Illustration of a man on a dock facing the water

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

Start Free Trial

Hyperbole In Huckleberry Finn

What is an example of hyperbole in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mark Twain uses several examples of hyperbole in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to exaggerate a feeling so that it has an effect on the reader. Hyperbole is often used to dramatize a situation. 

One example of hyperbole is when Twain writes:

There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn’t scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I’d die if I couldn’t scratch.

Of course, he doesn't believe he'll actually die if he can't scratch it. It's a hyperbolic statement designed to convey how badly he wanted to scratch. The audience has a better understanding of just how difficult it is for him not to scratch the itch.

Another example of hyperbole occurs when Huck and Jim are trying to escape criminals on the same boat as them. Twain writes:

We’d got to find that boat now—had to have it for ourselves. So we went a-quaking and shaking down the stabboard side, and slow work it was, too—seemed a week before we got to the stern. No sign of a boat. Jim said he didn’t believe he could go any further—so scared he hadn’t hardly any strength left, he said. But I said, come on, if we get left on this wreck we are in a fix, sure.

Though they are moving slowly, it likely takes them only minutes to get to the stern. Twain uses hyperbole to indicate how slow their progress felt because of their fear that the men might find them aboard the ship. Once again, Twain uses hyperbole to give his audience the feeling he wants them to have while reading the scene he's writing. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A hyperbole is another word for any intentional exaggeration for effect. If you think about it, we all use hyperboles every day in our speech. Consider the following example: "I've been walking for miles!" Mostly we haven't been walking for miles, but the hyperbole here conveys the sense of exhaustion we feel and our sense of how long we have walked.

Twain is a writer that uses hyperbole a lot in his work. Huck Finn, as a character who likes to embellish and exaggerate, uses hyperbole in lots of instances. Consider this example from Chapter Sixteen which describes the steamboat that smashes into the raft:

She was a big one, and she was coming in a hurry, too, looking like a black cloud with rows of glowworms around it; but all of a sudden she bulged out, big and scary, with a long row of wide-open furnace doors shining like red-hot teeth, and her monstrous bows and guards hanging right over us.

Note how the description is exaggerated to make the steamboat appear more fearsome and dangerous than it actually is. The similes and metaphors employed help in this hyperbole, comparing the steamboat to a "black cloud" surrounded by "glowworms" to increase the fear...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

that the steamboat instills. Likewise the steamboat increases in size, with the furnace doors looking like "red-hot teeth," which exaggerates the size and appearance of the steamboat as it crashes into them.

This is just one example. Hopefully you will now be able to go back and find some more examples of hyperbole in this excellent novel. Good luck!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some instances where hyperbole is used in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

We are looking for examples of exaggeration and overstatement when we look for hyperbole. One example can be found in Chapter XXXII when Huck discovers that the Phelps family believes that he is Tom Sawyer, arrived for a visit. 

When Mrs. Phelps introduces Huck to Mr. Phelps as Tom Sawyer, Huck describes his reaction with hyperbole, saying: 

"By jings, I most slumped through the floor!"

For obvious reasons, this is impossible and so must be taken as an overstatement for effect, i.e., hyperbole. 

Earlier in the novel, at the end of the Grangerford episode, Huck runs for the raft and hopes to find Jim but cannot. He yells out and Jim responds. Huck describes hearing Jim's voice, stating that "nothing ever sounded so good before". This may be a literal truth but can just as easily be taken as an example of hyperbole as the statement presents a significant degree of extremity. 

When a statement as absolute as this one is made, it is often an example of hyperbole. 

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on