Key Plot Points
Huck’s Father Returns (Chapter 5): When Huck’s father, Pap, returns near the beginning of the novel, it sets Huck’s journey in motion and causes him to leave behind the easy fun he’s been enjoying with Tom. In addition, an element of dread floats in the background of the novel as Huck and readers wonder if Pap will ever catch up to his son.
Exposing the Charlatans’ Lies (Chapter 28): Huck’s reveal to Mary Jane of his and his companions’ duplicity showcases a significant moment in his moral development. Here, Huck displays both empathy toward Mary Jane, guilt for his part in the scheme, and enough foresight to keep Jim safe from the town’s wrath. Despite the consequences, he resolves to tell the truth, a somewhat foreign concept for him.
Huck Resolves to Free Jim (Chapter 31): Huck’s debate on whether he should attempt to free Jim serves as the novel’s climax. Throughout his journey, Huck has developed a strong inner moral sense that overrides society’s customs and influence. This final test— and his resolution to free Jim despite eternal damnation—shows Huck’s monumental growth.
Huck Returns to St. Petersburg (Chapter 32): The overarching plot moves from fictional St. Petersburg, Missouri—Huck’s small town on the Mississippi River about one hundred miles northwest of St. Louis—to various places on and along the river. The novel ends with Huck’s return to St. Petersburg. Though the town and its inhabitants remain largely unchanged, Huck’s homecoming is significant because of the novel’s circular structure. He has returned to the same place he was at the beginning of the novel as a markedly different person.