Mark Twain begins The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a notice to the reader. He identifies
Huckleberry Finn as "Tom Sawyer's Comrade" and reminds the reader that this novel resumes where The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer left off: in St. Petersburg, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, "forty to fifty years"
before the novel was written (so between 1834 and 1844, before the American Civil War). He tells the reader that several different "dialects are used," which have been written "painstakingly," based on his own "personal The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary 7familiarity with these several forms of speech."
The novel's title character, Huckleberry Finn, narrates the story. He summarizes the end of The Adventures ofTom Sawyer, in which he and Tom discovered a large amount of stolen gold. He lives now with the WidowDouglas, who has taken him in as "her son," and her sister, Miss Watson. His father, "Pap," has disappeared:Pap hadn't been seen for more than a year, and that was comfortable for me; I didn't want to
see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on
me; though I used to take to the woods when he was around.The widow attempts to "sivilize" Huck and teach him religion. Huck finds her ways confining. Miss Watsonnags him to learn to read, to "set up straight," and to behave. Huck remains superstitious, and he mostly resiststhe women's influence; after bedtime, he escapes out his window to join Tom Sawyer for new adventures. Theboys meet Jim, "Miss Watson's nigger," and they play a trick on him. Jim, like Huck, is superstitious, andwhen he wakes up he thinks that witches played the trick.Tom, Huck, and other boys meet in a cave down the river, and form a Gang, a "band of robbers." But Hucktires of the Gang's adventures, because they are only imaginary. When Pap shows up in St. Petersburg, hecauses Huck some real problems. Pap wants Huck's reward money from the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Signs of his son's increased civilization irritate him: the proper clothing, and the ability to read and write. Huck secures his money by "selling" it to Judge Thatcher. Huck's father brings a lawsuit against the judge, but "law" is "a slow business." Eventually Pap kidnaps Huck, and takes him up the river to a shack on the Illinois side of the river. At first, Huck enjoys the return to freedom, but living with his father has its difficulties; "by-and-by pap [gets] too handy with his hick'ry," and he either leaves Huck locked in the cabin alone, or beats him. Huck decides to escape, and cuts a hole in the cabin. After his father lays in somesupplies, Huck lays his plans. He catches a canoe as it floats down the river. Left alone, Huck stages his own murder: he kills a wild pig and leaves its blood around the shack and on his jacket, then leaves a fake trail showing a body being dragged to the river. He then loads up the supplies and takes off down river. He stops to camp on Jackson's Island, two miles below St. Petersburg.
Chapters 8-18: Down the River
On the island, Huck feels liberated. Seeing his friends search for his body troubles him only slightly. After a
few days, he discovers that he is not alone on the island: Jim has run away from Miss Watson, who had
threatened to sell him down the river. Jim's escape troubles Huck, but together they enjoy a good life: fishing,
eating, smoking, and sleeping. They find a house floating down the river, with a dead man in it, from which
they take some valuables. Huck appreciates the lore that Jim teaches him, but still likes to play tricks. He
leaves a dead rattlesnake on Jim's bed, and Jim gets bitten by the snake's mate. He recovers, but interprets the bite as the result of Huck touching a snake-skin—a sure bringer of bad luck. Jim suspects that there is more to come.
One night, Huck dresses as a girl and goes across to town to "get a stirring-up." He discovers that there is a
reward offered for Jim and that the island is no longer a safe hiding place. He rushes back to the island, and he and Jim float down the Mississippi, sleeping by day and drifting by night. Living this way, they get to know
each other, and Jim tells Huck about his children. They also have several adventures. They board a wrecked
steamboat and steal some ill-gotten goods from three thieves on board, inadvertently leaving them to drown.
Huck and Jim get separated in a fog. They call out, but for hours at a time, they seem lost to each other. Huck falls asleep, and when he awakens, he sees the raft. He sneaks aboard and convinces Jim it was all a dream.
When Huck points to evidence of the night's adventure and teases him for being gullible, Jim teaches Huck a
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary 8"When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke bekase you waz los', en I didn' k'yer no mo' what become er me en de raf. Enwhen I wake up en fine you back ag'in, all safe en soun', de tears come, en I could 'a' got
down on my knees en kiss' yo' foot, I's so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin' 'bout wuz how
you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck dah is trash, en trash is what people is
dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed." It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'd 'a' knowed it would make him feel that way.
Chapters 19-33: The King and Duke
Huck and Jim plan to drift down to Cairo, Illinois, and then steamboat North, but they realize that they passed Cairo in the fog. A steamboat crashes into their raft and separates them again. Huck swims ashore and is taken in by the Grangerford family, who are embroiled in a feud with another local family, the Shepherdsons. He lives with the Grangerfords, while Jim hides in a nearby swamp and repairs the raft. When the feud erupts into new violence, and Huck's new friend, Buck Grangerford, is killed, Huck and Jim set off once again down the river.
From the film The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, starring Mickey Rooney, MGM, 1939.
Huck and Jim rescue two "rapscallions," who identify themselves as a duke and a king. They take the prime
sleeping quarters on the raft and expect Jim and Huck to wait on them. They employ different schemes to
make money along the river. They attend a religious camp-meeting, and the king takes up a collection for
himself. In "Arkansaw," they rent a theater and put on a Shakespearean farce called "The Royal Nonesuch."
Next, a boy they meet confides that an inheritance awaits one Mr. Wilks, an English gentleman, in his town.
Seeing their opportunity, the king and duke assume the identity of Mr. Wilks and his servant, and go to claim
the money. Huck feels increasingly uneasy about their unscrupulous behavior, and vows to protect their
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Summary 9victims. He hides the cash they try to steal. When the real Mr. Wilks arrives, Huck and Jim try—but fail—to escape without the rascally "king" and "duke."
Next, the king and duke betray Jim as a runaway slave, and "sell" their "rights" to him to a farmer, Silas
Phelps. Huck realizes what has happened and determines to rescue Jim. He seeks the Phelps farm. By a stroke of luck, they are relatives of Tom Sawyer's, and mistakenly identify Huck as Tom, come to pay a visit. When Tom arrives a few hours later, he falls in with Huck's deception, pretending to be his brother Sid.
Chapters 34-43: Jim's Rescue
Tom agrees to help Huck rescue Jim. He insists that the escape follow models from all of his favorite prison
stories: he smuggles in items past the unwitting Phelpses. He makes Jim sleep with spiders and rats, and write
a prison journal on a shirt. He also warns the Phelpses anonymously. In the escape, Tom gets shot in the leg.
Jim and Huck each return and are caught in the act of seeking help for Tom.
Finally Tom reveals that Jim is in fact no longer a slave: Miss Watson died and set him free in her will. Tom's
Aunt Polly arrives and clears up the case of mistaken identity. Huck, upset by the trick played on him and Jim, accepts Tom's explanation that he wanted "the adventure" of the escape. Tom gives Jim forty dollars for his trouble. Now that everyone knows he is still alive, Huck worries about Pap, but Jim tells him not to bother:
Pap was the dead man in the house floating down the river. Huck ends the novel with a plan to "light out for
the Territory ahead of the rest" before the women try again to "sivilize" him.
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