What is ironic about Huck's experience in the circus on chapter 22?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Huck goes to the circus after witnessing a man gunned down in the street. He has experienced mob violence and the cowardly acts of men who won't stand up for themselves. The town is dirty, the people are drunk and laying in the street with pigs...it's definitely not a refined, cosmopolitan metropolis. However, Huck describes the circus in such terms:

Every lady with a lovely complexion, and perfectly beautiful, and looking just like a gang of real sure-enough queens, and dressed in clothes that cost millions of dollars, and just littered with diamonds. It was a powerful fine sight; I never see anything so lovely. And then one by one they got up and stood, and went a-weaving around the ring so gentle and wavy and graceful, the men looking ever so tall and airy and straight, with their heads bobbing and skimming along, away up there under the tent-roof, and every lady's rose-leafy dress flapping soft and silky around her hips, and she looking like the most loveliest parasol.

Huck truly makes it sound like an incredible sight. Not exactly the kind of entertainment you'd expect in a place like this. Who would think that men who fought in the street would want to witness such beauty? But they pack the house, & as the previous poster mentioned, don't understand that the drunk in the audience is a planted actor. Instead, they hoot & holler because they want to see him trampled. Clearly, the beauty of the event is wasted on them.

One final irony of the night: the Royal Nonesuch, which should be right up this town's alley, only sells 12 tickets for that show. People pass up the vulgarity and nudity which they would probably enjoy for something they don't understand.

mkcapen1 | Student

Huck goes to the circus after experiencing a mob scene.  Once at the circus he watches various acts performed that are exciting and wild.  The people clap and laugh.  Suddenly a drunk goes out of the crowd.  He climbs into the ring.  The ringmaster tries to get him out.  He tells the ringmaster that he can ride as good as a circus person.  The person gets on a horse and rides.  He begins taking layers of clothes off himself.  The ringmaster is upset and tries to get him off.  When the drunk gets down to his last clothing he is all fancy dressed.  It turns out he is one of the circus men.  The ringmaster is mad at the people for laughing.  He then gets so mad he writes a billboard with some mocking lines.  The irony is in Huck's innocence.  He thinks that the man was really a drunk from the crowd and does not realize that the whole event was staged between the acrobat in the circus and the ringmaster.  Huck the trickster got tricked.

Read the study guide:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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