Why is the crowd laughing and shouting as they bring the second set of "Wilks Brothers" to the square in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? What is the implication of the King's false...

Why is the crowd laughing and shouting as they bring the second set of "Wilks Brothers" to the square in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? What is the implication of the King's false "confession" to the Duke?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When two more men claiming to be the Wilks brothers arrive on a steamboat just as the auction is ending, the crowd brings them in with much laughter and shouting, believing the whole thing is one big joke. They initially believe these newcomers (who are actually the rightful heirs) are frauds simply because unfortunate circumstances (a broken arm, the loss of luggage and identification, etc.) prevent them from demonstrating the truth. Clearly, the crowd looks forward to the prospects of seeing these so-called "fakes" being humiliated in front of the entire town.

The King's false confession that he hid the bag of gold in the coffin demonstrates he is of a much weaker mind and temperament than the Duke. As soon as the Duke applied the slightest pressure on him, the King turned into a coward and said exactly what the Duke wanted to hear. He is clearly not resilient under pressure. 

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Posing as brothers William and Harvey Wilks, the King and the Duke have bilked the heirs of Peter Wilks out of their fortune in gold and have sold nearly all of their belongings. Just as the auction ends, a jovial crowd arrives from the steamboat landing with two gentlemen who also claim to be the Wilks Brothers. The people are no doubt laughing because they will now get to discover for themselves who the real brothers are. They may also be thinking about the fun they will have dealing with the phony pair of brothers as well.

As for the "false confession," although the King claims to be a higher ranking poseur than the Duke, we find that the King is both a poorer storyteller and less intelligent than his lower-ranking companion.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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