Who are the liars in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? What similar strategies do they have?
The biggest liars in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are Pap, the King, the Duke, and in a way, Huck. Let’s talk about them individually—
Pap—Pap is just an all-around liar. He lies about his concern for Huck when he realizes Huck is rich. In an attempt to get custody of Huck, he lies to the Judge about giving up alcohol. The next day he is found drunk in the room the Judge gives him to stay in. Pap will lie and cheat about everything. He is found dead by Jim in the house floating down the river in what looks like a poker game gone wrong. Pap was probably shot because he cheated during the game.
The King and the Duke—They are liars from the moment they step foot on Huck’s raft. They profess to be royalty in order to gain advantages on the raft. They also lie to the townspeople when the King pretends to be a reformed pirate at a religious meeting, during the side show of Romeo and Juliet, and to the Wilks girls about being relatives from England. Perhaps the biggest lie they tell is that Jim is their slave, and they try to sell him.
Huck—I don’t know if Huck is as much a liar as he is an “exaggerator”. One of the things that Huck does is that every time he goes on shore, he changes identity. He becomes a girl when trying to find out information about himself and Jim with Mrs. Loftus. He changes identity when he attempts to save the robbers on the river boat that is stranded in the river. He also changes identities when he finds himself on shore with the Grangerfords. And then finally, he pretends to be Tom Sawyer at the end of the book when he stumbles upon Aunt Polly’s farm. Huck lies to protect himself and to keep from getting caught by society. He is only his true self on the river, and he must change who he is on shore because of society’s restrictions.
Another liar could be Tom Sawyer as well. He knows that Jim is a free slave, but conveniently keeps this secret to play out his absurd antics on Jim when Jim is locked up in the shed.
Pap, the King, and the Duke are liars that prey on people’s gullibility and kindness. They are only out for themselves and how they can profit. They are despicable characters who do not care how they hurt others with their lies.
Huck lies, but we can probably classify them as harmless, childish pranks instead of lies that hurt. It almost necessary for Huck to lie so he can maneuver around society and tell the multiple lessons that he learns from the people along the river. In this way he becomes an observer of society, and through Huck, Twain can reveal his satiric opinions about society.
Lying is a theme that Twain uses in many of this stories. Characters over exaggerate, tell tall tales, and “spins yarns” throughout his writings. It is perhaps Twain’s way of pointing out the very human characteristic of lying that we all have done at one time or another. The difference is if the lies are destructive or not.