Huck Finn Study Guide
Chapter1: Huck begins his narration, explaining that this story takes up where the previous one, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, left off: he owns six thousand dollars from the money he found in the cave, and this money he has given to Judge Thatcher, who is keeping the money and paying him interest. He lives with the Widow Douglas (who is trying to civilize him) because Tom won't let him join his "gang" otherwise.
Restlessly lying in bed one night, he hears Tom Sawyer calling to him through the window, and the two escape together into the woods.
Chapter 2: After playing a trick on Jim, Miss Watson's slave, Tom and
Huck meet the rest of the boys in the woods. Tom tells everyone that to be in the gang, they must take an oath and sign their names in blood. If any one of them breaks the secrecy of the gang, however, his family will be killed. Since Huck doesn't really have a family, he tells the others that they may kill Miss Watson if he spills any secrets. As daylight approaches, the gang agrees to meet at a later date to go about the business of "[robbing] somebody and [killing] some people."
Chapter 3: Huck briefly explains how he gave up the religion Miss
Watson was trying to force on him and how his father was said to be drowned but that he didn't believe it. Next, he says that the gang has broken up, because they weren't doing any real violence, but just pretending. The comical scene of the Sunday School picnic, where
Tom tells Huck that actually the schoolchildren are a procession of rich
Arabs and their elephants, uncovers the differences between the two boys. Like Don Quixote, Tom is the idealist, while Huck is the realist who doesn't believe his friend's "lies."
Chapter 4: Huck explains that he has been going to school fairly regularly now, and that he doesn't mind it too badly. He also says that he's getting used to living with the Widow Douglas and her sister.
In this chapter Twain continues to show Jim's belief in superstition and magic, as Huck says that the slave taught him quite a bit about the subject. He even tells Huck's fortune for him, telling him that his life will be filled with both joy and grief. Later, the reader will notice that
Jim's magic signs often serve as foreshadowing for the future.
Chapter 5: Huck's pap surprises him when he climbs into his bedroom window to confront him. The fifty-year-old man yells at his boy for getting an education, demanding that he quit school and give up
"religion" immediately. It seems the old man is afraid that his son will know more than he does. What his father mainly wants, however, is to get his hands on Huck's six thousand dollars.
Later, going before the judge, Huck's pap promises to change his ways, saying that he will become civilized and live decently. This cons the judge for awhile, but when the old man gets drunk the very same night, everyone realizes that there's no chance he will ever change.
Chapter 6: In this chapter, Huck's pap kidnaps the boy, and the two live a few miles away in a shack deep in the woods. For two months
the father and son live together there, and Huck admits that he didn't really want to return to the Widow Douglas' house anyway. Huck enjoys the freedom life in the wilderness affords him, noting that he took up cussing again since his father didn't mind.
One night, however, Huck's pap gets drunk and starts chasing him around the cabin with a knife, calling him the Angel of Death. Luckily he falls asleep on the floor, sparing his son's life for the time being at least.
Chapter 7: Tired of being constantly locked in the cabin by his father for days at a time, Huck decides to dig a hole to the outside, taking care to cover it up with a stump so his pap doesn't see it. One day after his father locks him in as usual, Huck leaves the cabin through his hole, goes hunting, kills a pig and brings it back. He spatters the blood all about and smashes in the door to the shack, making it look as if he's been murdered. He next gets into a canoe and paddles to
Jackson's Island, a nearby, uninhabited wilderness area where he plans to hide for awhile. Ironically, Huck is able to live only by feigning his own death.
Chapter 8: Hearing the noise of a cannon coming from a ferryboat traveling down the river, Huck immediately realizes that they are hoping to bring his body to the surface. The boat comes so close to the island that he can even see those he knows onboard as they scan the water for his corpse.
Having stayed several days on the island now, Huck admits that he really enjoyed the freedom it gave him. He explains, "I was boss of it; it all belonged to me, so to say.." Soon
thereafter, however, Huck encounters an acquaintance on the very same island, hiding, just as he is doing. This is Jim, Miss Watson's slave. Seeing the boy, Jim immediately falls to his knees, believing
Huck to be dead and thus thinking that he is seeing his ghost. The two explain their stories to one another, and they agree to help each other escape. Huck admits that being with Jim made him feel less lonely.
Chapter 9: In this chapter, Huck and Jim find a small wooden raft that has drifted ashore; this raft will be used later.
Seeing a damaged houseboat float by one night, Huck and Jim decide to paddle out to it to see what supplies they can garner. Jim sees a dead man aboard the vessel, but persuades Huck not to look at his "ghastly" face.
Chapter 13: Getting into the rowboat that the murderers themselves were planning to get away in, Huck and Jim hurriedly hurl themselves into the little boat and finally get away from the whole fiasco. They find their raft further downstream as they pass a ferryboat with a watchman on deck. Huck, wanting to help the "rapscallions" who he and Jim had stranded, tells this man that he is from the wrecked steamboat (ironically named the Walter Scott) and that his family is still on board.
Later, Huck thinks to himself that the Widow Douglas would be quite proud of him for helping the men, since these are the kind, according to her, that most need helping.
Chapter 14: Looking through the supplies they had received from the wreck, Huck and Jim talk about the adventures they've just had.
Through the course of the conversation, Huck admits that Jim "had an
uncommon level head, for a nigger." This shows that some of Huck's assumptions about Jim are beginning to change.
Next, perhaps the most comical scene in the book takes place as Huck and Jim discuss the nature of kings and dukes. Huck, who has read more about them in his books, explains to Jim that kings don't do any work, but still get to have as much of anything as they want. Jim's knowledge of kings is limited to "King Sollermun." The two have a humorous conversation about him, and this leads into a discussion of languages, Jim not understanding the nature of different languages. This all serves to show Huck that Jim, though he may have an "uncommon level head," is incredibly ignorant and stubborn.
Chapter 15: Still planning on getting into the free states of the North,
Jim and Huck continue their journey. Eventually the two get separated from each other, and Jim comes to believe that Huck has died. When
Huck finds Jim a bit later, Jim is surprised but happy to see him again.
Chapter 16: Believing themselves to be close to freedom now, Huck begins to feel guilty for having helped Jim escape. Southern society has taught him that freeing a slave is a sin, and Huck starts to worry that he will go to hell.
Being forced to postpone these thoughts for later, however, Huck is confronted by men who are looking for fugitive slaves. Wanting to search the raft for the slaves, the men begin to row out to it. Huck, however, ingeniously dissuades the men from such action by telling them that his father is onboard and has smallpox.
Instead of helping, the men give Huck some money in charity.
now night, Huck and Jim jump overboard and are separated when a much larger vessel cuts their little raft into two pieces. Huck nearly drowns, but manages to reach shore, not having heard any sign of
Chapter 17: Now on land, Huck walks a few paces before he hears a male voice yelling at him from a nearby house window. Apparently he has reached the Grangerford family headquarters. When asked who he is, Huck tells the man that his name is George Jackson and that he has just fallen off the steamboat. Taking him inside, the man examines
Huck by candlelight, convinced that he isn't a Shepherdson, the name of the family with which the Grangerfords are feuding.
Grangerford family takes Huck in, and he admits that they were really nice. The ironic thing is, despite their obsession with feuding, the family seems to be very religious. Twain obviously uses this to further his indictment of religion.
Chapter 18: Huck's education continues. He learns that the
Grangerford family is practically part of the aristocracy. The other competing aristocracy in town seems to be the Shepherdsons. The families are feuding, Huck is told, because of some dispute that happened many years ago. When he asks what the nature of the dispute was, no one knows. All of this seems quite ridiculous to
Soon word reaches the house that Miss Sophia, the beautiful daughter of the household, has run away to elope with a young man
from the Shepherdson family. This immediately causes all the men of the house to fetch their guns and prepare for battle. Traveling with
Buck, Huck himself sees the bloodshed first-hand. All of it, however, makes him sick to his stomach, especially when he sees Buck killed.
Luckily, he meets Jim in the woods, and the two of them run back towards the river, away from the senseless feuding.
Chapter 19: In this chapter, after Huck and Jim have been traveling for a bit, they encounter two men who are running for their lives, being chased by dogs and men, they say. They ask Huck if they can get away with them, and Huck agrees. Eventually the men announce to each other and to Huck and Jim that they are actually a king and duke, who have lost their kingdoms. Huck doesn't say anything, but he admits to the reader that he thinks "these liars warn't no kings nor dukes, at all, but just low-down humbugs and frauds."
Chapter 20: Wondering about Jim, the king and duke ask Huck if he's a runaway slave. Huck is adamant in his denial, saying that they wouldn't be traveling south if he were a fugitive slave (They are forced to travel south now because of the current, which of course heads south on the Mississippi.). Huck follows his denial by telling them a compelling story about themselves. Here and elsewhere in the book, it becomes apparent to the reader that Huck is an amazing liar.
It also soon becomes apparent what the king and duke do for a living: they are frauds and cheats, just as Huck suspected. Stopping at a town downstream, both the king and the duke leave the raft, using their
knack for deception to cheat quite a sum of money out of the people.
Chapter 21: Now in Arkansas, the king and duke begin orchestrating their next scheme: the enactment of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Also in this chapter Huck witnesses a mob scene caused by a petty local dispute. Huck notices that the people in the mob act on the courage of others, instead of taking individual initiative of their own.
Chapter 22: The description of the mob scene continues, though it turns out that no one is lynched because the mob is full of cowards.
The Shakespeare show also takes place this night, but with only a meager turnout, the king and duke change their plan for the next night and put up signs around the town for a show called "The
Royal Nonesuch." The real appeal of the show is the fact that women and children are prohibited from coming. This will surely cause some excitement, the duke proudly exclaims.
Chapter 23: The first two nights of the Royal Nonesuch performance takes place in this chapter. What the show really amounts to is simply the duke walking onto stage and telling everyone that they have been duped and asks them to mention the show for the following two evenings to their friends. The people, who have each been conned
into paying 50 cents for the "show," are enraged and start to rush stage when one among them calls for them to stop, saying that they will be the "laughing-stock" of the town if they don't con their fellow citizens into buying tickets for the following two nights. Everyone agrees, and no violence is done to the king or duke at this time. The following two nights follow the same pattern, except on the third night the duke doesn't dare to enter the stage, knowing that the people plan to get their revenge on him this time. So instead, he and Huck run back to the raft, getting away with over four hundred dollars for the three "performances." The most important part of the chapter, however, is a conversation between Huck and Jim, when Huck realizes that Jim severely misses his family. This causes Huck to admit, "I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n." Thus, Huck continues to realize that Jim is as much a person as anyone else.
Chapter 24: Meeting a fellow traveler, the king starts up a conversation with the man, finding out that the town is anticipating the arrival of the English brothers of Peter Wilks, a wealthy landowner who has recently died and thus has quite a sizable inheritance to give to his relatives. The king and duke jump on this opportunity, and after leaving the man who possessed such valuable information, ask for directions to the Wilks' home.
Chapter 25: They arrive at the house, pretending to be the brothers of the deceased, and they seem to fool everyone in the town. The king
gives a speech, where he even brings himself to tears over the apparent death of his brother. One man, however, the family physician, doesn't believe that these men are genuine, but tells the town that they must be frauds. Their English accents, for one, don't seem quite authentic to his trained ear. Luckily for the king and duke, however, the town doesn't believe the doctor, but rallies behind them instead.
Chapter 26: The king and duke, now in one of the Wilks' private rooms, plot their next move. A bag of gold has come into their possession and they decide to hide it for safe-keeping. Huck, however, feels guilty and partially responsible for the scheme, since he is with the king and duke. He decides to hide the gold himself to prevent the king and duke from getting their hands onto it.
Chapter 27: Now with the bag of gold, Huck proceeds to find a place to hide it. Unfortunately, someone is heard approaching from another room, and fearing that he will be caught with the bag in his hand, he is forced to hide the gold in the casket itself.
Soon the funeral ceremony takes place, and though many people are near the casket, no one seems to discover the gold.
Planning their getaway, the king and duke realize that the gold is no longer where they had hidden it.
They interrogate Huck about the matter, but they ultimately come to believe that some of the house slaves must have stolen the gold.
Chapter 28: In this chapter Huck meets with Mary Jane, one of the
Wilks girls with whom he has become especially close, and he tells her
that the king and duke are frauds and that he has taken the money from them. He writes a note to her telling her where he has hidden the gold.
By the end of the chapter, real trouble for the king and duke has come with the arrival of the legitimate heirs. It seems a confrontation will soon follow.
Chapter 29: To make a long story short, there's a lengthy dispute between the two pairs of heirs. As time passes, however, it becomes increasingly clear that the king and duke are frauds. All of the tension comes to a fountainhead at the burial of Peter Wilks, where the gold is discovered.
Leaving the king and duke to pay the penalty for their fraudulent scheming, Huck breaks free from the group and runs back to the river, where Jim has been waiting for him. Unfortunately, the king and duke follow him to the raft, angry that Huck was trying to give them the slip."
Chapter 30: So the foursome continues its journey down river, free from the town, but with the king and duke's scheme utterly foiled.
Taking the pressure off of Huck for a moment, the king and duke argue amongst themselves, now suspecting each other of betrayal.
Chapter 31: After traveling south for a few days now, the schemers begin to plot secretly. Huck becomes nervous. Coming back to the raft a few hours later, he realizes that Jim is gone, and suspects that the king and duke have sold him back into slavery. He quickly learns from a boy from the town that Jim has been brought to Phelps farm,
which is nearby.
Huck returns to the wigwam to think, considering whether or not to send a letter to Miss Watson telling her Jim's whereabouts. He ultimately decides against this, believing he will be the laughing stock of the town for helping a slave escape. He also considers how wicked he has become, thinking that he must be surely damned for such actions. He accepts this fate, however, believing that he's going to hell anyway so he might as well help his friend, Jim.
Thus, Huck begins to walk towards the Phelps' farm. On the way, however, he encounters the duke, who is putting up a flyer for another Royal Nonesuch performance. The duke blames the king for selling Jim, saying that he took all the money for himself. He tells Huck that Jim is forty miles away, making up a story to get rid of the boy. Of course Huck realizes that he's being lied to, but he pretends to follow the duke's advice, starting off right away towards the place the duke has directed him. Once out of sight, however, Huck heads directly towards the Phelps' house.
Chapter 32: Huck approaches the farm, not knowing what he will say, but just trusting Providence "to put the right words in [his] mouth."Soon he realizes that they are expecting someone, and eventually he realizes that they are anticipating the arrival of one Tom
Sawyer. Since they haven't seen Tom in many years, they assume that
Huck is him. This sudden turn of fortune delights Huck, who willingly assumes the identity of his best friend and eagerly answers all their questions about the family he knows so much about.
Chapter 33: Worried that the real Tom Sawyer could be coming at any moment, Huck tells his new family that he will get his own baggage from the steamboat. Walking on the road back into town, he reunites with his friend, who can't believe that he is actually alive. He grudgingly admits to Tom that he's been trying to free Jim from slavery. Surprisingly, Tom says that he will help him free Miss Watson's slave. This stupefies Huck, who believes Tom to be a "civilized" boy who knows right from wrong. Reaching the Phelps' farm himself, Tom assumes the identity of Sid, his older brother, and explains the circumstances that bring him to visit too.
Later, they see a wild crowd gathered around two men who have been tarred and feathered. Huck knows that these must be the infamous king and duke, and though he feels sorry for them, he's glad that justice has finally been done.
Chapter 34: Tom and Huck discover that Jim is being kept in a shed behind the house, and they go to the shed, telling him that they are planning to dig him out.
Chapter 35: Going that evening to dig Jim free, Tom realizes that it will be too easy to accomplish their plan. So, instead of freeing him as quickly as possible, Tom convinces Huck that they must reenact certain escape scenes about which he has read in books. Huck agrees, but really wonders why they have to go through all of this when setting Jim free would be so easy without all the pomp and circumstance.
Chapter 36: The escape antics continue over the next few days, much to Huck and Jim's befuddlement. Both, however, go along with what
Chapter 37: For their plan, they steal one of Uncle Silas' shirts. This causes quite a stir, because Aunt Sally blames her husband for losing his own clothes. Besides the shirt, they also hide a rope ladder in a pie they make, telling Jim to dig it out when he eats the pie. Thus, the needless escape rituals continue.
Chapter 38: The antics become even more ridiculous, as Tom insists that wild animals be put into the shack to befriend Jim.
Chapter 39: The intricate plan continues, with Tom insisting that Jim keep a journal as well. It seems the runaway slave is becoming a little weary of all of the games
Chapter 40: Finally escaping with Jim, Huck and Tom are caught by men with guns, so they all make a run for it. All three of them escape, but Tom is shot in the leg, forcing Huck to go for a doctor. When Jim agrees to stay with the injured Tom, risking his own life, Huck says he knew that Jim was "white inside." Here, the reader sees that Huck truly believes Jim to be a real man, just like any other.
Chapter 41: In town, Huck accidentally bumps into Uncle Silas, and he tells him that he and "Sid" have been looking for the "runaway
nigger." Having gone home with Uncle Silas, Huck realizes that all of their escape items have been discovered, which takes a lot of explaining on his part.
Chapter 42: The next morning, Huck wakes to see that both Tom and
Jim have arrived. Tom tells Aunt Sally that he and "Tom" were the ones to free Jim, much to her (and Huck's) shock. Then, also to everyone's amazement, Tom announces that Jim is a freeman, that
Miss Watson died two months ago and had set Jim free in her will.
Also during this conversation, Tom's Aunt Polly arrives suddenly, wondering why everyone is referring to Tom as Sid. Thus, both of the boys' covers are blown, and they are forced to admit their true identities.
Chapter 43: Huck includes this chapter to fill in the reader on a few details. Tom, he says, had planned to escape with Jim on the raft, so that all three of them could have more adventures. After they reached the mouth of the Mississippi, however, he was going to tell Jim that he was free, and then all three of them would take a steamship up the
Mississippi back home.
Here also, Jim tells Huck that the dead man in the houseboat was actually his father, so he doesn't have to worry about his pap bothering him anymore, and he can now take his six thousand dollars from Judge Thatcher.
Thus, it's a very happy ending for everyone.