune. Jim listens while the hairball talks to him, but he does not get a straight answer. Huck’s fears are not unfounded, however; when he goes up to his room, he finds Pap waiting for him. Huck is startled and afraid, but Pap’s dirty, sickly image soon calms his fears, and he speaks right up when his father starts harassing him about his fine clothes and his education. Pap, however, threatens to...
(The entire section is 673 words.)
Chapters 6 and 7 Summary and Analysis
Huck continues to go to school despite the thrashings from his father. With a firm resoluteness he is determined to continue his education, more to spite his father than for any other reason. Pap is waiting around for the court to decide about Huck’s money, but it is a slow process. He hangs around the Widow Douglas’ house too much, and she threatens to make trouble for him. Angered by her attempts to intimidate him, he decides to kidnap Huck and head for the Illinois side of the river in a skiff. They settle in an old abandoned cabin where he keeps Huck locked up when he goes into town for supplies. In spite of all this, living in the woods is relaxing and easy for Huck, and he wonders why he had ever liked the civilized life at the widow’s.
Pap sometimes locks him in the cabin for days at a time, however, and beats him habitually. One night he gets drunk and chases Huck around the cabin with a knife. When his father threatens to hide him in an even more desolate area, so the widow will never be able to find him, he begins to plan an elaborate scheme of escape by faking his own death.
The “June rise” of the river brings with it a canoe loosened from its moorings somewhere upstream. Thinking it might come in handy, Huck quickly hides it in the bushes along the bank. Later Pap finds a log raft floating down the river. He locks Huck in the cabin and promptly goes back into town to sell the logs. Huck then...
(The entire section is 578 words.)
Chapters 8 and 9 Summary and Analysis
Huck has a comfortable feeling as he wakes up on Jackson’s Island the next morning. Too lazy to get up and cook breakfast, he watches the sun filter through the tall trees, spotting the ground with “freckled places.” His peace is soon interrupted, however, with the loud “boom” of the cannon being fired from a ferryboat loaded with prominent townspeople who are looking for his murdered body. The cannon is fired over the water periodically to make Huck’s supposed dead body come to the surface. Since he has had no breakfast, he is getting hungry, but he does not dare risk starting a fire because he is afraid they will see the smoke. He suddenly remembers that loaves of bread, filled with quicksilver, are also used to locate drowned bodies. Snagging one of the loaves with a stick, he removes the quicksilver and eats the bread for breakfast. The ferryboat skirts the shore of the island, sounding the cannon occasionally, while its passengers look for Huck’s washed-up body. After an uneventful search, the boat finally leaves.
Three days pass and Huck gets lonely. He decides to explore the three-mile-long island. He feels satisfied that the different types of berries and green summer grapes that he finds will come in handy, but he is suddenly startled by the ashes of a campfire that is still smoking. Terrified, he runs back to his camp, hides his possessions in his canoe, and climbs a tree. After two hours he decides...
(The entire section is 1062 words.)
Chapters 10 and 11 Summary and Analysis
Mrs. Judith Loftus: a lady whom Huck visits in town
The next morning Huck wants to discuss the dead man he and Jim had seen in the two-story frame house, but Jim says talking about it will bring bad luck. Huck argues that touching a snakeskin with his hands was supposed to have brought bad luck too, but to the contrary they have found all those useful items in the floating house and eight dollars besides. They have, in his opinion, had nothing but good luck. Jim’s predictions come true, however, when a rattlesnake bites him that evening. Huck plays a joke on Jim by putting a dead rattlesnake in his blanket. When Jim goes to bed, the snake’s mate is curling around the dead snake and bites Jim in the heel. Jim’s leg is swollen for four days, and Pap’s whiskey comes in handy for the pain.
Huck is getting bored on the island and decides to go into town to see what is happening. Jim likes the idea but cautions him to go at night so he will not be seen. He suggests that Huck disguise himself as a girl. Thinking it is a good idea, Huck dresses in the calico gown and sunbonnet they had found earlier in the floating house.
Trying hard to concentrate on being a girl, Huck paddles to town in his canoe and finds the house of a woman who has been in town only two weeks. Passing as Sarah Williams, he tells her his mother is ill, and he is looking for his uncle’s...
(The entire section is 847 words.)
Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis
Jim Turner: robber and potential informer on the Walter Scott
Bill and Jake Packard: robbers conspiring to kill Jim Turner
Captain: watchman of the ferryboat
After traveling all night, Huck and Jim tie up to a towhead on the Illinois side of the river. The towhead, a sandbar thick with cottonwood trees, is an ideal spot to hide during the day and watch the steamboats go up and down the river. Killing time until dark, Huck tells Jim all about his conversation with the woman on the shore. He explains that he had built the campfire to throw the woman’s husband off track, but Jim maintains that if her husband was as smart as she obviously was, he would have used dogs to track a runaway slave.
When they are sure it is dark, Jim builds a wigwam in the middle of the raft for protection from the hot sun and the rain. In the middle he builds a firebox in order to keep warm on cool nights. They also build an extra steering oar and a stick to hang a signal lantern for the steamboats coming downstream. Since the river is still in flood stage, the boats traveling upstream against the current are no problem to them. They are taking the easy water on the sides.
They travel for five nights, drifting with a strong four-mile-an-hour current before they come upon the brilliant lights of St. Louis. Huck goes ashore every night for supplies and buys...
(The entire section is 1191 words.)
Chapters 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis
Jim and Huck take a breather after their narrow escape from the wrecked steamboat and the gang of robbers. They spend time looking over their “truck,” or goods, that the robber gang had stolen and loaded into the skiff. They find interesting articles of clothing, books, blankets, and boots, but the most valuable find is the boxes of cigars. They spend all afternoon talking, and Huck reads the newly-acquired books about kings, dukes, and earls. They get into a lengthy discussion about how royalty wears fancy clothes and everyone addresses them with “your majesty, your lordship, or your grace.” King Solomon from the Bible is the only king Jim has ever heard of, and he is not impressed with him. He does not think a wise king would suggest cutting his child in half and giving each wife one-half just to settle a dispute.
Huck changes the subject by telling Jim about Louis XVI of France who was beheaded. His son, the Dauphin, supposedly died in prison. There were rumors, however, that he had escaped and had come to America. Jim does not seem to understand the idea that the Dauphin would speak French.
Huck also explains to Jim that their experience in the steamboat was called an adventure, but Jim wants nothing more to do with Huck’s adventures. He does not relish the thought of coming so close to death again.
In three more nights Huck and Jim intend to reach Cairo, Illinois where they will pick up...
(The entire section is 669 words.)
Chapters 16 and 17 Summary and Analysis
Two men on a skiff: men looking for runaway slaves
Buck Grangerford: a boy Huck’s age
Bob and Tom: members of the Grangerford family
Betsy: Grangerford’s slave
Huck and Jim rest all day and start for Cairo at dark. When he thinks about Cairo and gaining his freedom, Jim’s excitement mounts, but Huck becomes increasingly uneasy. Painfully aware that he is helping a slave escape to freedom, his conscience suddenly bothers him. This time he cannot seem to rationalize his actions as he has done before. He does not think Miss Watson, Jim’s owner, deserves such treatment. When Jim incessantly chatters on about buying his wife and children or getting an Abolitionist to help steal them, Huck reaches the breaking point. He decides that he must paddle ashore in the canoe at the first sign of a light and turn Jim in. Unaware of Huck’s intentions, Jim helps prepare the canoe, padding the seat with his coat. He tells Huck that he is the best friend he has ever had. At this, Huck falters a bit, but he still feels he must turn Jim in. When two men in a skiff come along, he weakens, however. He tells them one of his stories about his sick family on board, leading the men to believe they all have smallpox. Out of guilt for not helping a young boy with a sick family, they each give him twenty dollars and hurriedly leave. He feels bad for having “done...
(The entire section is 961 words.)
Chapters 18 and 19 Summary and Analysis
Colonel Grangerford: father of the Grangerford family
Mrs. Grangerford: mother of the family
Miss Charlotte: member of the family (twenty-five years old)
Miss Sophia: her twenty-year-old sister
Harney Sheperdson: the man Miss Sophia marries
Jack: Huck’s personal servant
Duke of Bridgewater: an imposter
The Dauphin: an imposter, supposed son of the late Louis XVI, King of France
Huck’s description of Colonel Grangerford, from his white linen suit to his gentlemanly ways, paints a picture of a typical aristocratic landowner of the day. He is a wealthy man who supplies each member of his family with a private servant.
The Shepherdsons are another aristocratic clan in the area. According to Huck they are as “well-born, and rich, and grand” as the Grangerfords. While Huck and Buck Grangerford are out hunting one day, Buck hears a horse and suddenly takes cover in the bushes. When Harney Shepherdson gallops by, Buck opens fire with his gun and knocks Harney’s hat off of his head. Harney, gun in hand, heads straight for the boys, but they run all the way home where they must face the colonel. He feels Buck should have stepped into the middle of the road to face his enemy with bravery.
Huck questions Buck about the feud and he naively explains that it is a quarrel one man has...
(The entire section is 1159 words.)
Chapters 20 and 21 Summary and Analysis
Boggs: drunkard shot by Colonel Sherburn
Colonel Sherburn: the man who shoots Boggs
The king and the duke question the idea of traveling by night and hiding by day. Huck responds with common sense to their suspicions that Jim might be a runaway slave. He assures them that a runaway would not be traveling south. In order to be more convincing, however, he produces another imaginary story about his whole family dying and leaving him, after the debts are paid, with only sixteen dollars and the family slave Jim. His pa and four-year-old brother had fallen off the raft and drowned, so he and Jim are the only ones left. He explains that they travel at night because people are always assuming Jim is a runaway slave, and this is their way of avoiding trouble.
Satisfied with Huck’s story, the king and the duke begin to settle down on the raft, making themselves at home. One night they instruct Huck and Jim to act as watchmen until a storm blows over. Without any apparent twinge of conscience they both crawl into the wigwam occupying the only beds on the raft. To make matters worse, there is a big thunderstorm that night, but Huck does not mind. He says he wouldn’t have wanted to miss it “because a body don’t see such a storm as that every day in the week, not by a long sight.” When he is finally overcome with exhaustion, however, Jim offers to take Huck’s...
(The entire section is 968 words.)
Chapters 22 and 23 Summary and Analysis
Buck Harkness: man who leads the lynch mob
After the shooting, someone in town suggests that Colonel Sherburn should be lynched, and the people, led by Buck Harkness, suddenly go wild. The crowd turns into an angry mob, stopping at nothing in pursuit of revenge against Sherburn. Even children run for their lives to get out of the way of the raging mob. In a frenzy they tear down Colonel Sherburn’s picket fence and pour into his yard, ready for action.
The crowd suddenly calms down, however, when Sherburn steps out onto the roof of his porch flashing a double-barrel gun. At first he simply stares at them, saying nothing, but then he laughs scornfully, and stages a long diatribe criticizing the mob for its cowardice. He accuses them of hanging on to the coattail of Buck Harkness who is only “half a man.” Sherburn orders them to leave, and the crowd breaks up with Buck Harkness on their heels.
After the excitement Huck decides to go to the circus. To avoid paying, he slips under the tent on the back side. With wide-eyed amazement, he watches the beautiful women on horses with their million-dollar outfits, the men showing their acrobatic skills, and the clowns cracking the funniest jokes Huck has ever heard. A supposed drunk comes along and insists upon riding the horses. The ringmaster finally gives in. At first the crowd laughs at him, but he turns out to be an...
(The entire section is 814 words.)
Chapters 24 and 25 Summary and Analysis
Mary Jane Wilks: nineteen-year-old daughter of Peter Wilks
Susan Wilks: her sister, age 15
Joanna Wilks: the youngest sister, age 14
Dr. Robinson: Peter Wilks’ friend before Wilks died
The king and the duke waste no time making plans to “work the towns” again for more money as soon as an opportunity arises. Their escapades into town have been difficult for Jim, however. He has been posing as a runaway slave who needs to be tied up while they are gone. To avoid any further discomfort for Jim, the duke devises an ingenious disguise so that people will think he is a sick Arab instead of a runaway slave. He dresses Jim in a King Lear outfit with a white wig and whiskers and paints his face, hands, neck, and ears a dull blue to make him look sick. The idea is to scare people away with his sickly, offensive appearance, but if that doesn’t help, the duke advises him to step out of the wigwam and howl “like a wild beast.”
They had all bought new clothes in the last town, and the king and Huck dress up and head for the steamboat in the canoe. The duke wants to try his luck in a village on the other side of the river, however. On their way to the steamboat, Huck and the king pick up a local young man who is taking a trip to South America. He leads the king into a conversation about Mr. Peter Wilks who has just died and left a small...
(The entire section is 1131 words.)
Chapters 26 and 27 Summary and Analysis
After Dr. Robinson leaves, Mary Jane takes the visitors up to their rooms. The duke is assigned the spare room, Huck will sleep in the garret or attic, and the king is given Mary Jane’s room.
At supper that night, Huck is obligated to stand behind the king and the duke and wait on them since he is posing as their servant. The women make degrading comments about their own cooking in order to draw compliments from their guests. Huck and Joanna eat later in the kitchen. The charade is nearly exposed as she questions him about England. His information is sketchy at best, and he often contradicts himself. While Joanna is accusing him of lying, Mary Jane and Susan step into the room and immediately jump to his defense. Mary Jane reprimands Joanna for making Huck feel ashamed and forces her to apologize. Huck is so impressed with her kindness that he asks himself, “this is a girl that I’m letting that old reptile rob her of her money?” He feels “ornery” and “low down” for not telling them about the king’s fraudulent intent. Finally he can stand it no longer, so he makes up his mind to get their money back from the king and the duke, no matter what. He thinks of several ways to get the money, but for the sake of the girls and for his own safety as well as Jim’s, he does not dare take chances. He finally realizes that he will need to steal the money in such a way that they will not suspect him.
(The entire section is 977 words.)
Chapters 28 and 29 Summary and Analysis
Harvey Wilks: Peter Wilks’ true brother
William Wilks: deaf brother of Peter Wilks
Levi Bell: Peter Wilks’ lawyer friend
Hines: a husky man who believes the king is an imposter
In the morning, Huck passes Mary Jane’s room and sees her crying through the open door. Heartbroken about the separation of the slaves’ families, she tells Huck that her beautiful trip to England is spoiled. Uneasy about her crying, Huck quickly replies that the slaves will be back in less than two weeks. He has spoken too soon, but since he is in a “tight place,” he decides to tell the truth even though it is risky. He asks Mary Jane to promise to leave town for four days if he tells her why the slaves will soon be back. If she leaves she will not be tempted to reveal to the king and the duke that she knows the truth. She gives her word, and Huck blurts out the whole story about the two rogues who have posed as her uncles and duped her out of her inheritance. Shocked, she immediately wants to tar and feather them and throw them in the river, but Huck gently reminds her of her promise. She calms down, telling him she will do whatever he asks.
After some deliberation he thinks he can get the two frauds jailed in town so he and Jim can be rid of them. He shortens Mary Jane’s stay to one day, asking her to place a candle in the window by eleven as a signal...
(The entire section is 1090 words.)
Chapters 30 and 31 Summary and Analysis
The king, angry at Huck for trying to give them “the slip,” grabs him by the collar when they catch up with the raft. Afraid for his life, Huck tries to appease him with a story about the nice man who had held his hand on the way to the cemetery. Because he reminded him of his dead son, the man let him go, telling him to run for his life. Jim verifies Huck’s story, and finally the duke comes to Huck’s defense, reminding the king that he had not been concerned about Huck’s whereabouts when they had run from the scene.
The king and duke begin to argue and blame each other for hiding the money in the coffin. They both acknowledge the fact that they were tempted to keep the money for themselves, but neither one admits actually hiding it. Impatient and angry, the duke catches the king by the throat, forcing him to admit he had done it. That settles the argument and before long they are “thick as thieves” again. Later, when they are asleep, Huck tells Jim the whole story.
For fear of being recognized they do not dare stop at any of the towns along the river for several days. They are approaching the warm southern climate where Spanish moss hangs from the trees. The king and duke feel it is finally safe to “work the villages” again, but they have little success. Their usual jobs of “missionarying,” “doctoring,” and “mesmerizing” do not work out, and they are soon broke and desperate. They...
(The entire section is 1233 words.)
Chapters 32 and 33 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Silas Phelps: Tom Sawyer’s uncle
Mrs. Sally Phelps: Tom’s aunt
Huck arrives at the Phelps Plantation, noticing that things are rather “still and Sunday-like.” Everyone seems to be out in the fields, and Huck paints a rather bleak picture of the depressing surroundings. As he approaches the kitchen, he hears the hum of a spinning wheel. He walks up to the house, trying to decide what to say but finally leaving it to Providence. He has aroused fifteen of the sleeping dogs that quickly surround him with their barking and howling. With her rolling pin raised, a servant steps out and silences them. Hearing the commotion, Mrs. Phelps runs out to greet Huck with her spinning stick still in her hand and her children hanging around her skirts. Thinking he is Tom Sawyer, her nephew, she welcomes him with open arms.
Perplexed by her display of affection, he tries to guess who she thinks he is. She questions him about his family, but not knowing who his family is, he cannot answer and finally decides that this might be one of those times when he should risk telling the truth. It isn’t until Mr. Phelps comes home, and she introduces Huck as Tom Sawyer, that he breathes easy again. They have been expecting Tom to arrive on the steamboat for the past few days and are relieved and happy that he is finally here. Comfortable with his new identity, Huck can easily...
(The entire section is 1116 words.)
Chapters 34 and 35 Summary and Analysis
Nat: a slave who brings food to Jim
Tom uncovers the secret of Jim’s whereabouts on the Phelps Plantation by observing one of the slaves bringing watermelon, along with other food, to a nearby hut. Since he would not be feeding watermelon to dogs, it follows that someone must be in the hut. The door to the hut is locked, and Uncle Silas holds the key. Sure that the prisoner must be Jim, Huck and Tom begin immediately to make plans to rescue him. Huck’s plan is easy. He suggests they steal the key out of Uncle Silas’s pants pocket, release Jim, and take off down the river on Huck’s raft. Tom criticizes the plan for being “mild as goosemilk.” Knowing they will do it Tom’s way no matter what Huck proposes, he gives in to Tom’s elaborate plans.
Huck is still wondering why a respectable, kind, and intellegent boy like Tom would stoop so low as to steal Jim out of slavery. He tries to stop him, but Tom says he knows what he is doing.
After dark they examine the hut and plan the rescue. Huck suggests several simple and practical methods such as having Jim climb out of a high window or sawing a hole in the cabin the way he had done when he escaped from Pap. Tom, however, holds out for some complicated method that would take twice as long. They finally decide to spend a week digging him out.
When they arrive at the house, Huck simply pulls the...
(The entire section is 1096 words.)
Chapters 36 and 37 Summary and Analysis
Tom and Huck get right to work digging a tunnel into Jim’s cabin with their case knives. After several hours their hands are sore in spite of the fact that they have made little progress. Tom finally admits that his plan will not work, so they change to picks pretending they are case knives. Happy that Tom is finally becoming level-headed, Huck wholeheartedly agrees with the change of plan. They dig a sizable hole and decide to continue the next day. As usual Tom tries to climb up the lightning rod to the second floor. Dead tired and sore, he finally agrees to “let on” that the stairs are lightning rods after a bit of coaxing from Huck.
Between them the boys manage to pilfer a pewter spoon, a brass candlestick, six candles, and three tin plates. The next night when everyone is in bed they finally dig their way into Jim’s cabin in two and one-half hours. Happy to see them, Jim wants to cut the chain and clear out immediately, but Tom shows him that it would be highly “unregular.” He explains the plan to Jim, telling him that in case of danger the plan could be quickly altered. Tom assures Jim they will, indeed, see that he gets away. They talk about old times, and Jim informs them about the prayers Uncle Silas has with him every day or two. Aunt Sally also stops by often to make sure he is comfortable. This gives Tom the idea of smuggling things to Jim through his aunt and uncle’s pockets. Jim must then sneak...
(The entire section is 949 words.)
Chapters 38 and 39 Summary and Analysis
While Jim and Huck file pens out of candlesticks and a saw out of a case knife, Tom is busy working on the coat of arms for Jim. He comes up with one that is unintelligible, but it does not seem to matter as long as it comes from a book. Huck questions the meaning of such terms as “fess” and “bar sinister,” but Tom refuses to answer. Since dungeon walls were always made of stone, Tom suddenly strikes upon the idea that they could chisel both the coat of arms and the mournful inscriptions on one rock. He suggests they use the grindstone down at the mill. Huck and Tom find it too heavy to move to the cabin, however, so they decide to ask Jim to help them. He willingly takes the chain off the bedpost, wraps it around his neck, and slips out through the tunnel the boys have dug. He and Huck easily role the grindstone back to the cabin as Tom “superintends” the whole thing. With a nail for a chisel and an old iron bolt for a hammer, Jim starts to work on the grindstone.
Tom decides every authentic prisoner should have to contend with spiders, snakes, rats, and a flower to water with his tears. Although Tom feels a rattlesnake would mean more “glory” for Jim, he finally decides to “let it go” after Jim threatens to leave if he forces the issue. Reluctantly Jim agrees to garter snakes instead but complains about the “bother” and “trouble” it is to be a prisoner. Tom instructs him to play music to the...
(The entire section is 1062 words.)
Chapters 40 and 41 Summary and Analysis
The Doctor: removes the bullet from Tom’s leg
Old Mrs. Hotchkiss: a neighbor of the Phelps
After the last warning note has been sent, Huck and Tom take a picnic lunch and go fishing in the river. They check out the raft to make sure everything is in order. When they arrive home for supper that night, everyone in the house is in a state of frenzy. Worried about the threatening letter, Aunt Sally hustles them up to bed after supper without a word.
At half past eleven the boys get up and begin eating the lunch they had stolen from the cellar cupboard. Noticing the butter is missing, Tom sends Huck back to the cellar to get it while he goes to Jim’s cabin to prepare the scene for the escape. Huck finds the butter and stealthily climbs up the stairs, when suddenly he runs into Aunt Sally. He quickly shoves the bread and butter under his hat. Aunt Sally questions him about his mysterious activities in the cellar, but getting nowhere she sends him into the “setting-room” until she has time to get to the bottom of it. In the room he sees fifteen farmers with guns ready to attack the cutthroats who are coming to steal Jim. The room is hot, and the butter under his hat melts and trickles down his forehead. He lifts his hat, revealing the stolen bread and butter. Relieved that his brain is not “oozing out” from brain fever, Aunt Sally hugs him and lets him go....
(The entire section is 1176 words.)
Chapters 42 and 43 Summary and Analysis
The next morning Uncle Silas looks for Tom in town but comes back discouraged. He hands Aunt Sally a letter from her sister that he had picked up at the post office the day before. She starts to open the letter, but glances out of the window and drops it as she sees Tom being brought in on a mattress. He is followed by the doctor and Jim, who has his hands tied behind his back. Thinking Tom is dead, Aunt Sally runs up to him, but he is delirious and can only mutter something unintelligible. Aunt Sally is happy just to see him alive.
While the others go into the house with Tom, Huck follows the men who take Jim back to his cabin. He hears them cursing Jim and giving him an occasional blow on the head for running away. They threaten to hang him as an example to other runaway slaves. They chain both his legs and hands to a big staple driven into the bottom log of the cabin. He is put on a diet of bread and water, and farmers with guns plan to guard his door at night while bulldogs will be on the watch during the day. In a little while the doctor comes to check on Jim. When he sees his deplorable situation, he asks them not to punish him too severely since Jim demonstrated exemplary behavior while he was with the doctor. He explains that Jim stepped out of hiding when Tom became seriously ill and incoherent, threatening to kill the doctor. Jim offered to help and he did it well. He tells them Jim is worth one thousand dollars...
(The entire section is 1094 words.)