The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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Chapters 30 and 31 Summary and Analysis

Summary
The king, angry at Huck for trying to give them “the slip,” grabs him by the collar when they catch up with the raft. Afraid for his life, Huck tries to appease him with a story about the nice man who had held his hand on the way to the cemetery. Because he reminded him of his dead son, the man let him go, telling him to run for his life. Jim verifies Huck’s story, and finally the duke comes to Huck’s defense, reminding the king that he had not been concerned about Huck’s whereabouts when they had run from the scene.

The king and duke begin to argue and blame each other for hiding the money in the coffin. They both acknowledge the fact that they were tempted to keep the money for themselves, but neither one admits actually hiding it. Impatient and angry, the duke catches the king by the throat, forcing him to admit he had done it. That settles the argument and before long they are “thick as thieves” again. Later, when they are asleep, Huck tells Jim the whole story.

For fear of being recognized they do not dare stop at any of the towns along the river for several days. They are approaching the warm southern climate where Spanish moss hangs from the trees. The king and duke feel it is finally safe to “work the villages” again, but they have little success. Their usual jobs of “missionarying,” “doctoring,” and “mesmerizing” do not work out, and they are soon broke and desperate. They begin to talk in whispers for several hours at a time, and Huck and Jim feel uneasy. They decide to get rid of the two frauds when the next opportunity arises.

One morning they stop the raft in the village of Pikesville where the king wants to look around to make sure they have not heard of The Royal Nonesuch. Huck suspects that he wants to try something terrible like robbing a house. The king instructs the duke, Huck, and Jim to wait for him at the raft. If he does not come back by noon they will know it is all right to come into town. When the king doesn’t show up, Huck and the duke go into town to look for him. When the duke finds the king in a miserable state of drunkenness, he gets angry and they begin to argue. Huck sees his chance to slip away and head for the raft, but when he gets there, Jim is gone. Out on the road he meets a young boy who has seen a man fitting Jim’s description. He tells Huck that Jim is a runaway from a southern plantation who was sold by an old fellow for $40. He is now on the Phelps Plantation a few miles away.

Huck goes back to the raft to think. He cannot believe that the king could sell Jim back into slavery for “forty dirty dollars.” Desperately he tries to think of what he should do. The more he thinks the more his conscience bothers him. He begins to feel “wicked and low-down and ornery” for having stolen Jim, another person’s property. He tries to pray, but the words will not come. He finally decides to write a letter to Miss Watson, telling her that Jim is on the Phelps Plantation. When he finishes the letter his conscience is relieved, and he feels good and “all washed clean of sin.” He begins to think of all Jim has meant to him, however, and how good he has always been to him. He tears up the letter and decides that he will “go to hell” rather than allow Jim to be sold as a slave. He makes plans to “steal Jim out of slavery again.”

He hides his raft on a wooded island, and after a good night’s sleep he takes the canoe to shore where he accidentally meets the duke. Surprised to see Huck, he asks about the raft, and Huck tells him the raft and Jim have been stolen. The duke begins to tell Huck that Jim is on the Silas Phelps Plantation but changes his mind and tells him he is 40 miles away instead. He wants Huck out of town for the next three days so Huck will not tell the townspeople that he and the king are frauds.

Discussion and Analysis
In Chapter 30 the duke is seen in a better light than we have seen him so far in the novel. He jumps to Huck’s...

(The entire section is 1,233 words.)