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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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Give examples of literary techniques used in chapters 33 through 40 in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Literary techniques include color imagery, alliteration, simile, figurative language, dialect, etc.

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A very subtle technique that Twain employs is the use of various literary techniques within one chapter, all centered around a common purpose. In Chapter 35, Twain applies catchy literary techniques to Tom’s dialogue to express the boy’s opinions about their plan to free Jim. Tom uses an oxymoron to describe the overall situation in which they must plan the escape. He says “‘this whole thing is just as easy and awkward as it can be.’” Technically, if it’s easy, it’s not awkward at all. But because Tom wants it to be difficult, which would give more honor to their whole plan, that makes it awkward for him to gain glory and excitement. We see this in the irony of his statement that they “‘got to invent all the difficulties’” in the escape plan.

Tom also uses an epithet to describe Huck’s common sense suggestion that they simply lift the bedpost up to free Jim’s chain, rather than bring a saw to cut the bedpost in half. He tells Huck that he has “‘the infant-schooliest ways of going at a thing.’” What a unique adjective to describe what is actually common sense. Truth is, Huck’s taking all the fun and excitement out of the plan for Tom, who is enjoying coming up with the most outlandish techniques for the rescue plan, such as considering the need for a rope ladder, digging a hole to China, and possibly cutting Jim’s leg off. And yet ironically, every time Huck questions his logic, he accuses his friend, “‘Huck, you don’t ever seem to want to do anything that’s regular.’”

Later in their planning, Huck uses the parenthesis technique to insert his personal opinion in the middle of his own sentence. “‘Now I want to ask you—if you got any reasonableness in you at all—what kind of a show would that give him to be a hero?’” If this script were a drama, that would be spoken as an aside, to show the audience Tom’s inner feelings of frustration with his friend. These are just a few of the literary techniques Twain applies to Tom’s dialogue for the purpose of characterization in Chapter 35. Check out other chapters for different patterns that Twain employs.

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One example of a simile, a type of figurative language, is "his mouth opened up like a trunk" in Chapter 33. In this simile, Tom Sawyer's mouth is compared to a trunk that opens wide on its hasps. In Chapter 34, Tom Sawyer says of Huck's commonsensical plan to free Jim, "It’s as mild as goose-milk." This is another simile in which Tom compares the easiness of Huck's plan to the mild nature of goose milk.

An example of dialect is Huck's description of Tom's return to Aunt Sally's house: "He warn’t a boy to meeky along up that yard like a sheep; no, he come ca’m and important, like the ram." This example uses dialect such as "warn't" instead of "wasn't" and the word "meeky" as a verb. It also uses figurative language, such as comparing Tom to a sheep and a ram (which are similes). Tom approaches Aunt Sally's house boldly like a ram instead of weakly like a sheep. 

There are several examples of alliteration, such as "so Tom he thanked them very hearty and handsome." Alliteration involves the repetition of beginning sounds such as the "h" in "hearty" and "handsome." Other examples of alliteration are "My heart fell down amongst my lungs and livers and things," which features the repetition of the "l" sound, and "we got a splendid stock of sorted spiders" in Chapter 39.

An example of color imagery is when Huck says that he can't make "gold-leaf distinctions" between different examples of stealing when he steals a watermelon. This use of the phrase "gold-leaf" implies the idea of fine distinctions. 

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These chapters are loaded with literary devices. Huck's character is prone to comparison and as a result many similes populate his narrative. Twain's aim to explore dialect is also fully on display in these chapters.

The use of dialect is present throughout the novel. One particular instance of special or specific dialect comes at the opening of the thirty-third chapter when Tom and Huck discuss the fact that Huck is still alive.

"I hain't ever done you no harm. You know that. So, then, what you want to come back and ha'nt me for?

The use of "hain't" and "ha'nt" form a nice example of Twain's witty use of dialect. Here he composes a rather poetic line using two similar words taken from the vernacular associated with Tom and Huck.

In this line we also see an example of repetition bordering on alliteration. The line that follows builds upon this alliterative effect. 

"I hain't come back - I hain't been gone."

Later, Tom is said to enter the Phelps' yard, not like a sheep, but like a ram. This is an example of figurative language (simile) from a point a little further along in the thirty third chapter. Another simile appears when the family sits down to eat and Huck suggests that the food is quite good and does not taste like a "hunk of cold cannibal in the morning". 

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