When we meet Huck, it sounds like he should be set for life: he's rich, and he's being brought up by a strict but upstanding widow. But something's missing. Adventure… and his deadbeat dad, who shows up to extort money from him. When Huck escapes and stumbles on the runaway slave Jim, he's thrust right into the story's main conflict.
And boy is it a doozy. Should Huck return Jim, who is someone's "property," or should he follow his conscience and help an enslaved man escape to freedom? Sure, it sounds like a no-brainer to us. But we think it's remarkable that a boy living in the pre-Civil War South would even think to ask such a question. Go Huck!
Huck and Jim come up with a pretty good plan involving the small town of Cairo, but their plans are foiled (and foiled… and foiled) by events as diverse as a sinking steamship, a band of robbers, and two Shakespearean conmen. It sure is hard to have a moral crisis when you have to keep dressing up as a girl, are we right?
After a series of misadventures with the "duke" and "king" conmen, Huck realizes that Jim has been sold into slavery again, and the conflict breaks out into a climax: will he help Jim escape, or will he tell Miss Watson that her "property" has been stolen? (Were you expecting pirates? Sorry. This may be an adventure story, but the real struggle takes place in Huck's soul.)
The climax is prolonged by an unexpected encounter: Huck's (and our) old friend, Tom Sawyer. Huck may have had adventures with robbers and conmen, but Tom has been reading about them—and so he's got all sorts of kooky ideas about rope pies and amputation.
Yeah, okay, it's not actually that suspenseful. We're pretty sure Jim won't lose his leg. But we are starting to get worried about his freedom.
The whole debacle culminates in Tom getting shot and Jim about to be hanged… when Tom wakes up from his coma/ inconvenient nap and announces that Jim's owner Miss Watson died a few weeks ago and freed Jim in her will. He's a free (and no longer about-to-be-hanged) man! It looks like everything is wrapping up nice and neat.
Huck is back in "sivilization" with $6,000 and a clean conscience. Time to settle down and grow up a little? No way. He's off to "Injun" country to keep on having adventures. And what kind of conclusion is that?