Chapters 1–3 Summary and Analysis
The first-person narrator begins by remarking that the reader will not know who he is without having read a book called The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mr. Mark Twain. Twain, says the narrator, told the truth for the most part, though he stretched the truth sometimes, as almost everyone does. At the end of that story, the narrator (who is Huckleberry Finn himself, hereafter known as Huck) and Tom Sawyer each found $6,000 in gold. Huck went to live with the Widow Douglas, a rich old woman, but he soon finds the respectability of his new life irksome after the freedom of his old one. His annoyance is exacerbated by the widow’s sister, Miss Watson, who has just come to live with her and who makes it her mission to teach Huck to spell and to behave in a civilized manner. Miss Watson keeps telling him that he will have to change his ways if he is to go to Heaven, but he sees no advantage in going there if it means he will have to put up with Miss Watson for eternity.
After Miss Watson has finished with her homilies, everyone in the widow’s house goes to bed, and Huck feels lonely. When everything is quiet, he hears a “me-yow,” which he correctly identifies as a signal from Tom Sawyer. He slips out of the window and finds Tom waiting for him.
Tom and Huck tiptoe to the end of the garden, where they are heard by Miss Watson’s slave, Jim. He asks who is there and gets so close to Huck and Tom that he is between the two and almost touching them. Presently, however, he falls asleep, and the boys escape. They meet with a group of other boys and row down the river for a couple of miles to a hideout in the side of a hill. There, Tom proposes that they start a band of robbers called “Tom Sawyer’s Gang.” Each member has to take an oath and write his name in blood. They agree that anyone who divulges the secrets of the gang will be killed, and some of them think the traitor’s family should be killed, too. One of their number, however, objects that Huck has no family, making this unfair. Huck offers Miss Watson instead.
The boys discuss what the gang will do. Its principal activities will be robbery and murder. Captives may also be ransomed, though Tom has only read about this and is not sure how to do it. They will not kill their female captives but will be “as polite as pie to them.” Tom is elected first captain of the gang, and Jo Harper second captain. Huck heads home and climbs back through his window just as day is breaking. His clothes are covered in mud.
In the morning, Miss Watson scolds Huck for the state of his clothes, but the Widow Douglas merely looks sorrowful, which has more effect on Huck. Miss Watson prays with him and tells him to pray every day, and he will get whatever he asks for. However, Huck has tried this and can confirm that it does not work. If it did, he reasons, people would be able to satisfy all their desires quite easily.
Huck’s father, to whom he refers as “Pap,” has not been seen for more than a year. People say that he has been drowned and that his body has been discovered, but the corpse in question has been in the water too long for it to be identified properly. Huck says that the drowned person must have been a woman, in any event, because the corpse floated on its back, whereas a drowned man floats face downward.
After about a month, Huck and the other boys become bored with Tom’s robber gang, which never does any actual robbing. Tom imagines battles between Arabs and Spaniards, complete with trains of camels and elephants, and fabulous jewels, all of which he has read about in books. Huck, however, has not read these books and has little time for fairytales. He is particularly unimpressed by the story of a powerful genie who comes and performs magical tasks when one rubs a lamp or a ring. He actually goes so far as to try rubbing a lamp and a ring himself one day, but nothing happens, and Huck concludes that this story was “only just one of Tom...
(The entire section is 1,213 words.)