The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain about Huck, a mischievous boy, who runs away from his drunken father. Huck meets up with Jim, a runaway slave and they travel down the Mississippi on a raft. The two escape through various misadventures, including the family feud between the Grangerfofrds and Shepherdsons and the conning "duke and king." Finally, Jim is captured on the Phelps' farm, Huck plans an escape and, finally, it is revealed that Jim is now a freeman and Huck's father has died.
Time has passed and Huck has learned how to read and write. One day, he notices tracks in the snow, and he immediately goes to Judge Thatcher's office. There he convinces Judge Thatcher to take all of his money from him. He does this because he believes that his father is back in town and he does not want him to be able to get his hands on the money.
Huck goes to Jim to consult his magic hairball. After offering the hairball a counterfeit quarter as payment, the hairball offers its predictions. Jim explains that the hairballs says that Huck's father is not sure what he is going to do, so the best thing is to wait. It also warns Huck to stay away from water. Huck goes home and finds his father waiting for him in his room.
About three or four months have passed, and Huck has been going to school. He has learned how to read and write, as well as some basic mathematics. He normally did not like going to school, but he gets used to it, just as he gets used to living at the widow's house. Though he still thinks that his old habits, such as sleeping outside, are more comfortable, he is gradually learning to like the new ones. He still maintains his old superstitions, which are looked down upon by the two older ladies. One day he accidentally knocks over a salt shaker, but due to Miss Watson's intervention is unable to stop the bad luck by throwing salt over his shoulder. This is a bad omen, and he worries about what will come of it.
Walking around outside, he notices new tracks in the snow. Someone had been waiting around outside the widow's house. Immediately recognizing them as his father's footprints, Huck goes directly to Judge Thatcher's office. There he finds out that his money has earned some interest, and Judge Thatcher, who oversees Huck's financial interests for him, suggests that they reinvest the money. Huck then tells the Judge that he does not want the interest, or the six thousand dollars that was his share of the money he and Tom found. The judge is surprised and does not understand, but after Huck repeats himself, refusing to explain his reasons, and eventually the Judge agrees to let Huck transfer the money to him.
Even after transferring his money to the Judge, Huck is still worried about what his father is intending to do, so he goes to Jim, Miss Watson's slave. Jim has a large hairball, which came out of the stomach of an ox and is supposed to have magic powers. Huck tells Jim that he saw his father's tracks in the snow and asks him to ask the hairball what his father was planning to do. Jim asks the hairball, but it refuses to speak without payment. Huck offers it a counterfeit quarter in bad condition. Huck is unsure if it is acceptable, but Jim examines it, and knowing a trick to clean the quarter up so it looked genuine again, feels it to be acceptable. He asks the hairball again, which answers that Huck's father does not know what he is going to do, and that the best plan of action is to wait and see. The hairball also informs Huck that he has two angels around him, one good and one bad and he will experience hardship. It warns him to stay away from water since it is going to be the source of many of his troubles.
Huck goes home and when he reaches his room, his father is waiting for him.
Huck is startled by his father's presence but not afraid. His father begins to angrily criticize Huck for the improvements that have occurred, threatening to beat Huck if he believes that he is better than his father. He asks Huck about the money he is rumored to have and Huck denies having any money. He gives his father the dollar that he received from Judge Thatcher and his father leaves.
The next day, Huck's father goes to Judge Thatcher and demands Huck's money. He threatens legal action, and the Judge and the widow also go to the courts, in order to try and gain legal custody of Huck. They fail because the judge is new and does not know Huck's father's reputation. The new judge soon finds out after he benevolently attempts to help Huck's father improve himself. Huck's father convinces the judge that he is a new man and that night gets drunk and rowdy. The judge decides that reform is not possible.
Huck is immediately startled by his father's presence, but he realizes that he does not feel the same fear that he used to. He looks over his father, who is not in good shape; his hair is long and tangled and his complexion white and sickly. His clothes are in rags and his shoes full of holes. His father then begins criticizing his new clothes and his new environment. He asks who gave him permission, and when Huck informs him that it is the result of the widow's influence, he becomes even angrier. He threatens Huck, and warns him that he will be punished for placing himself in a position above his father. He gives Huck a test to see if he really can read and write, and once he has successfully completed it, Huck's father doubles his condemnation. He promises to rid Huck of his newfound gentility.
He then asks about the money that Huck is rumored to have. Huck denies its existence, mentioning that the only money that he has is a dollar, the dollar that the judge had given him earlier that day. He takes the dollar and begins to leave, but returns twice to remind Huck of the punishment involved if he decides to return to school. Huck's father threatens to beat Huck if he is found at the school.
The next day, Huck's father is drunk and he goes to Judge Thatcher's to find out about Huck's money. His father threatens to get the courts involved. Judge Thatcher and the widow also go to the courts in order to try and gain official custody of Huck. The judge who presides over the case is unfamiliar with Huck's father's reputation, and rules against the judge and the widow, saying that he does not like to separate a son from his father. Huck's father triumphs in his victory, and as a celebration threatens to beat Huck severely if Huck does not get some money for him. Huck borrows three dollars from Judge Thatcher and gives it to his father, who uses it to get drunk. He becomes very rowdy, which leads the judge who originally ruled in his favor to commit to his development. He takes Huck's father into his home and gives him new clothes. Given the best treatment, Huck's father professes to be a changed man, and makes a speech in which he expresses his gratitude to the judge for believing in him. They all cry together and express their joy at his conversion. They all go to bed, letting Huck's father stay in one of their guest rooms. He sneaks out and gets drunk, only to be found on the judge's porch, still drunk and with a broken arm from falling out of his window. The judge then changes his mind about Huck's father, and decides that a shot gun might have been a more successful method of reformation.
Huck's father takes Judge Thatcher to court to try and gain access to Huck's money. The case takes a while to get underway because of delays caused by Thatcher. Huck's father becomes angry and kidnaps Huck, taking him across the river to a cabin in the woods on the Illinois side of the Mississippi. He locks Huck in at night, and though Huck enjoys the freedom of being outside and away from civilization, the beatings he receives from his drunken father become more severe, leading him to think about escape.
Huck finds an old, rusty saw and when his father is away he works to cut a hole in the side of the cabin. One night his father gets drunk and then has hallucinatory dream, chasing Huck around the cabin with a knife in his hand. He goes back to sleep and Huck gets the gun and points it at his father, waiting for him to wake up.
Unfazed by the experience with the judge, Huck's father takes Judge Thatcher to court over the right to access Huck's money. He also catches Huck going to school and beats him as punishment. Huck continues to go to school, not necessarily because he likes it, but mainly in order to spite his father. The court case takes a while to get underway, and in the meantime, Huck borrows money from Judge Thatcher and gives it to his father in order to avoid being beaten. Each time Huck gives his father money, he gets drunk and ends up in jail. The widow eventually threatens to make trouble for him if he continues to hang around the house, so one day, Huck's father kidnaps him and takes him to a cabin in the woods, about three miles up the river from town on the Illinois side.
Huck's father keeps a close eye on him and Huck lacks opportunity to run away. He is locked in and watched very carefully. They hunt and fish, and it is not a bad life for Huck, since he is finally free of the widow's rules. After two months it is normal life again and he has forgotten how he was able to live as he did at the widow's house. Though he enjoys the environment, his father gets increasingly violent, and after being locked in the cabin by himself for three days, Huck realizes that he needs to escape. The only option for him is to cut a way out of the cabin. He finds an old saw, and proceeds to saw a hole in one of the walls while his father is away.
His father returns, and Huck hides his work. His father is in an especially bad mood. He has been in town, where his attorney informed him that he has a good chance of winning his case, if the case ever went to trial. Unfortunately, Judge Thatcher has been successfully delaying the case and seems to know the way to do so indefinitely. His lawyer also told him that it was likely for the widow to make another attempt to gain custody, which would most likely be successful. Huck is uncomfortable because he knows that he does not want to return to the widow's house. His father continues to complain forcefully about the situation, and tells Huck that he refuses to let the widow lay hands on him. He has a place in which he can hide Huck for however long it takes to wear out the widow and Judge Thatcher. This makes Huck even more nervous, and he decides that he needs to escape quite soon.
Huck's father sends him to his skiff to retrieve the supplies he bought in town. Huck does so, thinking all the time about how he can escape his father. That night, his father gets drunk and unleashes a general tirade against the world, most especially the government. He complains about the possibility of losing custody, and his inability to get a hold of Huck's money. He also focuses on his experience of a free black man that he encounters in town. He proceeds to get drunk and Huck makes his plan to steal the key from his father while he slept, and then get out of the cabin. Huck falls asleep before he gets the chance. During the night his father has a hallucinatory dream, and he chases Huck around the room with a knife in his hand. He falls asleep again and Huck gets the gun and points it at his father, waiting for him to wake up.
Huck wakes up to find that he has fallen asleep while sitting behind the gun. His father does not remember anything of the previous night, so Huck concocts a story about a prowler. Later, Huck catches a canoe that is adrift on the river. He hides it from his father with the plan to use it to make his escape. He comes up with the plan to fake his own death, so that his father and the widow do not try and chase after him.
The next day, his father finds a group of logs tied together and he takes them to town to sell them. Huck seizes the opportunity and goes to work on cutting his way out of the cabin. He does so, and then takes all the supplies he can and puts them in his canoe. He then kills a pig and using its blood and an axe, creates a scene in which a prowler broke into the cabin, killed Huck and escaped with the supplies. He gets away before his father comes back and makes his way to Jackson's Island.
Huck wakes up to find that he has fallen asleep while sitting behind the gun. His father does not remember anything of the night before, so Huck lies and says that a man was prowling around the cabin so he was sitting with gun for protection. His father scolds him for not waking him up, but Huck assures him that he tried, though unsuccessfully. Huck goes out to check the fishing lines and notices that the river has begun to rise. This means that many good things can be found on the river, as the rising water dislodges them from their resting place. A canoe soon comes floating down the river and Huck grabs it. He catches it and drags it shore, with the idea that he and his father could sell it. He then thinks about how he could use it to escape and he hides it away in a group of trees. His father comes along and yells at him for being so slow, but does not see the canoe.
They eat breakfast and Huck thinks about how to get away. He decides that he needs to devise a plan to keep his father and the widow from trying to chase after him and find him again. His father then reminds Huck about the pretend prowler, instructing him to wake him if anyone else is heard outside. This gives Huck the idea to fake an attack by a stranger. He makes the plan to fake his own death in order to keep people off of his trail.
Later that day, he and his father go out and they find a bunch of logs tied together. They fetch it to the shore and after dinner his father decides to go to town and sell them. He locks Huck in the cabin and takes their skiff to town. Huck immediately begins working with the saw to get out of the cabin. He gets out and puts in his canoe a bag of corn meal, a slab of bacon, whisky, sugar, coffee, ammunition and other items that might prove to be useful. He covers over his tracks and puts the cutaway piece back in the hole. Next he goes into the forest and shoots a pig. He smashes in the door of the cabin with an axe and then rubs the pig's blood on the floor of the cabin and onto a sack filled with rocks, which he then drags from the cabin to the river, where he throws it into the water. He pulls out some of his hair and places it on the axe, bloodying it. He makes a small track of cornmeal to make it look like an accidental spill during a hurried job. He gets into his canoe and rows downstream, stopping to eat and think about what his father and the others are likely to do. He imagines that they will follow the track made by the sack of rocks to the river and look for his body there. He decides to go to Jackson's Island, which is in the river, across from his town. It is close enough for him to be able to paddle over to town during the night and pick up whatever he needs.
He falls asleep and when he wakes up he is disoriented, but it is still late. He hears a sound in the water and looks out to see his father pass him on his way up the river. Huck immediately sets out in the opposite direction. Once he reaches a ferry landing where he might be seen, he sets himself adrift amongst other discarded items and floats past. He listens to the conversation of the men on the landing. When he is far enough past that he cannot hear them, he gets up and paddles to Jackson's Island. He lands on the side closest to the Illinois shore and secures his canoe where it is hidden by willows. He watches the river and then goes into the woods to get some sleep.
In these chapters, Huck's relationship to his father is detailed. His father is a drunkard and a thief and tries to undo everything that the widow has done. Huck is caught in the middle between the two; he enjoys the freedom that his father experiences, but the beatings he receives from his father are severe and contrast the depths of kindness that the widow offers. His father's rants against the government show a selfish and prejudiced mind. He rages about the freed slave who he encounters in town and his rage against the man's nerve to be educated is a chilling portrait of the general atmosphere of racial prejudice and hatred in the time before the Civil War. The freed slave is in every respect superior to Huck's father, yet his father still feels that he is the superior by far solely on the basis of color. Similarly, Huck's father is someone who feels that he has the right to whatever he wants to take, a character trait which will be shared by the duke and the king, who Huck meets later in the novel.
Huck's escape sets up the rest of the novel, as he puts himself in a position in which he cannot return to his former life and he must move forward in a new direction. In this way, he begins his progression into maturity, which will be a focus of the novel from this point forward. These chapters show Huck's character more fully, as he reacts to his father's negativity. He enjoys spiting his father, going to school in order to make him angry, yet he has the control to keep quiet when it is necessary to avoid being beaten. He recognizes the fallacies in his father's arguments and has the presence of mind to make a plan for escape. Huck is clearly a character who knows how to take advantage of a situation and is smart enough to achieve the maximum benefits from any given circumstances. As he will further demonstrate in the following chapters, he tends to act in response to circumstances, rather than to initiate the situations himself. For example, he only thinks of his escape when he realizes that he cannot continue life with his father. His plans change once he finds a canoe floating down the river. He is flexible and sensitive to the opportunities that present themselves. He is quick thinking, and smart. Perhaps Huck is Tom's inferior when it comes to imagination, he is his superior when it comes to survival.
Another facet of his character is that he does not act with the intent to hurt anyone; he only does what he needs to do in order to protect himself. He does not wish to hurt his father or to withhold the money from him because he is selfish. He understands that his father would immediately squander the money and only use it to wreak havoc in town. He does not want to upset the widow or make her regret his leaving, he just wants to be able to be free to live his life in the way that he wishes.