The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Study Guide

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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.

Chapter 8

Brief Summary

Huck wakes up and eats breakfast. He sees a ferry boat looking for his body and it passes the island firing its cannon. Once it is gone, he considers himself safe so he sets up his tent and campfire. After a few days, he explores the island and comes across a campfire. He is scared that someone else is on the island with him, and he tries to move to the Illinois side of the Mississippi. There are people there so he has to return to the island. After a sleepless night he decides that he has to find out who is on the island with him. He eventually finds a campfire and discovers that the other person is Jim, Miss Watson's slave.

They swap stories; Huck explains that he faked his own death to escape his father and Jim informs him that he ran away to avoid being sold down to New Orleans. Huck is shocked but promises to keep it secret. Jim explains that his wife and children live in the town and to be sold means he would never see them again. Miss Watson had always promised him that she would not sell him but once she found out that he is worth eight hundred dollars, she decided to do it anyway. He has been on the island since the night of Huck's "death."

They talk about superstitions and Jim tells Huck about how his hairy chest says that he will be rich one day. He recounts the story of how he had fourteen dollars once, only to lose it again. Huck assures him that he will be rich again one day and Jim agrees, pointing out that he owns himself and he is worth eight hundred dollars.

Detailed Summary

Huck wakes up from his nap on Jackson's Island. The sun is shining and there is a light breeze; he feels very comfortable. He hears a loud sound coming from the river and he investigates. He sees a ferryboat shooting its cannon over the water in order to make Huck's body float to the top. He is hungry but cannot make a fire because of the risk of someone seeing his smoke. He looks for bread with quicksilver in it, which people float in the river when they are looking for a carcass. He soon finds one and after taking the quicksilver out, eats it for breakfast. He thinks about how somebody most likely prayed that the bread would find him, which it did. This makes him think that there is something to be said for prayer, though it seems only to work for certain people.

He sits and smokes and then goes back to where he found the bread to see who is on the ferry boat as it passes. He hides himself behind and log and can see his father, Judge Thatcher, Bessie Thatcher, Tom Sawyer, Aunt Polly along with some others all looking for him. When they get near to where Huck is hiding the captain tells them to look closely since it is a likely place for his body to have washed up. Before he realizes it, they fire the cannon in his direction, with a deafening noise. He estimates that if they had been firing bullets with their cannon they would have had his dead body quite quickly. They move on and Huck listens as they reach the end of the island and head up the Missouri side, firing occasionally. They eventually give up and head home.

Huck decides that he is probably safe and that no one else will be looking for him. He sets up a tent, catches a catfish and eats his dinner. After dinner he feels a little lonely and he listens to the currents in the water before going to bed. Three days and nights pass in the same way and then he begins exploring the island. He finds some fresh fruit and a big snake. While chasing after the snake trying to shoot it, he stumbles across a campfire that is still smoking. He immediately hides himself and listens but does not see or hear anything. He returns to his camp and hides his things in his canoe. He climbs a tree to see if anyone comes by, but after a couple of hours he climbs down and eats a dinner of strawberries, too wary to build a fire. That night he is too hungry for strawberries, so he paddles to the Illinois side of the river and sets up a campfire. He plans to stay there for the night, but men on horses come near and plan to make camp. He paddles back to the island and decides to find out who is on the island with him.

He explores the island carefully and quietly. Eventually, close to daybreak, he sees a campfire in the distance. He finds a man covered in a blanket, sleeping. When the man wakes up and uncovers himself, Huck finds that it is Jim, Miss Watson's slave. He is relieved and glad to see him. He comes out of hiding and frightens Jim, who thinking that Huck is dead, immediately thinks he is seeing a ghost. Huck assures him that he is real. He tells Jim to stir up the campfire for breakfast. Jim tells him that all he has been eating is strawberries since he arrived, the night that Huck was killed. Huck produces the supplies he has hidden in his canoe and Jim is surprised and thrilled to eat something other than fruit.

After breakfast Huck tells Jim about his escape from his father's. Jim is impressed and tells Huck that it is better than anything Tom Sawyer could create. Huck then asks Jim about why he is on the island. Jim is hesitant but Huck promises to keep his secret. Jim informs Huck that he ran away because he heard Miss Watson talking to a slave trader about selling him to New Orleans. Huck is shocked but reiterates his promise of secrecy. Him explains that Miss Watson always told him that she would not sell him but then found out that Jim is worth eight hundred dollars so she changed her mind. His wife and children are on nearby farms and sending him to New Orleans would mean that he could never see them again. When he heard that she was convinced, despite the widow's urgings not to sell Jim, he ran off and hid outside of town. He heard everyone talking about Huck's death. When it was clear, he made his way to the river and swam halfway across the river and got in amongst some driftwood, where he found a raft and took a hold of it. There were men all around so he could not make it to the Illinois shore as he planned. He made it to the island and eventually found a place to land.

Jim notices the birds flying and then landing, a sign of rain. This leads them to discuss different superstitions. Jim is an expert and explains the different causes of bad luck. Huck asks him about signs of good luck and Jim can only think of the one that says that if you have a hairy chest you are going to be rich. Huck sees that Jim does have a hairy chest and asks him if he is rich. Jim tells him about when he had fourteen dollars and then spent it on a cow that died quite quickly. He describes a slave bank that he put him money in, which went bust, and a charitable cause which took the rest of his money. Huck comforts him, saying that he will be rich again someday and Jim agrees, pointing out that he is worth eight hundred dollars and he now owns himself, so that itself makes him rich.

Chapter 9

Brief Summary

Jim and Huck move into a cave so they are protected during a thunderstorm. They explore their island more. They catch a raft that floats by. A house appears in the river, and they explore that. There is a dead man there, which Huck avoids and they find many useful things.

Detailed Summary

They explore the island, heading to a place that Huck had seen in his previous wanderings. There they find a cave and Jim suggests that they hide their things in there to avoid detection, as well as the rain, and hide the canoe someplace safe. Huck is hesitant because he does not want to have to climb up and down the hill so much. Jim convinces him that it is a good idea. They move the canoe and take all of their things into the cave, where they build a fire for dinner. It soon begins to rain, proving Jim right. The storm is fierce with thunder and lightning. Huck comments on their comfort and Jim reminds him that it is because Huck listened to him.

It rains for days and the water level rises. During the day they paddle over the island, exploring. The swollen river brings things their way, including a raft, which they bring to shore. They avoid the things that come during the daytime because they do not want to be seen. One night a two-story frame house appears. They climb inside and Jim finds a dead man. Jim hides the man's face before he lets Huck see, but Huck is not interested. They gather what might be of use and put it in their canoe, including a knife, candles and a lantern. When they leave it is daylight so Huck hides Jim and they make their way back to the island without any problems.

Chapter 10

Brief Summary

Huck wants to talk to Jim about the dead man but Jim refuses to speak about it, since it would cause bad luck. Going through the things they brought back from the house, they find eight dollars. Huck reminds Jim of a snakeskin that he touched the day before, which was supposedly bad luck. Huck is convinced that it was not bad luck but Jim believes that the bad luck had just not come yet.

A few days after their conversation, Jim is bit a rattlesnake and is sick for four days and nights. Jim blames the snakeskin and Huck begins to agree.

Huck becomes a bit bored and decides to go to town to see what is happening. Jim dislikes the idea and suggests that Huck dress up like a girl using some of the clothing they brought back from the floating house. Huck agrees and puts on a dress and a bonnet. He paddles to town just after dark where he sees a light in a shanty that had not been lived in for a while. Knowing he is safe with a stranger, he knocks on the door.

Detailed Summary

Huck wants to talk to Jim about the dead man but Jim refuses to speak about it, since it would cause bad luck. Huck is convinced that remaining not talking about it is the better plan but he still thinks about it, wondering who shot the man and why. They examine the things that they brought back from the house. Going through the clothes they find eight dollars. Huck brings up the dead man again, thinking that the coat was stolen, but Jim asks him to keep quiet. Huck reminds him of a snakeskin that he touched the day before. Jim had warned him that it was bad luck but Huck touched it anyway and the next day they found eight dollars. Huck seems to think that it was not a bad thing to do but Jim believes that the bad luck had just not come yet.

Jim is soon proved right. A few days after their conversation, Huck kills a rattlesnake. As a joke, he puts it in Jim's bed. That night Jim is bit by the rattlesnake's mate, who had found the dead snake in Jim's bed. Huck had forgotten that a snake will curl around its dead mate. Jim suffers from the snakebite, drinking whiskey to help the pain. He instructs Huck in various techniques to cure the bite, including eating part of the snake. Jim is sick for four days and nights but the wound eventually heals. Jim blames the snakeskin and Huck begins to agree.

Life returns to normal and the flooded river recedes. They bait a hook with a rabbit and catch a six foot long catfish. They cannot pull him to shore until he drowns himself from trying to get free. They find a lot of things in his stomach, including a brass button and a round ball. They imagine what they would get for him if they sold him in town.

Huck becomes a bit bored and decides to go to town to see what is happening. Jim dislikes the idea but does not prevent him from going. He suggests that Huck dress up like a girl using some of the clothing they brought back from the floating house. Huck agrees that it is a good idea and he puts on a dress and a bonnet. He practices walking around and then paddles to town just after dark. He sees a light in a shanty that had not been lived in for a while so he assumes that it is someone new to town who would not know him. He is beginning to be nervous, but he is sure that he is safe since the woman is a stranger so he knocks on her door.

Chapter 11

Brief Summary

Huck is invited into the shanty and the woman is very talkative, first telling him about herself and her family and then about the town. She talks about Huck's "murder" and informs him that they suspect that either his father did it, or Jim. Huck is shocked to hear that there is a reward out for Jim. She tells him that she thinks that he might be hiding on Jackson's Island because she saw smoke coming from it. Her husband is planning to search the island. Huck tries to get away, but the woman suspects that he is not a girl and tests him. She uncovers his disguise but is fooled by the story he makes up about being an orphan on his way to see his uncle. She helps him on his way and gives him advice on how to be a better girl.

Huck returns to the island and wakes Jim. They quickly put everything they own on the raft and slip away.

Detailed Summary

The woman in the shanty invites Huck in. She asks Huck's name and he replies that it is Sarah Williams. The woman asks what he is doing out at night and he explains that his mother is sick and he comes to notify his uncle, Abner Moore. The woman tells him that she has been in town for two weeks and does not know everyone yet. She begins talking about herself, describing her family and how they moved up the river but she thought it was a mistake. She goes on and on and Huck is afraid she is not going to talk about what is going on in town. She finally mentions his father and the murder and Huck is comfortable again. She tells him about the money he found and about his father.

Huck asks if they know who killed him and the woman replies that his father did it. Then she explains that some people have to come to believe that Jim did it, since he ran away on the same night. Huck begins to interject but realizes the danger and keeps quiet. She goes on to say that there is a reward out for Jim as well as for his father. He came back asking for money to look for Jim, but then disappeared again and has not been seen. She believes that he will wait around and come back in a year when no one is thinking of the murder and get Huck's money. Huck inquires further about the hunt for Jim and she informs him of her idea that he is hiding on Jackson's Island. She is certain that she saw smoke coming from it even though people told her that no one lives there. Her husband is planning to search the island that night. Huck tries to distract himself by threading a needle. He tries to discreetly ask more questions about her husband's plans.

The woman becomes suspicious and asks Huck's name again; this time he answers that it is Mary Williams. She points out that he had previously said it was Sarah and he tries to cover up his mistake. She mentions the rats in their house and asks Huck to throw a bar of lead at it. He does so, once or twice and then she tests him by dropping the lead in his lap. He catches it with his legs and then she confronts him, asking for his real name. He tries to get away, but she keeps him there, informing him that she knows he is a boy. She promises not to tell his secret, whatever it is, so he creates a story about how he is an orphan and was apprenticed to a mean farmer. He says he has been traveling for three nights, hiding during the daytime. He confesses that he is going to his uncle Abner Moore for help, in the town of Goshen. She tells him that he is not in Goshen, but in St. Petersburg. She quizzes him about farming, to test if he is telling the truth. He answers all the questions correctly and she gives him something to eat on his journey. She gives him advice on how to better act like a girl, for example how to thread a needle properly and how to throw something. She tells him to mention her name if he gets into trouble and gives him directions.

He departs, pretending to go the proper direction and then doubling back towards his canoe. He speeds over to the island, landing as close as possible to their cave. He starts a fire close to where he first camped, in order to divert attention. He returns to the cave and wakes Jim up, warning him that people are coming. Jim instantly gets up and works to leave. They put everything on the raft and try to hide their campsite. They slip away from the island and begin to float downstream.

Chapters 8-11 Analysis

These chapters detail the beginning of the relationship between Huck and Jim, chronicling the time they spend on Jackson's Island. In chapter 8, Huck finds Jim on the island and at the end of chapter 11 they are forced to leave to avoid being caught. Their friendship is already established from knowing each other previously, but on the island their roles have changed. Jim is no longer a servant of Miss Watson and the others and Huck is no longer a part of that household. Huck is at first shocked to hear that Jim has run away but he vows to remain true to his initial promise of secrecy. After the first feelings of discomfort that he is consorting with a runaway slave, Huck is comfortable with Jim and happy to have his company. Huck is detached from society enough to be able to immediately look to Jim as a friend on equal terms rather than as someone below him. Society's influence is still present, as he makes his pledge to Jim while mentioning that some might "call [him] a low down Ablitionist and despise [him] for keeping mum," but it is not strong enough to keep him from acting against his own feelings. At this point, he sees Jim as a person, not as property; for example, Huck is concerned that Jim is hungry and interested in his story. Huck's interest in Jim's well-being assists the story's anti-slavery message as well as his progression into adulthood.

The similarities they share are immediately apparent. For example, they both are superstitious, Jim more so than Huck. Jim teaches Huck further signs of bad luck and Huck soon learns to listen to Jim after the episode of the snakeskin. Jim is knowledgeable in the ways of nature and offers solid advice, which Huck follows. Jim's seemingly hokey beliefs turn out to be well-founded and useful.

Huck and Jim are both outsiders to society and as such fit together well. Jim's protectiveness of Huck is demonstrated as he worries about the snakeskin, prevents him from seeing the dead man and is uneasy about Huck's plan to visit town. This will increase as they spend more time together and Jim becomes more of a father-figure to Huck. As Jim's character becomes better known to Huck and consequently to the reader, Twain's anti-slavery message begins to be clearer. Twain includes a moment of poignant irony when Jim and Huck are talking about being rich. Jim mentions that he is rich because he owns himself and he is worth $800. The fact that Jim does not take his freedom for granted the way that everyone else does speaks to his nobility and is a scathing comment on the institution of slavery, confronting the reader with the idea that in this society people put price tags on human beings. From this point in the story onward, Jim's honor and grace will become more evident.

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