The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Mark Twain lived from 1836 – 1910 and wrote this book in 1884. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is like many of Twain’s other writings, it’s a comedy, but it also has some serious issues in it, like slavery. Twain paints a picture of what life was like in the 19th century. This adventurous story also is cool because the characters talk like regular people, they use slang – well, the slang from back then – and that was considered a big deal. This book is an American classic, and a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Huckleberry Finn: He is the main dude of the story. An all around good kid, he has a self-esteem problem. His dad is a big drunk who beats him. Huck’s age is somewhere between 12-15.
Tom Sawyer: Huck's good friend. Tom gets into all sorts of trouble. He is a witty kid who can lie.
Slave Jim: Jim is a black dude who is a slave. Jim was "owned" by Widow Watson. In the beginning he is an outlaw slave running away. He and Huck become really close.
King and Duke: They are two con-artists. They tell Huck they are nobility. Huck calls them the king and the duke. They are fast talkers but get busted in the end.
The book starts out with Huck telling the reader that this is a sequel to Tom Sawyer. After his dad deserted him, Huck lives with some lady named Widow Douglas. He describes the widow’s sister and his two friends, Tom Sawyer and Slave Jim. Then huck’s dad comes back and takes Huck. After a while, Huck’s dad starts beating Huck, so Huck runs away. He fools everyone into thinking he has been killed. He goes to some island where slave Jim to where Jim had also escaped.
Huck and Jim get a raft and sail down the Mississippi River. Then their raft gets hit by a boat and breaks. While Jim fixes it, Huck hangs out with some family. Then the raft is repaired and they sail on. They are joined by two crooks who tell Huck they are French royalty. Huck doesn’t believe them, but plays along. Then the two guys, King and the Duke, go from town to town and swindle people out of cash. Huck doesn’t like traveling with two con men, so he thinks up a plan to sail away and have the two guys arrested. The plan doesn’t work. Then the two jerks run out of cash so they sell Slave Jim to a farmer.
The farmer that buys Jim is Tom Sawyer’s uncle. Then Huck and Tom meet up. They decide to set Jim free. They devise a plan but the plan does not work and on top of that, Tom gets shot in the leg. Then they all find out that Jim has actually been a free black man all along. So everyone goes home. Huck decides that he is going to go live in the Indian territory.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
CHAPTERS 1 – 2
- Huck talks to the reader and talks about who he is and that he was in an earlier book (Adventures of Tom Sawyer).
- Huck tells us he lives with some lady named Widow Watson.
- Huck hates the Widow’s sister because she is too strict.
- In his room, Huck’s friend, Tom Sawyer, shows up and Huck sneaks out to hang with him.
- While sneaking out, he makes a noise. Widow’s slave (Jim) comes out. Then Jim goes back to sleep.
- Huck and Tom play a joke on Jim. They take his hat and hang it on a tree branch.
- Huck and Tom then travel with their other buddies to some cave and have a "meeting."
- Tom is like the leader of the bunch. He tells all the kids that they are going to form a gang of robbers. Tom has a big imagination.
CHAPTERS 3 – 4
- The next day Huck gets in trouble for sneaking out. Widow Watson tells him to pray more.
- Then Huck talks to the reader about praying. He can’t understand why people who pray so much don’t get what they want. He is confused about religion. He doesn’t think God would want a lame-o like him. Huck has very low self-esteem.
- Huck’s dad’s name is Pap and he’s a drunk guy who used to beat Huck. He left about a year ago. A body was found in the river, and everyone thought it was Huck’s dad. Huck still thinks he is alive and is scared that he’ll come back.
- Huck plays in Tom’s robber gang but doesn’t like it because it isn’t real. The guys run around with brooms and call themselves robbers. Tom has a vivid imagination, but Huck wants to do the real thing.
- Then one day Huck spills salt at the dinner table. He is a superstitious kid so he thinks it is bad luck. Then he sees some footprints that are his father’s.
- Huck gets scared and goes over to the local judge, Judge Thatcher. This judge is holding $6000 of Huck’s money (he got it for catching some gang of real robbers). He gives the judge the money because his dad will beat him for it and he wants to honestly say he doesn’t have any money.
- Huck goes to Slave Jim’s place. Jim has some ball that he thinks has magical powers. Huck asks him to predict what his dad is gonna do. Jim doesn’t really predict much.
- Huck goes home and finds his dad there.
CHAPTERS 5 – 6
- Pap is mad at Huck for going to school and becoming educated, because Pap isn’t is not.
- He asks Huck for money and Huck says he doesn’t have any.
- Then Widow Douglas and Pap fight in court over who gets custody of Huck. Another judge (not Thatcher) gives custody to Pap because he promises to stop drinking.
- The judge invites Pap to stay with him to start his new sober life.
- That night Pap goes out and gets trashed.
- The next day Pap sues Judge Thatcher for the money Huck gave to him. Pap wants to get that $6000.
- Huck’s dad returns to his old ways. He abuses Huck and treats him like crap.
- Then Pap kidnaps him and takes him to some cabin in the woods. He locks Huck in a closet when he leaves the cabin.
- Huck thinks of an escape plan. He cuts a hole in the wall to escape when his dad is gone or asleep.
- Then one night Pap goes out and gets drunk. He returns home and starts talking to Huck about his opinions. Huck’s dad talks a lot of racist talk (like black people shouldn’t be teaching college, etc.).
- Then Huck’s dad goes to sleep. Huck thinks he can escape, but his dad has a nightmare that he is fighting an angel of death. He thinks Huck is the angel so he starts fighting Huck.
- Huck gets the gun for protection while his dad falls back asleep.
CHAPTERS 7 – 8
- The next day Pap finds Huck asleep with a gun. Huck lies and tells him he is holding the rifle because someone tried to break in last night.
- Pap goes out to fish. Huck sees a canoe and hides it in the woods to help him escape.
- Pap then goes into town. Huck sees his chance to escape. Huck has formed this fancy plan to escape and have everyone think he was murdered. Huck wants independence and to be on his own.
- Huck gets in his canoe and paddles away down the Mississippi River, just as Pap comes home. Huck arrives at Jackson Island and takes a nap.
- Then Huck sees a boat filled with people he knows. They are searching for his dead body. He hides so they don’t see him.
- The boat passes and Huck is happy because he convinced everyone he is dead and now he is free to do whatever he wants.
- Huck stays on the island and soon discovers that there is another person there. He finds out it is Slave Jim. Jim is shocked to see that Huck is alive.
- Huck asks Jim why he is on the island. Jim is there because he ran away from his master (Widow Watson).
- Huck is shocked at first. He thinks slaves who run away are bad. But he decides not to tattle on Jim.
CHAPTERS 9 – 10
- Huck and Jim are both escaped people. So now they team up.
- They go to a cave to set up and avoid the rains.
- It keeps raining and the river floods. They take the boat out once in awhile to go look for stuff.
- A house floats by on the river. They go into the house and find a dead guy who was murdered. Then they take supplies from the house and go back to the island.
- Huck starts talking about the dead guy but Jim makes him shut up about it.
- Then Jim gets bitten by a snake. It is Huck’s fault but they blame it on bad luck because they are superstitious.
- Huck disguises himself as a girl and goes into town to find out what people are saying about Huck and Jim.
CHAPTERS 11 – 12
- Huck is in the town and disguised as a girl.
- He talks to some chick. She tells him that Pap is gone and Jim is suspected in Huck’s murder (even though Huck wasn’t murdered). Then she tells him that her husband saw a fire on Jackson Island and thinks the slave is there, so he is going to go find him tonight.
- The woman Huck is talking to then discovers that she is talking to a boy dressed like a girl. She doesn’t know it is Huck. Huck tells her some lame story and she believes him.
- Huck runs back to the island and tells Jim that some guys are coming to the island to look for him. Huck and Jim put all their crap in the raft and take off.
- They sail off on a big raft. Jim builds a fire to keep warm.
- They stop in St. Louis to get supplies. Then they sail some more and find a sunken steamboat. Huck overhears some guys on the boat. They turn out to be three criminals.
CHAPTERS 13 – 14
- Jim tells Huck that their raft is broken, so they go back on the steamboat to find the lifeboats.
- Huck and Jim see that the criminals have already planned on using the two passenger boat (they were gonna ditch the third criminal).
- The criminals go back inside to get more money. Jim and Huck sneak onto the boat and take off.
- Then Huck and Jim repair their raft and put the criminal’s loot onto it. Huck rows the lifeboat to shore. When he is on shore, he tells some captain that his family is stranded on a steamboat and they need help (Huck has a big heart, he doesn’t want those criminals to drown).
- Then Jim and Huck meet up. They start arguing about the Bible. Huck tells Jim the story about King Solomon and the two mothers who claimed the same baby. He said to resolve it he would cut the baby in half. One mom said okay, the other said no way. Solomon then decided the one who was disgusted was the real mother.
- Jim says it is stupid and Huck tries to explain to him the deeper meaning.
- Then they get into another argument about the French.
CHAPTERS 15 – 16
- Huck and Jim talk about how close they are to a "free state," where slavery is illegal.
- Huck loses the raft and then finds it again. He sees Jim sleeping and plays a prank on him. Jim gets mad.
- Jim talks to Huck in a way that blacks were not allowed to talk to whites back then. This is because Jim doesn’t see Huck as a superior white, he sees him as a friend.
- They continue on and get closer to Illinois, a free state.
- Huck starts thinking about the big crime he is committing. He is helping a slave to escape. He feels like he is breaking the law so he goes to shore to turn Jim in.
- On his way he meets two guys looking for runaway slaves. Then Huck realizes that Jim is his friend and he tells the two men that he hasn’t seen any runaway slaves.
- Then they sail on. The raft is split in two and Jim and Huck get split up. Huck goes to shore and is greeted by some barking dogs.
CHAPTERS 17 – 18
- Huck finds himself surrounded by dogs. Some people call the dogs back from a house. Huck goes to the house.
- When he walks in some guys aim guns at him because they mistake him for someone else. When they see he is just a boy, they let him in.
- The house is home to the Grangerford family. Huck tells them he is an orphan who fell off a boat.
- The family feeds him and invites him to stay in the house.
- Huck likes the family and the house (even though it is decorated in a very tacky way).
- We find out the head of the Grangerford family is a colonel. They are a rich, snooty family.
- We also learn that the Grangerford family is fighting with the Sheperdson family. It is a pretty serious feud. Family members have been killed by it
- Huck finds Jim again. Jim has fixed the raft. They sail off.
CHAPTERS 19 – 20
- Mississippi River is really pretty.
- Huck and Jim meet up with two guys. The guys tell Huck they are French Nobleman. Huck doesn’t believe them but plays along. They are really two con artists.
- They go into a town and con some people out of some money.
- Then they have a plan. The only way to travel during the day (with a free slave) is to tie Jim up to something on the raft so when people see them, they think Jim is a runaway slave caught by some guys, not a free slave traveling to the North. This sucks for Jim, but he agrees to do it.
CHAPTERS 21 – 22
- They continue down the river. The con men rehearse some Shakespeare play they will perform at the next town they visit since they are actors, too.
- The con men are really bad actors and know nothing about Shakespeare’s plays.
- They stop in a dirty town filled with white trash. The town is rundown. The con men make up flyers to advertise their show.
- In the town there is this rich dude named Colonel Sherburn. This drunk guy starts bothering him, so the colonel shoots him. The townspeople don’t really care about the shooting, they all try to get in front of each other to see the drunk guy die.
- Then the townspeople decide that they should kill the colonel. They go to his house to find him. He comes outside and starts speaking to them. The angry mob backs off and doesn’t kill him.
- The mob leaves his house.
- Huck then sneaks into a circus. He is amazed by the acts, and is fooled by everything. We see that at heart, he is still a little boy.
CHAPTERS 23 – 24
- Huck calls the con men the Duke and the King.
- The 2 con men con $500 from the men in the trashy town.
- King is a bad person. This makes Huck think about real "kings" who were bad people. He talks to the reader about some of the bad kings through history.
- The next morning Huck sees that Jim is sad because he misses his family. Huck can’t understand why a black person would miss their family so much.
- Then Jim tells Huck a story about his daughter. He once hit his daughter because she wouldn’t listen to him. Then he found out she had scarlet fever and that’s why she was acting so weird. Jim felt awful.
- The con men go to another town to con some people out of some money.
- Jim starts complaining that he hates being tied up on the raft all day. So they make a plan to go travel on a steamboat.
- Then when they are in the town, on the way to the steamboat, the two con men starts talking to this dude. They find out that this really rich guy in the town died, and his two brothers never showed up to claim the inheritance. So the two con men get all the details from the guy and decide to disguise themselves and pretend to be the brothers.
- So they come into the town and tell everyone they are the brothers. The townspeople feel bad for them because they think that their third brother just died.
- Huck is with them as their boy-servant.
CHAPTERS 25 – 26
- Huck feels really guilty about fooling these people and taking their money at a sad time like this.
- Huck feels trapped. He really doesn’t want to do these rip-off schemes, but his buddy Jim is back tied up on the boat and he doesn't want anything to happen to him.
- The two con men find out the inheritance is $6000 worth of gold (back then that was likemillions).
- One con man wants to take the gold and split. The other wants to stay and take everything the family has. There are three sisters in the family who he has to fool, too.
- The town doctor comes back into town. He is the only person who thinks the "brothers" are really con men. He can tell because they do horrible imitations of British accents. He tells the townspeople they are frauds, but the people don’t believe the doctor.
- Night falls and everyone goes to sleep. Then Huck starts talking with one of the sisters. She thinks he is from England (because the supposed "brothers" are from there). She asks him about England.
- Huck lies to her. She is a little suspicious and doesn’t believe he’s from England.
- The other sisters come in and tell the sister who doubts Huck that she’s wrong. She apologizes.
- Huck feels really guilty about stealing money from the girls. So he decides to take the money from the con men and give it back to the sisters.
- Huck goes upstairs. The con men come upstairs so Huck has to hide. He overhears their conversation, then sees where they put the money. He takes it.
CHAPTERS 27 – 28
- In the middle of the night Huck sneaks downstairs to hide the money.
- He hides it in the coffin that has the dead body in it.
- Huck is scared that someone will find the gold hidden in the coffin. He thinks about writing to the sisters to tell them where it is, but he is afraid that when they dig up the coffin the gold won’t be there anymore.
- The two con men sell the family slaves to make more money. Then one of the con men finds that the gold is missing. He asks Huck about it, but Huck leads him to believe that one of the slaves stole it.
- The next day Huck finds one of the sisters crying. She is sad because the slaves were sold.
- Huck feels really guilty so he tells her the truth. He tells her about the two con men posing as the brothers, and his situation. So they cook up a plan to get the con men arrested and let Huck escape without getting killed.
- Huck does some sweet talking and gets the other sisters to go with the plan.
- Before Huck has a chance to do his big plan, some townspeople come to the house with the real brothers.
CHAPTERS 29 – 30
- Just when you think the con men are gonna get busted by everyone, it turns out the townspeople don’t believe the real brothers, and still think that the con men are the real deal.
- They start asking the real brothers questions and start accusing them of lying. A lawyer and the town doctor are the only ones who believe in the real brothers.
- The lawyer tests Huck by asking him questions about England. Huck has no idea, and the lawyer knows he is a liar.
- The two con men stick to their story and say they are the real brothers. The real brothers ask them questions only they would know. The con men take handwriting tests, etc.
- Finally, they start arguing about a tattoo the dead guy has. They go to the cemetery to dig him up.
- They open up the coffin and all the people see the gold that Huck hid in there. While everyone is mesmerized by the gold, Huck escapes.
- He goes back to the raft and finds Jim there. He and Jim take off.
- Right when they leave the two con men show up, running away from the mob.
- They are pissed at Huck for trying to get away. Huck sweet talks them into believing he wasn’t. Huck is scared because he thinks that they will find out Huck hid the money. But they both think the other con man did it.
- They get really drunk and pass out. Huck fills Jim in on the story.
CHAPTERS 31 – 32
- The four travel down the river. Things don’t go well for the con men. They aren’t successful at their cons, so they aren’t making money.
- They plan to do something else to make money. Huck is scared about what they will do.
- The two con men and Huck go into a town called Pikesville. The con men get drunk. Huck sees an opportunity to escape. When he gets back to the raft he finds out that Jim is gone and the con men sold Jim and collected the reward.
- Huck is sad and confused. He has no idea where Jim is and he doesn’t know what to do. He starts to write a letter to Miss Watson to tell her that Jim has been sold, but he rips it up. He doesn’t want to make his friend go back to that crappy slave life with Miss Watson.
- Huck decides to try and get the con men arrested and then go to the farm where Jim was sold and try and help him escape even though he thinks it is against God.
- He goes to the home of Silas Phelps to try and get Jim out of there. He meets a woman named Aunt Sally. She thinks Huck is someone else named Tom, so she asks him some questions and Huck plays along.
- When Silas Phelps returns, Aunt Sally introduces Huck as Tom Sawyer. Now Huck is surprised and is happy because he knows everything about Tom and can pretend to be Tom with no problems.
- Then Huck gets a little worried that whenever Tom shows up, they will find out Huck has been lying. So he plans to find Tom and fill him in before he gets there.
CHAPTERS 33 – 34
- Huck goes to town and finds Tom before he goes to Aunt Sally’s house. Tom is really surprised because he still thinks Huck is dead. Huck tells him everything he did. Then he tells Tom about his dilemma at Aunt Sally’s house. Tom agrees to help out and help Jim escape.
- Huck is a little concerned because he has no idea why Tom Sawyer is helping a black slave escape. But what Huck doesn’t know, is that Tom knows Jim is already free thanks to some loophole.
- Huck goes back to The Phelp’s house, and he pretends to be Tom Sawyer. Tom Sawyer pretends to be a brother of Tom’s named Sid.
- Huck and Tom (fake Tom and fake Sid) are welcomed by the "real Tom’s" uncle and aunt.
- Then Huck finds out that the two con men were caught in the act by the townspeople and tarred and feathered. Huck kinda feels bad for them.
- Huck and Tom both think of plans to help Jim escape and decide whose plan is better.
- Huck thinks of a good plan, but Tom likes his own plan better just because there is more adventure in his plan, so they go with it.
- They scope out where Jim is staying. They talk to Jim and tell him they are gonna free him.
CHAPTERS 35 – 37
- The place where Jim is being held isn’t very secure. But Tom wants adventure so he adds security to the place to make the escape more interesting.
- Huck just wants to get Jim free, but Tom refuses to do it in a simple way. Tom is just playing with Huck, because he knows Jim is a free man. Tom is just making Huck go through all the crap.
- Huck tries to argue with Tom to just free him and get it over with but Tom is stubborn.
- They start digging an escape out of the prison Jim is in.
- They dig with knives but then Tom gets tired and wants to dig with shovels. Huck agrees.
CHAPTERS 38 – 39
- Tom makes Huck do a bunch of stupid stuff, just so the big escape will be like an adventure. He makes Huck do stuff he read in adventure books, like filling the prison cell with snakes, keeping a journal, and writing a goodbye message on a stone.
- Jim is really pissed because these kids can free him easily but they are taking their time.
- After three weeks, their big escape plan is finally ready. Tom sends an anonymous note to his aunt telling her when the escape will happen (he did it because that’s what the heroes in his adventure books did).
CHAPTERS 40 – 41
- Silas Phelps calls a lot of neighbors. They come with weapons to try and defend against this big escape.
- Tom and Huck help Jim escape. The farmers start shooting but because it is dark, they don’t hit anything. Also Silas sends his dogs to catch the "thieves". The dogs recognize the boys, so they don’t bark at them.
- Tom, Huck, and Jim all run to a canoe. Then they take the canoe to an island where the raft is. Tom realizes he got shot in the leg.
- Tom puts some bandages on his gunshot wound.
- Huck and Jim talk about what they should do. Tom wants to continue with the big escape. Jim decides they should stay and get Tom some medical help.
- They can’t get a doctor out on the canoe, so Huck goes back to Aunt Sally’s house and the doctor goes to treat Tom on the island.
CHAPTERS 42 – 43
- Huck starts to go back to the raft, but Tom and Jim show up at the house.
- The crowd has Jim’s hands tied. The doctor tells them to be nice to Jim because he took care of Tom.
- Tom tells Aunt Sally how he and Huck helped Jim escape.
- Then Tom’s Aunt Polly shows up. She tells Sally who each boy really is. Sid is really Tom Sawyer and Tom Sawyer (who she thought was Tom) is really Huck Finn.
- Tom tells everyone that Jim has been free for two months. Then Jim tells everyone that Huck’s dad is dead.
- Huck then says he doesn’t want to go back with Miss Watson and everyone. He will continue traveling and getting in adventures.
THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART
- Don’t be offended by Twain’s use of the word "nigger." It was a bad word then, too, but it was the racist south and was just part of the lingo of the characters.
- Consider the Mississippi River as one of the characters in this book.
- Huck matures throughout this book. In the beginning he runs away from his dad. Then he lives on his own, traveling and taking care of himself. He matures.
- Mark Twain was a humorist. This book is a funny book. Even though it is about a boy, Twain makes many funny comments about the south, and stupid people in the south. He uses Huck Finn as his satirical platform.
- The relationship between a black slave and a white boy was unusual. Huck and Jim learn from each other and find their common bond.
- Ernest Hemingway (see Schoolbytes) liked this book.
- The vernacular (common, slangy stuff) speech in this novel made is very accessible to readers.