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 19

Brief Summary

The days slip past and Huck describes their regular schedule of floating during the night and sleeping during the day. The time is idyllic, with birds singing and flowers blooming. They enjoy the peace of the river and each other's company.

One morning, Huck gets in his canoe and paddles up a creek into some woods. He meets two men who are running away and he takes them to the raft. One man is bald, with a gray beard and in his seventies. The other is around thirty and is as badly dressed as the first. They both have ragged carpetbags that they drag along with them.

The younger man explains that he was selling a product to take tartar off teeth when the people found out that it takes the enamel off also. The older man says that he was holding a temperance revival until someone saw him drinking. The younger man suggests that they team up and they compare notes as to their line of work. The younger man then insists that he is the disinherited Duke of Bridgewater and the older man claims to the Dauphin, Louis XVII.

Huck soon figures out that neither of them is royalty and that they are con artists but he does not bother talking about it to Jim. He knows that Jim does not mind and so it is best to let matters rest and not say anything until there is a reason to.

Detailed Summary

Huck describes the way that he and Jim spend the days following their escape from the feud. The part of the river on which they find themselves is very big. They float during the night and then tie themselves to a bank close to daybreak, hiding the raft with willow branches. They set up their fishing lines and then go for a swim. Sitting in knee-high water they watch the sun rise and the world wake up. He explains the way that the light gradually grows and the things around them come into focus. The scene is idyllic, with birds singing and flowers blooming. After dawn they make a campfire and cook their fish. Then they laze about and sleep and enjoy the peace of the river. When night falls they start off again and let the raft float while they talk and smoke. They are most often alone on the river and they discuss the stars or watch the steamboats pass in the night.

One morning, Huck gets in his canoe and paddles up a creek into some woods. He hears two men running up the path and they make to get into his canoe. He lets them and he paddles back to his raft. Once the men are comfortable they begin talking to each other and Huck discovers that they do not know each other. One man is bald, with a gray beard and in his seventies. The other is around thirty and is as badly dressed as the first. They both have ragged carpetbags that they drag along with them.

The younger man explains that he was selling a product to take tartar off teeth when the people found out that it takes the enamel off also. The older man says that he was holding a temperance revival until someone saw him drinking. The younger man suggests that they team up and they compare notes as to their line of work. During a pause, the younger man tells a story about how he is the true Duke of Bridgewater, driven from his rightful inheritance. Jim and Huck feel sorry for him and try to make him feel better by treating him like the royalty he is. The bald man then tells the story that he is the Dauphin, Louis XVII, who was rumored to have escaped to America. The duke doubts him at first, since Louis XVII would have been around fifty years old and this man is older. The bald man insists and Huck and Jim treat him like royalty as well. They call him "your Majesty" and wait on him at meals. The duke does not like that someone else is also getting attention but they call a truce and decide to be royalty together.

Huck soon figures out that neither of them is royalty and that they are con artists but he does not bother talking about it to Jim. He knows that Jim does not mind and so it is best to let matters rest and not say anything until there is a reason to.

Chapter 20

Brief Summary

Huck tells the king and the duke a story about why he and Jim only move at night. They take over Huck and Jim's beds and generally take over the raft. They discuss their plans and decide to put on a performance of two scenes from Shakespeare's plays.

They stop at a town and the king visits a camp-meeting where he pretends to be a missionary to pirates. They donate money to the cause and he earns $87.75. The duke does some printing jobs and earns about $10. He also prints a flier describing Jim as a runaway slave from New Orleans. He explains that they can move during the day and if anyone asks any questions they will show them the flier and tell them that they are taking Jim back to his owner.

Once they are underway, Jim quietly asks Huck if he expects them to run across any more kings on their journey. Huck answers in the negative and Jim is glad to hear it since he is already unsure about these two men.

Detailed Summary

The duke and the king ask questions about Huck and Jim's story. They wonder why they sleep during the day and move during the night, asking if Jim is a runaway slave. Huck points out that a runaway slave would not run south and he tells them a story about how all of his family died leaving nothing but sixteen dollars and their slave, Jim. They are trying to get to their uncle's place outside of New Orleans but cannot afford steamboat passage, so they ride on the raft. They often get harassed since it is just the two of them so they started moving only at night to avoid trouble. The duke promises to figure out a way to move during the daytime.

The duke and king take over the raft, sleeping in Huck and Jim's beds. They travel through a storm, which buffets the raft but causes no damage. Huck gets washed overboard at one point but stays with the raft. The next day the king and the duke talk about their plans and the duke suggests that they perform a scene from Richard III and one from Romeo and Juliet. Though the king has never acted before, the duke has a lot of experience and he agrees to do it. The duke suggests that the king will play the part of Juliet.

They reach a small town and they stop because the duke has a plan so they can move during the daytime. He, the king and Huck go to town. The duke goes to the printing office and Huck and the king head to a camp-meeting that is going on. The atmosphere is energized and the preacher is calling for sinners to approach the pulpit when Huck and the king arrive. The king goes up to the front and addresses the audience, telling them that he is a converted pirate who is planning to go back into the waters to spread the gospel. Someone suggests starting up a collection for him and after everyone donates he has $87.75. The duke returns and he had earned some money as well doing printing jobs for people, though only $9.50. He also printed off a flier describing Jim as a runaway slave. He explains that they can move during the day and if anyone asks any questions they will show them the flier and tell them that they are taking Jim back to his owner.

Once they are underway, Jim quietly asks Huck if he expects them to run across any more kings on their journey. Huck answers in the negative and Jim is glad to hear it since he is already unsure about these two men.

Chapter 21

Brief Summary

The duke teaches the king the part of Juliet and they spend the day practicing. They also rehearse the sword fight from Richard III. The duke performs a version of Hamlet's soliloquy, which is a combination of several Shakespearean clichs from several plays. They put up the posters all around the town where they plan to perform.

A man named Old Boggs, a favorite town drunk, rides to the biggest store in town. He calls out to a man named Sherburn to come out. He eventually does and warns Boggs that if he is still standing around at one o'clock, he will shoot him. After a while Sherburn shoots him just as Boggs's daughter arrives. Someone then suggests that Sherburn should be lynched and a mob forms.

Detailed Summary

The duke teaches the king the part of Juliet and they spend the day practicing. They also rehearse the sword fight from Richard III. The duke suggests that the king perform Hamlet's soliloquy. The king does not know it, so the duke teaches him his version, which is a combination of several Shakespearean clichs from several plays. The king soon learns it and they continue to rehearse. The duke prints up several posters and they soon land at a town where they plan to perform. It is a common small town and they put up the posters all around, advertising the show. The streets are mud and all the stores are on one street. A group of men stand around and chew tobacco that they borrow off of one another, making fun of people as they go past.

The town becomes busy since there is also a circus that day. The men standing around notice a man named Old Boggs, who is a favorite butt of their jokes. Boggs is drunk and he rides to the biggest store in town. He orders a man named Sherburn to come out. He eventually does and warns Boggs that if he is still standing around at one o'clock, he will shoot him. Sherburn goes back inside, but Boggs remains, swearing about Sherburn. They try and get him to leave, calling for his daughter to be brought. After a while Sherburn returns with a gun and Boggs is still standing in the street. Sherburn shoots him just as Boggs's daughter arrives. The onlookers crowd around and Sherburn walks away calmly. Everybody talks about the shooting and one person does a reenactment of it. Someone then suggests that Sherburn should be lynched and a mob forms.

Chapter 22

Brief Summary

The mob approaches Sherburn's house, planning to lynch him. He walks out and sternly criticizes them for being cowards. They disperse and Huck goes to the circus.

The duke and the king perform their scenes but do not make much money. They decide to perform a low comedy called "The Royal Nonesuch" instead. They put up posters which advise that women and children are not allowed to see it.

Detailed Summary

The mob goes to Sherburn's house, intent on hanging him. They tear down his fence and gather on his front lawn. Sherburn steps out onto his porch with a gun in his hand. He stands there silently while the crowd decides what to do. Sherburn addresses them, calling them cowards. He laughs at the people who suggest that they are brave but he describes the injustices that are rife within the society because no one is brave enough to stop them. He criticizes the mob mentality and the safety they find in numbers. The crowd disperses and Huck goes to the circus. He watches the horseback riders and the tricks that they do. There is a moment when a drunk man tries to join in and then it turns out that he is a circus performer to. Huck has a good time and enjoys the acts.

That night the duke and the king perform their show but only to an audience of twelve. It does not make the men much of a profit, so they decide to do the other show, a low comedy, something that the duke is familiar with, "The Royal Nonesuch." They put up posters advertising it, which advise that women and children are not allowed in the audience. The duke is certain that the Arkansan people will love it.

Chapter 23

Brief Summary

The king and the duke perform "The Royal Nonesuch," which consists of the king, naked and painted, prancing around on stage. It is a hit and he performs two encores. When the crowd discovers that it is the extent of the performance they become angry until someone suggests that they trick the rest of the town into buying into the con as well. They do and then on the third night the audience is packed but everyone is carrying rotten vegetables to throw at the king. The duke and Huck escape and find the king waiting for them on the raft.

Huck and Jim discuss the king and the duke and royalty in general. Huck asks Jim about his children and Jim tells Huck a story about finding out that his daughter is deaf.

Detailed Summary

The duke and the king spend the day setting up the stage for "The Royal Nonesuch." When performance time comes the audience is packed with men. The performance consists of the king, naked and painted prancing around the stage. He is a big hit and he does two encores. That is the end of the performance and the audience is upset. They want to beat the king and duke but one man stops them. He suggests that they trick the rest of the town into seeing the show and being the same kind of suckers. So the audience agrees to advertise the show to the rest of the town. It works and the next performance is as packed as the first. The third night it is busy as well, but this time the audience has eggs and rotten cabbage to throw. When the show is about to start the duke tells Huck to head for the raft and they both leave. They expect that the king is in a bad place but he is waiting for them when they return.

The head further down the river and the king and the duke count up their money, $465 in all. Huck and Jim discuss the king and the duke. Jim calls them rapscallions and Huck argues that all royalty is like that. He gives numerous examples of the ways that kings misuse their power. Jim suggests that the duke is marginally better than the king but that is a dubious honor. Huck agrees that they are not desired companions. Huck goes to sleep and Jim does not wake him for his turn at the raft. Jim often lets Huck sleep, and Huck wakes up to find Jim with his head between his knees sad that he is so far from his wife and children. Huck knows that Jim loves his children as much as any other father.

Huck asks Jim about his children and Jim tells him a story about how he once told his daughter to shut the door and she refused. He became extremely angry as she continued to ignore him and he hit her as punishment. She begins to cry and soon after he discovers that she is deaf and could not have heard his request. He expresses his deep regret for treating her that way.

Chapters 19-23 Analysis

This series of short chapters introduces Huck and Jim to the duke and king, two con artists making their way through the South. They do not know each other previously, they just happen to be running away from towns at the same time. Though they each have their own set of cons and their individual styles, which will become more apparent as their time together progresses, they decide to team up. These two characters, together, cause the most problems for Huck and Jim. They are by far the most selfish and least moral individuals that Huck and Jim meet. They immediately take over the raft and with their stories of lost royalty establish themselves as superior to both Huck and Jim. Their arrival interrupts the idyllic time that Huck and Jim are experiencing in the aftermath of the feud. The partnership between the duke and the king is the exact opposite of the one between Huck and Jim, which grows out of mutual understanding and a desire to fulfill their goal with the least impact on other people. Their appearance gives Huck a chance to practice his policy of letting people do what they want until it causes a real problem. This shows his growing maturity as he recognizes that they are lying about their noble births, but does not see any harm in it so does nothing to stop it. He is secure enough in his self-awareness to not be bothered by having to bow to two con artists. He has no false impressions of honor or desire for power that would keep him from sitting back and letting them work themselves out. The king concocts his story about being royalty after he is jealous of the duke being treated so well; they think only of making sure that they are one better than the other. Their competition creates an environment of mistrust and perpetual greed.

These chapters also offer a glimpse into different aspects of life in the South before the Civil War. The king attends a camp-meeting, a popular past time in this area of the United States. The people are excited and energized, which is taken advantage of by the king. The gullibility of the people at the meeting is a comment on the empty-headedness with which many people subscribe to religious doctrine. Twain seems to criticize people who believe anything their preacher tells them, especially those who allow themselves to be carried away by any measure of excitement. They immediately trust the king and offer their hard-earned money to him without even considering the likelihood of his statements. The king mentions that pirates is always best for pretending to be a missionary. This builds on Twain's general attack of adventure novels, which fill people's heads with silly images. The king draws on this by using an adventure novel icon, the pirate. He thrills people with the idea of interacting with such characters and then lead them to feel as if they are living vicariously through him by offering him their money. He takes advantage of their kindness and it demonstrates the way in which the innocent are always used by the more powerful. The painful gullibility of people in general seems to be running theme in this group of chapters, quite strongly proving the axiom that "a fool and his money are soon parted." The duke and the king all too easily trick the people they come across.

Huck watches in amazement and his belief in the human race sinks further and further. One particularly striking moment is the scene with Sherburn. Boggs's shooting is based on an event that occurred in Hannibal, Missouri, during Twain's childhood, though no lynch mob was formed at that time. In the novel, when Sherburn confronts the mob that approaches his house, he speaks about cowardice and his point is immediately proved. It seems to be a comment on the ability for one person to affect others if he is willing to take a forceful stand. He is able to sway the unruly group by the power of his voice (along with the appearance of a gun). This episode builds on Twain's general critique of the South and its people's inability to consider their fellow man, even though they hide behind the ideas of honor and respect.

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