Chapters 14–18 Summary and Analysis
The next morning, Huck and Jim examine the contents of the men’s boat, which they had removed before sinking it. There are boots, blankets, clothes, many books, a spyglass, and three boxes of cigars. Huck reads the books and talks to Jim about the kings and nobles described in them. They discuss King Solomon, who had about a million wives, according to Huck, though Jim does not think this shows any particular wisdom on Solomon’s part. He also casts aspersions on Solomon’s solution to the problem of the two women who claimed the same child, complaining that half a baby would be no good to anyone. He insists on this despite Huck’s exasperated assurances that he has missed the point. It is equally difficult for Huck to explain foreign languages to Jim, who cannot see the point of the French using different words from English-speaking people.
Huck loses the raft in a fog. He goes after it in the canoe, but the fog is so thick that he cannot make any progress, and eventually he goes to sleep. When he awakes, the fog is gone, and the stars are out. He sees a speck on the water, and it turns out to be the raft, with Jim on it, fast asleep. Huck lies down next to Jim, then wakes him up. He pretends he has never been away from the raft and that he knows nothing of the fog, persuading Jim that he has been dreaming. Jim believes him, until he sees that one of the oars has been smashed and that the raft is covered with leaves and other detritus. He realizes Huck has tricked him and speaks reproachfully, saying that it broke his heart when he thought he had lost Huck, and all Huck was thinking about was how to play a mean-spirited trick on him. Huck feels terrible at this and apologizes to Jim.
Huck and Jim intend to follow the Ohio River, which branches off at Cairo, up to the free states, where Jim will be safe. However, with thick timber obscuring everything on both banks, they realize that they may not know when they have reached Cairo and may mistake the fork in the river for the foot of an island. Huck suddenly feels guilty about helping a slave to escape, which he sees as tantamount to stealing valuable property from Miss Watson. Jim, meanwhile, is already making plans to secure the freedom of his wife and children, about whom he has not previously spoken.
Jim thinks he sees Cairo ahead, and Huck goes ahead in the canoe to investigate. He is feeling extremely conflicted. On one hand, he thinks it his moral duty to prevent Jim from escaping. On the other, Jim has said that Huck is the only white man who has ever kept a promise he made to Jim and treated him honorably. Huck soon sees a skiff containing two armed men. They ask him about his raft and prepare to investigate it, but Huck convinces them that the people on the raft have smallpox, and the men depart. However, he later discovers from a man in another boat that the town nearby is not Cairo, though the man angrily dismisses any further questions about where they are. Huck thinks they may have passed Cairo in the fog. As they are discussing this, a steamboat hits the raft, and both Huck and Jim are thrown into the river. Huck manages to reach the bank, where there is a big house made of logs, but as soon as he sees this, a group of dogs jump out at him, howling and barking.
Disturbed by the dogs, the residents of the house demand to know who is there. Huck gives his name as George Jackson and claims to have fallen off the steamboat. They greet him with great suspicion, and at gunpoint, demanding to know if he is a Shepherdson. When they conclude that he is not, they relax their guard and provide him with food and dry clothes. The clothes come from a boy called Buck, who is about the same age as Huck and instantly decides to befriend him.
Huck admires both the family, who are called the Grangerfords, and the house, which is large, elegant, and finely furnished. He describes the pictures and poetry of Emmeline Grangerford, the daughter of...
(The entire section is 1,497 words.)