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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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Identify and explain the hyperbole in Chapter 13 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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Huck and Jim realize they are sharing an abandoned steamboat with murderous thieves, so they decide it would be best to leave immediately for fear they will end up murdered themselves.

Hyperbole is exaggeration and is usually used for comic effect or to convey heightened emotion. The hyperbole in chapter 13's first paragraph is as follows:

So we went a-quaking and shaking down the stabboard side, and slow work it was, too—seemed a week before we got to the stern. No sign of a boat. Jim said he didn’t believe he could go any further—so scared he hadn’t hardly any strength left, he said.

It "seemed a week before we got to the stern" is obviously hyperbole: Huck and Jim get there in minutes. However, it conveys the idea that it seems to take a long time because the two are so afraid of being detected. Second, Jim exaggerates when he says he hasn't "hardly any" strength left: we will see that he has plenty of strength and can move onward. The statement communicates how frightened he is.

This is a case in which the hyperbole is used less for comic effect than as a way to express emotion and show how scared Huck and Jim are to be on a ship with potential murderers.

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Jim and Huck find themselves stranded on a derelict steamboat that they were hoping to rummage after their raft breaks loose and drifts away during the storm.  Unfortunately, the steamboat isn't abandoned; two thieves are about to turn murderers by killing the third member of their party, all of whom had the same idea of rummaging. Twain starts chapter 13 with Huck saying "it warn't no time to sentimentering," and in searching for the thieves' skiff so they could make their own departure from the wreck,

"We went a-quaking and shaking down the stabbord side, and slow work it was, too - it seemed a week before we got to the stern" 

Twain's use of hyperbole here suggests the seriousness of the situation Jim and Huck find themselves -- if they don't successfully depart from the wreck, they too may be killed by the thieves if they are discovered,  or they may be drowned anyway as the storm breaks apart the wreck. 

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