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.
The duke dresses Jim up as a "sick Arab" so he does not have to spend the day tied up like a runaway slave. The king and duke cannot think of anything to do since news about their performance might have spread to the nearest village.
The king decides to go to town and on the way he learns about a man who has just died, named Peter Wilks. His inheritance is still unclaimed because his two brothers have not yet arrived from England. The king instructs Huck to bring back the duke and their bags. They arrive in town and the king plays Harvey, the older brother and the duke plays William, who is deaf and dumb. The people at the landing immediately believe that they are his brothers and they become very excited. They sympathize with the king and duke who begin to sob uncontrollably. The people escort the two men to Peter's house.
The next day they stop near a village. Jim complains that it is very uncomfortable staying on the raft tied up like a runaway slave, so the duke dresses him in a costume and paints his face. He sets up a sign that says "sick Arab--but harmless when not out of his head" nearby. The duke and the king want to perform "The Royal Nonesuch" again since it brought in so much money but they are afraid that the news of it would have reached this village. Everyone puts on his nicest clothes and they decide to go to the village and see what happens. There is a steamboat nearby so the king suggests that he arrive in the village on the boat. Huck and the king get in the canoe and paddle to it. On their way they pick up a young man and offer to take him to the boat. He tells them about a rich man named Peter Wilks who has just died. His two brothers were meant to arrive from England but never did and so the inheritance is going to go unclaimed. The king is happy to hear about it and gets all the information he can from the man, learning the names of Peter's daughters and all of his friends.
They drop the man off and the king instructs Huck to leave him there and then go get the duke and their bags. He has decided that they will pretend to be the man's two brothers, Harvey and William. The king plays Harvey, the older brother and the duke plays William, who is deaf and dumb. They get on a steamboat that is passing by and ride it down about four miles. When they land they ask passersby where Peter lives. The people at the landing immediately believe that they are his brothers and they become very excited. They sympathize with the king and duke who begin to sob uncontrollably. The people escort the two men to Peter's house.
The king and the duke proceed with their con. They arrive at the house to be welcomed by Peter's daughters. The king makes many speeches and pretends to talk to the duke through sign language. He invites all of Peter's close friends, who he mentions by name, to stay for dinner. Mary Jane brings him Peter's will, which gives half of the money to the girls and half of the money to Harvey and William.
The king and the duke go down to the cellar where the money is hidden. They count it and find that it is $415 short of $6000. They make up the difference with their own money and then go up and offer the entire sum to the girls. Everyone is impressed by their generosity.
Dr. Robinson arrives and immediately declares the king and the duke to be imposters. Mary Jane defends them and to prove her point, she gives the money back to the king to invest for her and her sisters. Robinson leaves after giving a final warning that they are being conned.
The news of their arrival spreads and by the time they get to the house, Mary Jane and Joanna, two of Peter's daughters, are waiting for them. They are overjoyed by their presence. They take them into where Peter is laid out and the king and duke put on a big show of tremendous grief. The duke makes noises like a baby and he and the duke pretend to communicate by sign language. The people watching are moved by the display, paying their respects to the deceased's family and respecting the silence as they look on the coffin.
The king makes a speech, through tears, about how he appreciates everyone's sympathy. Someone sings the doxology and everyone feels better. The king makes another speech, inviting Peter's main friends, who he mentions by name, to stay for dinner. Two of the men, Rev. Hobson and Dr. Robinson are occupied but the others accept the invitation. They shake hands with the king and the duke makes noises at them. Everyone smiles and cries. The king asks after everyone by name, using the information he gained from the young man. Mary Jane brings the king the letter that her father left behind, in which the location of the inheritance is named. The king read it out, which gave the house and $3000 to the girls and Peter's business and $3000 to Harvey and William.
The king and the duke go down to the cellar where the money is hidden. They count it and find that it is $415 short of $6000. They are afraid that someone might think that they took it while down in the cellar, so they make up the difference with their own money. The duke comes up with the idea of giving all of the money to the girls as a sign of their good intentions. The king takes the money up and gives a speech about orphans. He pretends to ask William via sign language what he wants to do, and then he offers the money to the girls who are very grateful. Everyone is impressed by their generosity. The king goes on and on talking about the deceased and his friends.
Dr. Robinson arrives and immediately declares the king and the duke to be imposters. Mary Jane defends them and tells the doctor about how they gave her the entire $6000. Everyone defends the king and the duke. Robinson is not convinced and to prove her point, Mary Jane gives the money back to the king for him to invest for her and her sisters. Robinson leaves after giving a final warning that they are being conned.
That night they have a dinner and Huck waits on the duke and the king like a valet. He has a conversation with Joanna, who doubts that he is from England. Mary Jane scolds her for mistreating a guest and forces Joanna to apologize. This makes Huck feel ashamed for being part of a plan to take all of their money. He decides to steal the money, hide it, leave and then write a letter telling Mary Jane where the money is.
He hides in the king's room and listens in on a conversation with the duke. They mention where the money is hidden. Huck takes it and goes back to his room. Once everyone is asleep, he slips downstairs.
Mary Jane shows everyone to their rooms. They have a big supper that evening and Huck waits on the king and the duke, like a valet. Everyone compliments the girls on their cooking. After, Huck and Joanna, Mary Jane's younger sister, are sitting in the kitchen. She asks him several questions about England. Huck answers them as best as he can but he makes mistakes and answers without thinking. She becomes suspicious and asks him more questions. She asks if he is lying to her and he promises that he is not. Mary Jane overhears her questioning him and scolds her for treating a guest in that way. Joanna defends herself but Mary Jane insists that she apologize. She eventually does and Huck feels terrible that he lied in the first place. He watches Mary Jane and regrets that she is the target of the king's con.
Huck goes to bed and starts thinking about the situation. He decides that Mary Jane and Joanna are too nice to have this done to them. He does not want to tell Mary Jane because she would not be able to pretend that she does not know and the king would find out that Huck told. Instead he will find the money first and hide it and then write a letter explaining where it is once he is gone.
He goes to the king's room to look for it but cannot find it. He knows that he has to listen in to a conversation to find where it is. He hides behind a curtain and the king and duke enter. They discuss their plans; the duke wants to take the cash and leave while the king wants to wait for the house to be sold so they can have that money too. The duke thinks it is risky but the king is greedy and convinces him to wait. Just before leaving the duke suggests that the king hide the money someplace safer than among Mary Jane's dresses. He shoves the money into his mattress and they both return to the party.
Huck grabs the money and hides in his room until the duke and king have gone to sleep. After listening for any other noises, he takes the money and goes downstairs.
Huck looks for a place to hide the money and is forced to hide it in the coffin as someone is approaching. Huck leaves once Mary Jane enters the room.
The next day Huck is unsure if the king managed to find the money in the coffin and if it is still there he is worried that someone will see it. The funeral service is held and the coffin is shut. The king invites the girls to go to England with them and after they agree, puts the house and slaves up for auction. Later the king asks Huck about any suspicious activity in his room and Huck knows that the king does not have the money.
Huck goes downstairs and looks for a place to hide the money. He is the room with the coffin when he hears someone coming. He shoves the money into the coffin and hides. Mary Jane enters and cries over the body. Huck watches her and then slips out. He goes back to his room, upset that he did not find a better hiding place.
The next day the undertaker arrives and they hold the funeral service. The coffin is still open and Huck worries that someone will see the money, or that the king has already taken it out of the coffin. Everyone is quiet and solemn. The undertaker keeps everything under control. The Reverend Hobson says a few words, despite the interruption of a rowdy dog, which the undertaker handles. After the sermon the king makes a speech and then the undertaker closes and fastens the lid of the coffin. Huck is unsure if the money is still in the coffin and does not know if he should write to Mary Jane or not.
After the burial the king talks about how he wants to get back to England and invites the girls to go with them. They agree and the king immediately puts the house and the slaves up for auction. The slaves are bought, some are meant to go to Memphis and the others to New Orleans. Most people are upset about this because it means separating the family. The duke is uneasy but the king carries on. The king asks Huck if he had been in his room and Huck denies it. He mentions that he saw some slaves go in and out, though he does not know why. Huck asks casually if something is wrong and the king snaps at him. The king and the duke argue about the lost money and Huck is relieved that they think the slaves stole the money. He is certain that the money is still in the coffin. He also knows that the slaves will not actually be sent away since the king is the one who sold them and it will be discovered that he has no authority.
Huck finds Mary Jane in her room and while trying to console her, lets it slip that he is certain the slaves will not be sent away. She asks him why and he tells her the truth about the king and the duke. She is angry but agrees to follow his instructions. She goes away with the intention of coming back in the evening. Huck is going to try to get away and after he is gone, she is to tell everyone about the king and the duke.
At the end of the auction, two gentlemen from England arrive, claiming to be Harvey and William Wilks.
Huck finds Mary Jane in her room, packing to go to England. She is very upset about the slaves being separated and while trying to console her, Huck lets it slip that he knows that the slaves will be reunited within two weeks. Mary Jane is overjoyed and asks for more information. After thinking about it Huck decides that it is safest to tell her the truth, so he explains everything. He warns her to be calm and then informs her that the king and the duke are frauds. She immediately wants to tar and feather them but Huck makes her promise to follow his plan. Huck explains that there is someone else involved that he cannot mention who would be harmed if the king and the duke were to be captured out in the open.
She agrees to go to a friend's house until late that night. She is to return to the house after that and put a candle in the window. If Huck does not return by 11, then she knows that it is safe to tell everyone about the duke and the king. She promises to stand by Huck if everything falls apart and he is accused of being part of the plan. He is going to try and slip away without the king and duke noticing. He writes on a piece of paper where he hid the money and she leaves. He tells her sister a story about going to nurse a sick friend. He convinces them to keep quiet about it or risk their trip to England.
The auction is held and the king tries to auction off everything. He makes a speech and a few moments later a steamboat lands and two gentlemen claiming to be Harvey and William Wilks arrive.
The crowd of people watching think the existence of two sets of brothers is hilarious. Dr. Robinson suggests that the pairs be brought together and questioned. They ask for the money but the king admits that it is gone. He accuses the slaves and looks to Huck for support. They question Huck about England and laugh when he says he is from there.
Eventually the real Harvey Wilks mentions that his brother had a tattoo. Neither of the men who laid out his body saw it and the king gives his own description of the tattoo. The men decide that they need to exhume the body to see who the real brothers are. When the body is dug up the money is found. In the rush to see what is going on, the man who is holding Huck lets go and he escapes. He and Jim head out, but are soon joined by the king and the duke.
The gentlemen are well-dressed and nice looking. The crowd thinks it is hilarious and the king looks down on them all. The real Harvey Wilks expresses his surprise and explains that they had problems on their journey and that William broke his arm. He agrees to go to his hotel and wait for the matter to be resolved. The king makes a comment about the convenience of a broken arm and everyone laughs except for Levi Bell, Peter's friend who has just arrived and Dr. Robinson. Another man starts to ask the king questions and tells him that he was seen coming up the river in a canoe. The king denies it and the doctor joins in the debate. He suggests that they gather both sets of brothers and question them together.
Both sets are brought to the tavern and asked a series of questions. They first ask for the money and the king has to tell them that the money was in his mattress but was stolen by the slaves. They turn to Huck for confirmation, which he gives. They ask him if he is from England also and when he answers with the affirmative everyone laughs. He tries to talk about England but it just makes things worse.
The lawyer gets a handwriting sample from both, but they find out that William, with the broken arm, does all the transcribing and he is unable to give a sample. The real Harvey Wilkes suggests that he knows something about his brother that the others do not. He mentions that his brother had a tattoo on his chest. The men who laid out his body did not notice a tattoo. The king also mentions a tattoo and so the group decides to exhume the body to see who is telling the truth.
They arrive at the cemetery and once the coffin is opened the money is found. In the rush forward to see, the man who is holding on to Huck lets go and he runs off. He makes it to the raft, surprised by Jim who is still dressed as a sick Arab, and they start down the river. They think they are free of the king and the duke, until they see them approaching on a boat. Huck is filled with despair that they did not get rid of them yet.
This group of short chapters detail the king and the duke's biggest con. Too worried that news of their "low-comedy" has spread further south, they are reluctant to continue it, even though it is extremely lucrative. Instead, they leave things to fate and the king soon finds a prime opportunity. The idea that the king immediately discovers a way to capitalize on someone's death shows the depths to which he is willing to go in order to make a profit. As they get deeper into the con, the differences between the king and duke start to become apparent. The king pushes on with the desire to get every last penny out of the situation. The duke is more hesitant, sensing the danger of staying around too long, as well as feeling that to take everything possible from a group of orphan girls might be crueler than he is willing to be. He proves himself to be smarter and cannier than the king, who is successful on account of sheer will. He is able to manipulate people because he is willing to use Mary Jane and the others' wish to believe that their uncles would come.
The duke and the king are contrasted with those who are the target of their ploy, Mary Jane and Joanna. They are gentle and kind and willing to accept the word of the two men. Though this makes them vulnerable, it is their goodness that leads Huck to reconsider his role in the matter. Just as with Jim, Huck sees the honor in their actions and it leads him to consider his own. He is forced to confront the consequences of what he is doing and make a decision about if he is willing to let these people get hurt. He soon decides that he cannot stand by while the girls are taken advantage of and he makes a plan to steal the money. In this way he becomes a manipulator on par with the king himself but his success comes from his need to do it to protect rather than attack. His level of maturity increases yet another step as he takes measures to stand up to the king and the duke and works to defeat their plans. Again, the idea that acting decently will result in good things is expressed. Huck responds to the people who he knows are truly generous and he wants to do what he can to respond in kind.
One aspect that leads to the king's downfall is his pride. This is common trait for the people that Huck meets. Huck himself seems to be completely humble, which is a sharp contrast to characters like the king, who lack humility. The same is true with Col. Grangerford and Tom Sawyer; each causes tremendous difficulties on account of their inability to see their own shortcomings. Huck is not afraid to admit his faults and it normally results in far more good for himself and the people around him. He is able to help Mary Jane and her kindness to him is rewarded by his desire to defend her.