After completing Ch. XVI, Twain set aside the manuscripts of Huckleberry Finn for two years, uncertain where to take the story next
What plot difficulties do you think Twain was trying to work out? where do you think the plot can go from here?
Comparing the novel's first section (up to Huck's apology to Jim for playing tricks on him) to the second part, we see a big difference in the number of characters that are included in the primary narrative. Jim is a big part of the story up to this point and a small one afterwards. The same can be said of Huck.
The book takes up an interest in a revolving cast of characters, from the Grangerfords, to the King, the Duke, Sherburn, the Wilks family, Tom Sawyer, and the Phelps family.
Personally, I think this is where Twain hit a wall. He is trying to do something very different with this book. He also has to be very careful about how he goes about it. He is not going to just write a sequel to Tom Sawyer. He is going to supplant it.
Twain had just written a scene where Huck apologizes to Jim. Huck had tried to play a joke on Jim after they were lost in the fog. Huck tries to pretend the incident never took place and hurts Jim's feelings. Jim explains how hurt he is and Huck says "it took me 15 minutes to apologize...but I done it and I warn't never sorry for it neither." Having a white character apologize to a Black character was revolutionary in American literature at the time. Twain did not know what to do so he separates the two characters when a steamboat crashes into the raft. When Twain picked up the book two years later, it has a much darker tone. The next incident is the Grangerford episode where Huck's friend Buck is killed in cold blood over a feud between two families. The feud has been going on so long, no one can remember how it started. This incident is seen as a sad commentary on the young men who were slaughtered in the Civil War. As the book continues, the king and the duke bring even more trouble to Jim and Huck. Twain had obviously decided that "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was not going to be a simple "hymn to boyhood" that its prequel "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" had been. "Huck Finn" was going to be a commentary on American society as Twain saw it. It turned out, according to Ernest Hemingway, as the best book in American literature. "All American writing comes from that...There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since," said Hemingway.