The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Summary
by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn book cover
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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Summary

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is an 1884 novel about a boy named Huck living in the American South who escapes his abusive father and journeys down the Mississippi River.

  • Huck runs into Jim, a runaway slave, and travels with him downriver.
  • Eventually, Huck and Jim pick up two conmen. After Huck exposes them, they turn Jim over to another slave owner.
  • Huck and his friend Tom Sawyer attempt to rescue Jim unsuccessfully. Then it is revealed that Jim’s previous owner died, allowing Jim to go free. Huck decides not to return home and to keep wandering instead.

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Huckleberry Finn, the first-person narrator, begins by referring to Mark Twain’s earlier novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This book, which Huck says was mostly truthful, ended with Huck and Tom becoming rich when they discovered a cache of gold, amounting to a fortune of $6,000 for each of them. Huck went to live with the Widow Douglas, a wealthy and respectable woman who, along with her sister, Miss Watson, has been educating and civilizing him.

Many people believe that Huck’s father, a violent, abusive alcoholic, has been drowned, but Huck does not believe it, and he is proved right when one day in winter he sees the print of his father’s boot in the snow. He quickly entrusts all his money to his lawyer, Judge Thatcher, so that his father cannot gain access to it. His father, whom Huck calls “Pap,” is horrified by Huck’s newfound respectability and education. Having tried unsuccessfully to wrest the money away from Judge Thatcher, Pap captures Huck and takes him to a log cabin three miles up the river, where they live together for some time. Huck adapts well to his new life and enjoys having nothing to do except smoke and catch fish, but his father’s drunken rages become oppressive, and he decides to run away. He finds a canoe on the river and, one night when Pap is away, fakes his own death and escapes.

After his escape, Huck encounters Jim, Miss Watson’s slave, who is running away because Miss Watson planned to sell him for $800. The two of them set up camp together in a cave on an island in the middle of the river. The river rises and various objects float down it, including a frame house with a dead man inside it. One day, Huck returns to town in disguise and talks to a woman who only moved there two weeks ago, meaning that she does not know him. She tells Huck that both Pap and Jim are suspected of murdering Huckleberry Finn and that a reward is being offered for both of them. She has seen smoke coming from the island where Huck and Jim are staying and has persuaded her husband to go and investigate that very night, in hopes of securing the prize of $300 offered for the runaway slave who is suspected of murder.

Huck returns to warn Jim, and the two of them escape from the island quickly. As they travel along the river, they find a wreck where some criminals are hiding and, having taken their boat, ensure that they are discovered and brought to justice. On another occasion, a steamboat hits their raft at night, and the two are hurled into the river and separated. Huck climbs onto the riverbank near the house of a family named Grangerford, who take him into their splendid and comfortable home. The Grangerfords have a long-running feud with their neighbors, the Shepherdsons, and while Huck is staying there, Colonel Grangerford’s daughter runs away with young Harney Shepherdson, leading to a gunfight between the two families. Huck, newly reunited with Jim, who has repaired the raft, continues his journey along the river.

Huck and Jim soon encounter two raggedly dressed tricksters who claim to be the Duke of Bridgewater and the Dauphin of France. Huck quickly realizes that they are not who they say they are but pretends to believe them for the sake of peace. The Duke and the Dauphin decide to make some money in the towns through which they pass by performing scenes from Shakespeare. In the first town...

(The entire section is 1,203 words.)