Study Guide

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Quotes

  • Religion

    Chapter 1
    Huckleberry Finn

    After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people. (1.4)

    Huck can't figure out why anyone would care about a bunch of long-dead people. (Hey! Ask Shmoop!) For him, religion is about the day-to-day business of living.

    Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn't think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together. (1.7)

    Well, when you put it that way, wandering around all day with a harp doesn't sound like much fun at all. You can't blame a thirteen-year-old boy for thinking that Heaven sounds a little dull.

    Chapter 2
    Huckleberry Finn

    Ben Rogers said he couldn't get out much, only Sundays, and so he wanted to begin next Sunday; but all the boys said it would be wicked to do it on Sunday, and that settled the thing. (2.38)

    Let's get this straight: murderous band of robbers, sure. Murderous band of robbers on Sundays, no way. It sounds like only some of those Sunday School lessons are sinking in.

    Chapter 3
    Huckleberry Finn

    Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn't so. I tried it. Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks. It warn't any good to me without hooks. I tried for the hooks three or four times, but somehow I couldn't make it work. By and by, one day, I asked Miss Watson to try for me, but she said I was a fool. She never told me why, and I couldn't make it out no way. (3.1)

    This is one of those fun bits of dramatic irony. We know that you're supposed to pray for things like kindness, grace, forgiveness, and maybe a nice harp waiting for you in Heaven. But no one's bothered to explain this to Huck, so he thinks prayer is kind of like making an Amazon wishlist and waiting for God to click on it.

    Chapter 5
    Pap

    "It's so. You can do it. I had my doubts when you told me. Now looky here; you stop that putting on frills. I won't have it. I'll lay for you, my smarty; and if I catch you about that school I'll tan you good. First you know you'll get religion, too. I never see such a son. (5.12)

    To Pap, the only thing worse that his boy gettin' educated is gettin' religion. We can understand that. Thirteen-year-olds are sanctimonious enough without getting all religious and trying to convert their alcoholic, abusive fathers.

    Chapter 20
    Huckleberry Finn

    And so on. You couldn't make out what the preacher said any more, on account of the shouting and crying. Folks got up everywheres in the crowd, and worked their way just by main strength to the mourners' bench, with the tears running down their faces; and when all the mourners had got up there to the front benches in a crowd, they sung and shouted and flung themselves down on the straw, just crazy and wild. (20.32)

    "Crazy" and "wild" aren't words we often association with religion. What kind of experience is this? Are the people really getting any religion out of this—or are they just letting off some steam in an era before football games?

    The first shed we come to the preacher was lining out a hymn. He lined out two lines, everybody sung it, and it was kind of grand to hear it, there was so many of them and they done it in such a rousing way; then he lined out two more for them to sing—and so on. The people woke up more and more, and sung louder and louder; and towards the end some begun to groan, and some begun to shout. Then the preacher begun to preach, and begun in earnest, too; and went weaving first to one side of the platform and then the other, and then a-leaning down over the front of it, with his arms and his body going all the time, and shouting his words out with all his might; and every now and then he would hold up his Bible and spread it open, and kind of pass it around this way and that, shouting, "It's the brazen serpent in the wilderness! Look upon it and live!" And people would shout out, "Glory!—A-a-MEN!" And so he went on, and the people groaning and crying and saying amen: (20.30)

    Religion… or mass hallucination? This sounds a lot more like a hippie concert than an actual religious experience. Is Twain making fun of all the revivals in the 1830s? Or does he see something good in them?

    Chapter 25
    Huckleberry Finn

    And the minute the words were out of his mouth somebody over in the crowd struck up the doxolojer, and everybody joined in with all their might, and it just warmed you up and made you feel as good as church letting out. Music is a good thing; and after all that soul-butter and hogwash I never see it freshen up things so, and sound so honest and bully. (25.8)

    "Doxolojer" isn't some weird magical incantation; it's Huck's version of "doxology," a Christian expression of praise. And check out how, after all the wild craziness of the revival, we end up feeling pretty good. Maybe there is something to be said for getting together in a tent and cutting loose with a hundred other of the faithful?

    Chapter 31
    Huckleberry Finn

    There was the Sunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you'd a done it they'd a learnt you there that people that acts as I'd been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire." (31.19)

    Ah, church, where you learn important lessons like being respectful to your parents, speaking the truth, and not helping your neighbors' slaves escape.

    Chapter 32
    Huckleberry Finn

    WHEN I got there it was all still and Sunday-like, and hot and sunshiny; the hands was gone to the fields; and there was them kind of faint dronings of bugs and flies in the air that makes it seem so lonesome and like everybody's dead and gone; and if a breeze fans along and quivers the leaves it makes you feel mournful, because you feel like it's spirits whispering—spirits that's been dead ever so many years—and you always think they're talking about YOU. As a general thing it makes a body wish HE was dead, too, and done with it all. (32.1)

    Now this is a religious experience: the sun shining, flies buzzing, a breeze rustling the leaves, and the ever-so-slight sense of spirits in the air. For Huck, real religion isn't found in a church; it's found out-of-doors.

  • Rules and Order

    Chapter 1
    Huckleberry Finn

    The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them (1.3)

    Well, when you put it like that, it does seem silly. On the other hand, do we really want to be eating from a trough? Don't these rules help make us human—or, are they just silly examples of "sivilization"? What's the difference between these rules and the rules that let one half of humanity enslave or oppress the other half? Deep thoughts.

    Chapter 3
    The Widow Douglas

    "How you talk, Huck Finn. Why, you'd HAVE to come when he rubbed it, whether you wanted to or not." (3.13)

    The Widow's rules (i.e., society's) are arbitrary, and now we see another system of arbitrary rules: fiction. And Tom Sawyer knows what's up. Genies may not exist, but if they did, they'd definitely follow the rules.

    Chapter 5
    Huckleberry Finn

    The judge and the widow went to law to get the court to take me away from him and let one of them be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had just come, and he didn't know the old man; so he said courts mustn't interfere and separate families if they could help it; said he'd druther not take a child away from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow had to quit on the business. (5.30)

    Sometimes it's fairer to break the rules. Huck is learning this, but the new judge doesn't know it yet. Sure, the laws say not to separate families. But Huck is definitely better off without his dad.

    Chapter 18
    Buck Grangerford

    "Well," says Buck, "a feud is this way: A man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other man's brother kills HIM; then the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the COUSINS chip in—and by and by everybody's killed off, and there ain't no more feud. But it's kind of slow, and takes a long time." (18.26)

    Ready for another ridiculous, arbitrary set of rules? Buck's got one for you: the rules governing feuds. Only, in this case, the rules just leave you dead. We're pretty sure we'd rather follow the rules about sitting up straight at dinner.

    Chapter 26
    Huckleberry Finn

    That night they had a big supper, and all them men and women was there, and I stood behind the king and the duke's chairs and waited on them, and the niggers waited on the rest. Mary Jane she set at the head of the table, with Susan alongside of her, and said how bad the biscuits was, and how mean the preserves was, and how ornery and tough the fried chickens was—and all that kind of rot, the way women always do for to force out compliments; and the people all knowed everything was tiptop, and said so—said "How DO you get biscuits to brown so nice?" and "Where, for the land's sake, DID you get these amaz'n pickles?" and all that kind of humbug talky-talk, just the way people always does at a supper, you know. (26.3)

    Huck is our little social observer here, and he knows what's up. There's a whole set of rules governing dinner: the hosts have to talk smack about their food, and the guests have to rave about how awesome it is. Admit it: you do this too.

    Chapter 31
    Huckleberry Finn

    So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn't know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I'll go and write the letter—and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

    Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. (31.21, 31.22)

    Would you drive down the left side of the street? Absolutely not! (Unless you were in England, in which case—please drive on the left.) Not only is it illegal, it'd be dangerous. To Huck, helping Jim escape is like driving on the left. It might feel exciting for a while, but he knows he's doing something wrong and dangerous. It feels a lot better, at least temporarily, to follow the rules. Even if they're arbitrary lines painted on the ground.

    And then think of ME! It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I'd be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That's just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don't want to take no consequences of it. (31.19)

    Huck knows there are consequences to his actions—like when you blow off studying to go see the midnight release of The Hunger Games, and then you fail your econ test the next day. Or when you help a slave escape and then everyone makes fun of you. You know. Consequences.

    It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog. (31.26)

    Talk about doubling down. Huck figures that if he's breaking one rule, he might as well break all of them. (Don't try this at home, Shmoopers.)

    Chapter 33
    Silas and Sally Phelps

    "But we won't LET you walk—it wouldn't be Southern hospitality to do it. Come right in." (33.37)

    Some rules of Aunt Sally's Southern hospitality are nice, like being friendly to your guests. Others, like owning slaves, are… well, not so nice.

    Chapter 35
    Tom Sawyer

    "It don't make no difference how foolish it is, it's the RIGHT way—and it's the regular way. And there ain't no OTHER way, that ever I heard of, and I've read all the books that gives any information about these things. They always dig out with a case-knife—and not through dirt, mind you; generly it's through solid rock. And it takes them weeks and weeks and weeks, and for ever and ever. Why, look at one of them prisoners in the bottom dungeon of the Castle Deef, in the harbor of Marseilles, that dug himself out that way; how long was HE at it, you reckon? (35.56)

    Oh, Tom. It may be easy to follow the rules when it's just a game, but it's a lot harder when you actually feel like you life is at stake. We're getting the feeling that Twain doesn't think too much of kids who read too much (or play too many video games?).

  • Man and the Natural World

    Chapter 1
    Huckleberry Finn

    The stars were shining, and the leaves rustled in the woods ever so mournful; and I heard an owl, away off, who-whooing about somebody that was dead, and a whippowill and a dog crying about somebody that was going to die; and the wind was trying to whisper something to me, and I couldn't make out what it was, and so it made the cold shivers run over me. (1.8)

    Notice how Huck hears voices in nature—and not in the creepy, out-of-his-mind way. Nature isn't a big blank to him; he seems to think of these animals as his friends, or at least acquaintances.

    The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. (1.2)

    Yes, it's so awful living in a "regular and decent" house, where all your meals are on time, your laundry's done, and you have your very own basement couch in front of the Xbox. (Or something like that.) Huck isn't having it: eventually, he has to get out into nature again.

    She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals (1.3)

    Natural: falling on your food before someone or something else gets it. Unnatural: waiting until everyone has been served and prayed over their food. Well, he does have a point. Luckily, most of us don't have to guard our food from other predators at this point.

    Chapter 4
    Huckleberry Finn

    At first I hated the school, but by and by I got so I could stand it. Whenever I got uncommon tired I played hookey, and the hiding I got next day done me good and cheered me up. So the longer I went to school the easier it got to be. I was getting sort of used to the widow's ways, too, and they warn't so raspy on me. Living in a house and sleeping in a bed pulled on me pretty tight mostly, but before the cold weather I used to slide out and sleep in the woods sometimes, and so that was a rest to me. I liked the old ways best, but I was getting so I liked the new ones, too, a little bit. The widow said I was coming along slow but sure, and doing very satisfactory. She said she warn't ashamed of me. (4.2)

    Huck may be more comfortable sleeping in the woods, but he's starting to think that this civilization thing isn't so bad. And what's up with liking the "hiding" ("beating") that he gets for playing hookey? Why does being punished cheer him up?

    Chapter 6
    Huckleberry Finn

    It was kind of lazy and jolly, laying off comfortable all day, smoking and fishing, and no books nor study. Two months or more run along, and my clothes got to be all rags and dirt, and I didn't see how I'd ever got to like it so well at the widow's, where you had to wash, and eat on a plate, and comb up, and go to bed and get up regular, and be forever bothering over a book, and have old Miss Watson pecking at you all the time. I didn't want to go back no more. I had stopped cussing, because the widow didn't like it; but now I took to it again because pap hadn't no objections. It was pretty good times up in the woods there, take it all around. (6.4)

    Aside from the kidnapping, being down at Pap's isn't so bad. But is this nature? Is this the clean, gentle, sort of spooky woods, or is this just a kind of perverted civilization, like pigs living in their filth in a pigpen?

    I was pretty tired, and the first thing I knowed I was asleep. When I woke up I didn't know where I was for a minute. I set up and looked around, a little scared. Then I remembered. The river looked miles and miles across. The moon was so bright I could a counted the drift logs that went a-slipping along, black and still, hundreds of yards out from shore. Everything was dead quiet, and it looked late, and SMELT late. You know what I mean—I don't know the words to put it in. (6.22)

    Yeah, we don't either. But Huck does. He really gets the natural world; he understands its rhythms, and he can even tell the time by how it smells. (We'd be lost without our watches.)

    Chapter 8
    Huckleberry Finn

    THE sun was up so high when I waked that I judged it was after eight o'clock. I laid there in the grass and the cool shade thinking about things, and feeling rested and ruther comfortable and satisfied. I could see the sun out at one or two holes, but mostly it was big trees all about, and gloomy in there amongst them. There was freckled places on the ground where the light sifted down through the leaves, and the freckled places swapped about a little, showing there was a little breeze up there. A couple of squirrels set on a limb and jabbered at me very friendly. (8.1)

    No waking up and rushing off to school or church here: Huck just waits for the sun to wake him up and then just admires the world around him. Even the squirrels recognize him as a friend—he might as well be one of them.

    Chapter 19
    Huckleberry Finn

    Soon as it was night out we shoved; when we got her out to about the middle we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kinds of things—we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitoes would let us—the new clothes Buck's folks made for me was too good to be comfortable, and besides I didn't go much on clothes, nohow. (19.4)

    Well, obviously. If you're going to go floating on a raft down the middle of the Mississippi at night, you might as well be naked. Don't you want the full experience?

    Chapter 32
    Huckleberry Finn

    WHEN I got there it was all still and Sunday-like, and hot and sunshiny; the hands was gone to the fields; and there was them kind of faint dronings of bugs and flies in the air that makes it seem so lone- some and like everybody's dead and gone; and if a breeze fans along and quivers the leaves it makes you feel mournful, because you feel like it's spirits whispering—spirits that's been dead ever so many years—and you always think they're talking about YOU. As a general thing it makes a body wish HE was dead, too, and done with it all. (32.1)

    Forget the preaching and Sunday School; nature is Huck's church. This about the closest to a religious experience we've seen him have, and we have to admit that it sounds pretty nice. (Check out our "Religion" theme for some more thoughts on this quotation.)

    The Last Chapter
    Huckleberry Finn

    Tom's most well now, and got his bullet around his neck on a watch-guard for a watch, and is always seeing what time it is, and so there ain't nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I'd a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn't a tackled it, and ain't a-going to no more. But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before. (43.13)

    In the end, Huck heads back to nature. Aunt Sally might be nice, but apparently that's not enough to make up for having to go to school and wash his hands. (We have to wonder if he'd make the same choice given the Internet and running water.)

  • Family

    Chapter 1
    Huckleberry Finn

    The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. (1.3)

    We'll say she didn't mean any harm. In fact, it sounds a lot like the widow is really getting fond of Huck—like she feels like a mother to him. But Huck just can't get comfortable in the role of a son.

    Chapter 2

    "Yes, he's got a father, but you can't never find him these days. He used to lay drunk with the hogs in the tanyard, but he hain't been seen in these parts for a year or more." (2.13)

    When is a father no longer a father? Well, maybe when he's abandoned his son for a year after lying around drunk with the hogs. We're pretty sure that throws your parental role into question.

    Chapter 3
    Huckleberry Finn

    Pap he hadn't been seen for more than a year, and that was comfortable for me; I didn't want to see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on me; though I used to take to the woods most of the time when he was around. (3.3)

    It's hard to tell because of Huck's casual tone, but this is pretty grim. A son who feels better off without his father? No wonder Huck doesn't feel comfortable in society. The #1 societal bond, between families, is nothing but a horrorshow for him.

    Chapter 5
    Huckleberry Finn

    The judge and the widow went to law to get the court to take me away from him and let one of them be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had just come, and he didn't know the old man; so he said courts mustn't interfere and separate families if they could help it; said he'd druther not take a child away from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow had to quit on the business. (5.30)

    In general, we'd agree with the new judge: families should stay together. But there isn't one single redeeming thing about Pap and, for once, we'd wish the government would just interfere already.

    Pap

    "Don't you give me none o' your lip," says he. "You've put on considerable many frills since I been away. I'll take you down a peg before I get done with you. You're educated, too, they say—can read and write. You think you're better'n your father, now, don't you, because he can't? I'LL take it out of you. Who told you you might meddle with such hifalut'n foolishness, hey?—who told you you could?" (5.6)

    Think parents are supposed to want the best for their children? Think again. To Pap, children are supposed to be just as miserable, drunk, racist, and uneducated as their parents. Anything else would be "hifalut'n."

    Chapter 6
    Pap

    "Call this a govment! why, just look at it and see what it's like. Here's the law a-standing ready to take a man's son away from him—a man's own son, which he has had all the trouble and all the anxiety and all the expense of raising. Yes, just as that man has got that son raised at last, and ready to go to work and begin to do suthin' for HIM and give him a rest, the law up and goes for him. And they call THAT govment! (6.10)

    Pap wants all of the rights of fatherhood (having a son to look after him in his old age) without any of the responsibilities (actually caring for and educating that son). But we really can't imagine that Pap went to too much anxiety and expense to raise Huck.

    Chapter 17
    Huckleberry Finn

    They all asked me questions, and I told them how pap and me and all the family was living on a little farm down at the bottom of Arkansaw, and my sister Mary Ann run off and got married and never was heard of no more, and Bill went to hunt them and he warn't heard of no more, and Tom and Mort died, and then there warn't nobody but just me and pap left, and he was just trimmed down to nothing, on account of his troubles; so when he died I took what there was left, because the farm didn't belong to us, and started up the river, deck passage, and fell overboard; and that was how I come to be here. So they said I could have a home there as long as I wanted it. (17.47)

    This is one of Huck's incredibly elaborate fake family stories. Do you think he'd actually like to have a family like this? Or is it just a convenient fiction to get him out of a tight spot?

    Chapter 32
    Silas and Sally Phelps

    She grabbed me and hugged me tight; and then gripped me by both hands and shook and shook; and the tears come in her eyes, and run down over; and she couldn't seem to hug and shake enough, and kept saying, "You don't look as much like your mother as I reckoned you would; but law sakes, I don't care for that, I'm so glad to see you! Dear, dear, it does seem like I could eat you up! Children, it's your cousin Tom!—tell him howdy." (32.10)

    Aunt Sally is so excited to see a relative that she completely ignores the fact that Huck looks nothing like her family. This is one of the good things about the South—but we can't help remembering that the same people hardly think twice about separating a black family.

    Chapter 41
    Huckleberry Finn

    When we got home Aunt Sally was that glad to see me she laughed and cried both, and hugged me, and give me one of them lickings of hern that don't amount to shucks, and said she'd serve Sid the same when he come. (41.21)

    Let's get this straight: Pap's beating are bad, obviously. But "lickings" can also be a way to show love? Let's just chalk this up to "things change."

  • Friendship

    Chapter 1
    Huckleberry Finn

    Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn't think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together. (1.7)

    Aw. Huck likes Tom so much that he wants to stay with him even in Hell. Luckily for him (we guess), Miss Watson seems pretty sure that they'll end up there together.

    Chapter 2
    Tom Sawyer

    "Now, we'll start this band of robbers and call it Tom Sawyer's Gang. Everybody that wants to join has got to take an oath, and write his name in blood." (2.10)

    Tom has some pretty intense ideas about friendship, too—like the idea that you have to swear your loyalty to your friends in blood. Oh, and offer up your family as collateral.

    Chapter 8
    Jim

    "No! W'y, what has you lived on? But you got a gun. Oh, yes, you got a gun. Dat's good. Now you kill sumfn en I'll make up de fire." (8.39)

    Check this out: Huck has the gun, and Jim has the fire. Alone, they're useless (although at least Jim would be warm.) But together, they have heat, food, and companionship—everything a guy needs, right?

    Huckleberry Finn

    Well, I warn't long making him understand I warn't dead. I was ever so glad to see Jim. I warn't lonesome now. I told him I warn't afraid of HIM telling the people where I was. I talked along, but he only set there and looked at me; never said nothing. (8.25)

    Huck may be enjoying his frolic on the island, but he's lonely. Is he glad to see Jim because he already considers Jim a friend—or is he just glad to see anyone?

    Chapter 15
    Jim

    "Goodness gracious, is dat you, Huck? En you ain' dead—you ain' drownded—you's back agin? It's too good for true, honey, it's too good for true. Lemme look at you chile, lemme feel o' you. No, you ain' dead! you's back agin, 'live en soun', jis de same ole Huck—de same ole Huck, thanks to goodness!" (15.19)

    Huck may have to be educated into friendship with Jim, but Jim seems to come by it naturally. Just check out his sweet way of talking: "honey," "chile," "same ole Huck"—we don't really know why Jim seems to like him so much, but it shows what a good friend he's ready to be.

    Chapter 16
    Jim

    "Pooty soon I'll be a-shout'n' for joy, en I'll say, it's all on accounts o' Huck; I's a free man, en I couldn't ever ben free ef it hadn' ben for Huck; Huck done it. Jim won't ever forgit you, Huck; you's de bes' fren' Jim's ever had; en you's de ONLY fren' ole Jim's got now." (16.14)

    Huck is the only white man who's ever kept his promises to Jim, and to Jim, that makes Huck his best friend. We have to agree. Loyalty is definitely one of the most important qualities of a friend—but is it the only one?

    Chapter 19
    The Duke and The King

    "Old man," said the young one, "I reckon we might double-team it together; what do you think?" (19.16)

    Talk about meet-cute. These two guys start off trying to con each other, and they end up going off to con the whole word—or, at least, the whole Mississippi. With the duke and the king, we get a pretty good look at how not to do friendship.

    Huckleberry Finn

    The duke done it, and Jim and me was pretty glad to see it. It took away all the uncomfortableness and we felt mighty good over it, because it would a been a miserable business to have any unfriendliness on the raft; for what you want, above all things, on a raft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind towards the others. (19.48)

    After the duke and king decide to work together, Huck is relieved. It's hard enough to deal with feuds and fights in a high school; imagine trying to work them out on a raft. (Actually, someone call the networks—sounds like a great setup for a reality TV show.)

    Chapter 23
    Huckleberry Finn

    I went to sleep, and Jim didn't call me when it was my turn. He often done that. (23.30)

    So, we're reading along, chuckling at Huck's wacky antics, when Twain comes along and hits us in the gut with something like this: "He often done that." There's Jim, looking out for Huck just like a dad—or like a friend.

    Chapter 32
    Huckleberry Finn

    But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he's got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper. (31.23)

    Here, Huck is trying to come up with something, anything, that'll "harden" him against Jim, so he can turn the man in or at least write to Miss Watson to tell her where her slave is. But he can't. Gee, we wish we had a friend like that.

  • Morality and Ethics

    Chapter 4
    Huckleberry Finn

    "Please take it," says I, "and don't ask me nothing—then I won't have to tell no lies." (4.15)

    Oh, Huck. There's nothing like the open road to rob a boy of his scruples. Pretty soon this kid is going to be lying like Frank W. Abagnale.

    Chapter 8
    Jim

    "But mind, you said you wouldn' tell—you know you said you wouldn' tell, Huck."

    "Well, I did. I said I wouldn't, and I'll stick to it. Honest INJUN, I will. People would call me a low-down Abolitionist and despise me for keeping mum—but that don't make no difference. I ain't a-going to tell, and I ain't a-going back there, anyways. So, now, le's know all about it." (8.52, 8.53)

    Huck vs. the World, and it doesn't involve any do-overs. Meeting Jim thrusts him right into conflict with the ethical system he's used to… and kudos to Huck for standing up for the right.

    "Well, I b'lieve you, Huck. I—I RUN OFF."

    "Jim!" (8.45, 8.46)

    Pot, meet Kettle. Huck is outraged that Jim has run off, because apparently Huck doesn't remember that he's also run off. Why is it okay for Huck to escape an abusive situation and not Jim?

    Chapter 12

    "Well, my idea is this: we'll rustle around and gather up whatever pickins we've overlooked in the state- rooms, and shove for shore and hide the truck. Then we'll wait. Now I say it ain't a-goin' to be more'n two hours befo' this wrack breaks up and washes off down the river. See? He'll be drownded, and won't have nobody to blame for it but his own self. I reckon that's a considerble sight better 'n killin' of him. I'm unfavorable to killin' a man as long as you can git aroun' it; it ain't good sense, it ain't good morals. Ain't I right?" (12.44)

    This is one of the thieves Huck meets on the steamship, and apparently even thieves live by some sort of moral code: don't kill. You know, unless you have to. You've got to have standards.

    Huckleberry Finn

    Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things if you was meaning to pay them back some time; but the widow said it warn't anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it. Jim said he reckoned the widow was partly right and pap was partly right; so the best way would be for us to pick out two or three things from the list and say we wouldn't borrow them any more—then he reckoned it wouldn't be no harm to borrow the others. So we talked it over all one night, drifting along down the river, trying to make up our minds whether to drop the watermelons, or the cantelopes, or the mushmelons, or what. But towards daylight we got it all settled satisfactory, and concluded to drop crabapples and p'simmons. (12.9)

    Huck just can't seem to avoid these moral conflicts. On the one hand, his dad's system of morality: as long as you mean to pay it back, it's just borrowing. On the other hand, the widow's system, which is—taking anything at all that doesn't belong to you is stealing. (And probably sends you straight to hell.) So, Huck finds his own middle ground: take some things, but leave other. Conveniently, he decides to leave crabapples and persimmons—which, take it from us, aren't nearly as delicious as watermelon and cantaloupe. It's like robbing a candy store and then making off with the Twix and Snickers while leaving the Circus Peanuts and Wax Bottles to make your conscience feel better. No one wants to eat that stuff, anyway.

    Chapter 13
    Huckleberry Finn

    "The first light we see we'll land a hundred yards below it or above it, in a place where it's a good hiding-place for you and the skiff, and then I'll go and fix up some kind of a yarn, and get somebody to go for that gang and get them out of their scrape, so they can be hung when their time comes." (13.17)

    Huck definitely has standards, and his standards include making sure people get their proper punishment. Like hanging.

    Well, before long here comes the wreck, dim and dusky, sliding along down! A kind of cold shiver went through me, and then I struck out for her. She was very deep, and I see in a minute there warn't much chance for anybody being alive in her. I pulled all around her and hollered a little, but there wasn't any answer; all dead still. I felt a little bit heavy-hearted about the gang, but not much, for I reckoned if they could stand it I could. (13.50)

    Huck may not be much for rules and laws, but he does have a strong moral compass. He may have been ready to get the thieves hung, but he doesn't them to drown without a fair trial. Confused? Imagine how Huck feels.

    Chapter 16
    Jim

    "Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on'y white genlman dat ever kep' his promise to ole Jim" (16.16)

    Oops. Well, gee. Now Huck can't tell on Jim, because Jim has made him feel super guilty—and also pointed out to us that, despite all the lies, Huck is probably the most moral person in the entire novel. Or maybe even in the entire pre-Civil War South.

    Huckleberry Finn

    Well, I can tell you it made me all over trembly and feverish, too, to hear him, because I begun to get it through my head that he WAS most free—and who was to blame for it? Why, ME. I couldn't get that out of my conscience, no how nor no way. It got to troubling me so I couldn't rest; I couldn't stay still in one place. It hadn't ever come home to me before, what this thing was that I was doing. But now it did; and it stayed with me, and scorched me more and more. I tried to make out to myself that I warn't to blame, because I didn't run Jim off from his rightful owner; but it warn't no use, conscience up and says, every time, "But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could a paddled ashore and told somebody." That was so—I couldn't get around that noway. That was where it pinched. (16)

    Talk about moral crisis. Huck realizes that, according to the laws of the land, he's the wrongdoer, because he's helped Jim escape. And Huck may be a liar and a runaway, but he's not sure he should be breaking any laws. His internal system of morality is in head-on conflict with the external system of laws that he's learned from the widow. Which one's going to win?

    I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him. My conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last I says to it, "Let up on me—it ain't too late yet—I'll paddle ashore at the first light and tell." I felt easy and happy and light as a feather right off. All my troubles was gone. (16.9)

    We hate to break it to you, but almost everyone is happier going along with the dominant social practices—like helping out the Nazis before World War II, or agreeing that black people really should be enslaved. It's way hard to go against everything that you've been taught, and everything that your family and friends believe. No wonder Huck feels better when he decides to rat Jim out.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Chapter 5
    Huckleberry Finn

    "I hain't got no money."

    "It's a lie. Judge Thatcher's got it. You git it. I want it."

    "I hain't got no money, I tell you. You ask Judge Thatcher; he'll tell you the same." (5.19-5.24)

    Huck has no problem lying later in the book, but here he's got some major scruples about lying to his dad. Why? It's not like Pap is overly concerned with his own honesty. (Check out Pap's "Character Analysis" for more.)

    Chapter 9
    Huckleberry Finn

    And so, take it all around, we made a good haul. When we was ready to shove off we was a quarter of a mile below the island, and it was pretty broad day; so I made Jim lay down in the canoe and cover up with the quilt, because if he set up people could tell he was a nigger a good ways off. (9.21)

    Here's something to think about: Huck has a lot more leeway than Jim, because he can lie. But Jim's body always speaks the truth: he's a slave. Jim couldn't lie the way Huck does even if he wanted to.

    Jim

    "It's a dead man. Yes, indeedy; naked, too. He's ben shot in de back. I reck'n he's ben dead two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan' look at his face—it's too gashly." (9.18)

    Jim knows that this is Huck's dad, but he doesn't want Huck to see—so he lies. Is it right for Jim to lie? Or should he have told Huck?

    Chapter 10
    Silas and Sally Phelps

    "It's YOU, at last!—AIN'T it?"

    I out with a "Yes'm" before I thought. (10.8, 10.9)

    Here's Tom Sawyer's aunt Sally asking Huck, "Is that you?" By now, Huck is so used to lying that he says "Yes" before he even knows who "you" is supposed to be. In other words, Huck will be whoever you want him to be. Just like your imaginary boyfriend.

    Chapter 11

    "What did you say your name was, honey?"

    "M—Mary Williams."

    "Honey, I thought you said it was Sarah when you first come in?"

    "Oh, yes'm, I did. Sarah Mary Williams. Sarah's my first name. Some calls me Sarah, some calls me Mary." (11.30, 11.31, 11.33, 11.34)

    Another one of those don't-try-this-at-home things: caught in a lie, Huck just tells another lie. In the real world, that's a pretty good way to get grounded for three weeks. But on the Mississippi, it just gets Huck a warning.

    Chapter 13
    Huckleberry Finn

    "They're in an awful peck of trouble, and—"

    "WHO is?"

    "Why, pap and mam and sis and Miss Hooker; and if you'd take your ferryboat and go up there—"

    "Up where? Where are they?"

    "On the wreck." (13.29-33)

    Actually, this is a pretty good technique. Huck starts off with something vague—"they're" in "trouble"—and only fills in the details when other people ask. Not that we're giving advice, or anything.

    Chapter 15
    Huckleberry Finn

    "Well, this is too many for me, Jim. I hain't seen no fog, nor no islands, nor no troubles, nor nothing. I been setting here talking with you all night till you went to sleep about ten minutes ago, and I reckon I done the same. You couldn't a got drunk in that time, so of course you've been dreaming." (15.34)

    Huck won't lie to his dad, but he has not problem lying to and deceiving Jim. He may not want to send Jim back to slavery, but it doesn't seem like Jim rates quite as highly as a white man in Huck's moral scale.

    Chapter 17
    Huckleberry Finn

    "Be done, boys! Who's there?"

    I says:

    It's me."

    "Who's me?"

    "George Jackson, sir." (17.2-17.6)

    Okay, stay with us for some brain-bending thoughts: Huck is only half lying. See, the first thing he says is, "it's me." And it is! It's Huck himself, only Huck is going under the name George Jackson. Is this really a lie?

    Chapter 23

    "Well, how'd the old thing pan out this time, duke?"

    He hadn't been up-town at all. (23.11, 23.12)

    Huck's lies are spur of the moment, but the duke's are premeditated. We're thinking this is a major difference between conning someone, like the duke and king do, and just trying to get through one more day—like Huck.

    Chapter 29

    "Set down, my boy; I wouldn't strain myself if I was you. I reckon you ain't used to lying, it don't seem to come handy; what you want is practice. You do it pretty awkward. (29.33)

    Lawyer Levi Bell sees right through Huck. Huck might think he's a seasoned deceiver, but he's really just a nice kid. (To be fair, he's trying to convince a doctor and lawyer that he's from England. That's a little like you trying to convince NASA that you came from Mars.)

  • Race

    Chapter 6
    Pap

    here was a free nigger there from Ohio—a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there ain't a man in that town that's got as fine clothes as what he had; and he had a gold watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane—the awful- est old gray-headed nabob in the State. And what do you think? They said he was a p'fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain't the wust. They said he could VOTE when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn't too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they'd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote agin. (6.11)

    Oh, Pap. Like that racist relative who shows up at every family gathering, he just digs himself into a really, really ugly hole. But is he an exception, or is he just saying what almost everyone in the book is thinking?

    Chapter 14
    Jim

    "Well, it's a blame ridicklous way, en I doan' want to hear no mo' 'bout it. Dey ain' no sense in it."

    "Looky here, Jim; does a cat talk like we do?" (14.39, 14.40)

    Jim can't believe that people speak different languages all over the world, since we're all the same. But if we're all the same, why are some of us enslaved? And why doesn't he seem to make that conceptual leap?

    Chapter 15
    Huckleberry Finn

    It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'd a knowed it would make him feel that way. (15.49)

    Huck isn't happy about having to apologize to a black man, but he does it. It's super impressive for the time and place that he ends up apologizing, but we can see that he's still, well, racist—he's just less racist than everyone else. Is Twain holding him up as an example, or does Twain want us to do better?

    Chapter 16
    Huckleberry Finn

    It most froze me to hear such talk. He wouldn't ever dared to talk such talk in his life before. Just see what a difference it made in him the minute he judged he was about free. It was according to the old saying, "Give a nigger an inch and he'll take an ell." Thinks I, this is what comes of my not thinking. Here was this nigger, which I had as good as helped to run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying he would steal his children—children that belonged to a man I didn't even know; a man that hadn't ever done me no harm. (16.8)

    Okay, aside from how gross this passage is, notice the contradiction. Huck says "his children" when he's talking about Jim, but then, just two words later, says that those children "belonged" to a different man. Does Huck realize this contradiction, on some level? Or is this Twain, pointing out how much Huck still has to learn?

    Chapter 26
    The Duke and The King

    "Because Mary Jane 'll be in mourning from this out; and first you know the nigger that does up the rooms will get an order to box these duds up and put 'em away; and do you reckon a nigger can run across money and not borrow some of it?" (26.97)

    Here, the duke is basically saying that all black men are thieves—which, of course, is exactly what the duke is. Ah, hypocrisy. But it's really no worse than the rest of the antebellum South, which welcomes in white strangers and… locks up black strangers.

    Chapter 28
    The Wilks Family

    So she done it. And it was the niggers—I just expected it. She said the beautiful trip to England was most about spoiled for her; she didn't know HOW she was ever going to be happy there, knowing the mother and the children warn't ever going to see each other no more—and then busted out bitterer than ever, and flung up her hands (28.3)

    Aside from Huck, Mary seems to be the only other white character in the book who's able to see black people as having the same feelings and emotions as white people. But is she actually doing anything about it? (Crying doesn't count.)

    Chapter 31

    "Well, I RECKON! There's two hunderd dollars reward on him. It's like picking up money out'n the road." (31.13)

    Jim = $200. Got it? The boy Huck meets on the road doesn't see Jim as a person; he sees him as a big pile of money. It's pretty ugly.

    Chapter 40
    Jim

    "Well, den, dis is de way it look to me, Huck. Ef it wuz HIM dat 'uz bein' sot free, en one er de boys wuz to git shot, would he say, 'Go on en save me, nemmine 'bout a doctor f'r to save dis one?' Is dat like Mars Tom Sawyer? Would he say dat? You BET he wouldn't! WELL, den, is JIM gywne to say it? No, sah—I doan' budge a step out'n dis place 'dout a DOCTOR, not if it's forty year!" (40.46)

    Jim is pretty convinced that Tom would sacrifice his own freedom to save Jim. That's really noble of Jim, but we're not convinced that Tom's views on race are quite as progressive.

    Chapter 42

    I liked the nigger for that; I tell you, gentlemen, a nigger like that is worth a thousand dollars—and kind treatment, too. I had everything I needed, and the boy was doing as well there as he would a done at home—better, maybe, because it was so quiet; but there I WAS, with both of 'm on my hands, and there I had to stick till about dawn this morning; then some men in a skiff come by, and as good luck would have it the nigger was setting by the pallet with his head propped on his knees sound asleep; so I motioned them in quiet, and they slipped up on him and grabbed him and tied him before he knowed what he was about, and we never had no trouble. (42.15)

    This is the doctor who treated Tom. He's sticking up for Jim, but notice how he does it? By inflating his price. Miss Watson was going to sell Jim for $800, but the Doctor thinks he's worth at least $1000. That's… nice?

    Tom Sawyer

    "They hain't no RIGHT to shut him up! SHOVE!—and don't you lose a minute. Turn him loose! He ain't no slave; he's as free as any cretur that walks this earth!" (42.45)

    Oh, Tom. Tom has no problem tricking Jim into staying locked up just to have a bit of fun, but once someone tries to take him back into slavery he get all outraged. Seems like even Tom can't see Jim as a real person.

  • Youth

    Tom he made a sign to me – kind of a little noise with his mouth – and we went creeping away on our hands and knees. When we was ten foot off Tom whispered to me, and wanted to tie Jim to the tree for fun. (2.6)

    Huck and Tom have in common the playfulness of youth.

    Little Tommy Barnes was asleep now, and when they waked him up he was scared, and cried, and said he wanted to go home to his ma, and didn't want to be a robber any more. (2.36)

    The reader is reminded that Huck and Tom are children because of the kids they spend time with.

    When we got up-stairs to his room he got me a coarse shirt and a roundabout and pants of his, and I put them on. While I was at it he asked me what my name was, but before I could tell him he started to tell me about a bluejay and a young rabbit he had catched in the woods day before yesterday, and he asked me where Moses was when the candle went out. I said I didn't know; I hadn't heard about it before, no way. (17.37)

    Buck acts as Huck’s young counterpart in the Grangerford family. Imagining Huck wearing Buck’s clothes supports our interpretation that Huck and Buck have a sort of "long-lost twin" relationship. Buck is clearly excited to have someone his own age around for once, and Huck is able to see – although he doesn’t explicitly state this – what his life could have been like had he been born into a wealthy southern family. For more on the Grangerford family, and especially Buck, check out "Characters."

    It was my watch below till twelve, but I wouldn't a turned in anyway if I'd had a bed, because a body don't see such a storm as that every day in the week, not by a long sight. My souls, how the wind did scream along! And every second or two there'd come a glare that lit up the white-caps for a half a mile around, and you'd see the islands looking dusty through the rain, and the trees thrashing around in the wind; then comes a H-WHACK! – bum! bum! bumble-umble-um-bum-bum- bum-bum – and the thunder would go rumbling and grumbling away, and quit – and then RIP comes an- other flash and another sockdolager. (20.11)

    We see Huck’s youth in his childlike fascination with thunderstorms.

    "All right, then, I'll GO to hell" – and tore it up. (31.25)

    Despite the sophistication of his internal moral debates, Huck’s decision has a playful and youthful tone to it.

    It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog. (31.26)

    Huck reveals his youth when he tries to view religion and morality in an all-or-nothing fashion. At this point, he still often sees certain decisions in black and white. Later on he starts to see that certain issues have a complicated gray area. Trying to sort out problems that can’t be viewed in black-or-white is hard for Huck, but by using his analytic skills he begins to make sense of difficult situations.

    His eye lit up, and he says:

    "I'll HELP you steal him!" (33.18, 33.19)

    Tom’s youth becomes apparent in his child-like excitement.

    "Gimme a CASE-KNIFE."

    I didn’t know what to do – but then I thought. I scratched around amongst the old tools, and got a pickaxe and gave it to him, and he took it and went to work, and never said a word." (36.10-11).

    While Huck tends to examine situations logically, Tom acts more like a child, choosing to imaginatively pretend. In a way, this illustrates the differences in the boys' class and upbringing. Huck had to grow up faster and learn to take care of himself, while Tom had the luxury of not facing harsh realities.

    THAT was all fixed. So then we went away and went to the rubbage-pile in the back yard, where they keep the old boots, and rags, and pieces of bottles, and wore-out tin things, and all such truck, and scratched around and found an old tin washpan, and stopped up the holes as well as we could, to bake the pie in, and took it down cellar and stole it full of flour and started for breakfast, and found a couple of shingle-nails that Tom said would be handy for a prisoner to scrabble his name and sorrows on the dungeon walls with, and dropped one of them in Aunt Sally's apron-pocket which was hanging on a chair, and t'other we stuck in the band of Uncle Silas's hat, which was on the bureau, because we heard the children say their pa and ma was going to the runaway nigger's house this morning, and then went to breakfast, and Tom dropped the pewter spoon in Uncle Silas's coat-pocket, and Aunt Sally wasn't come yet, so we had to wait a little while. (37.1)

    Tom and Huck act like children when they play pranks on Sally and Silas.

    So I slipped back the one I had, and when she got done counting, she says:

    "Hang the troublesome rubbage, ther's TEN now!" and she looked huffy and bothered both. But Tom says: (37.48, 37.49)

    Huck maintains a childlike playfulness in his interactions with Aunt Sally.

    In the morning we went up to the village and bought a wire rat-trap and fetched it down, and unstopped the best rat-hole, and in about an hour we had fifteen of the bulliest kind of ones; and then we took it and put it in a safe place under Aunt Sally's bed. But while we was gone for spiders little Thomas Franklin Benjamin Jefferson Elexander Phelps found it there, and opened the door of it to see if the rats would come out, and they did; and Aunt Sally she come in, and when we got back she was a-standing on top of the bed raising Cain, and the rats was doing what they could to keep off the dull times for her. So she took and dusted us both with the hickry, and we was as much as two hours catching another fifteen or sixteen, drat that meddlesome cub, and they warn't the likeliest, nuther, because the first haul was the pick of the flock. I never see a likelier lot of rats than what that first haul was. (39.1)

    Huck plays the stereotypical part of a young boy who enjoys rats, snakes, and other wild animals.

    We was all glad as we could be, but Tom was the gladdest of all because he had a bullet in the calf of his leg. (40.40)

    Tom’s logic is that of an excited child rather than a rational adult. His values are still anchored in childish fun, rather than facing the scary reality of what could have happened to him thanks to his silly game.

    "NO, I ain't out of my HEAD; I know all what I'm talking about. We DID set him free – me and Tom. We laid out to do it, and we DONE it. And we done it elegant, too." He'd got a start, and she never checked him up, just set and stared and stared, and let him clip along, and I see it warn't no use for ME to put in. "Why, Aunty, it cost us a power of work – weeks of it – hours and hours, every night, whilst you was all asleep. And we had to steal candles, and the sheet, and the shirt, and your dress, and spoons, and tin plates, and case-knives, and the warming-pan, and the grindstone, and flour, and just no end of things, and you can't think what work it was to make the saws, and pens, and inscriptions, and one thing or another, and you can't think HALF the fun it was. And we had to make up the pictures of coffins and things, and nonnamous letters from the robbers, and get up and down the lightning-rod, and dig the hole into the cabin, and made the rope ladder and send it in cooked up in a pie, and send in spoons and things to work with in your apron pocket –" (42.33)

    Tom cannot recognize that others do not share his brand of juvenile logic.

    "Well, that IS a question, I must say; and just like women! Why, I wanted the ADVENTURE of it; and I'd a waded neck-deep in blood to – goodness alive, AUNT POLLY!" (42.49)

    Tom marvels at the way women think, not recognizing that his own brand of logic is completely absurd.

    The first time I catched Tom private I asked him what was his idea, time of the evasion? – what it was he'd planned to do if the evasion worked all right and he managed to set a nigger free that was already free before? And he said, what he had planned in his head from the start, if we got Jim out all safe, was for us to run him down the river on the raft, and have adventures plumb to the mouth of the river, and then tell him about his being free, and take him back up home on a steamboat, in style, and pay him for his lost time, and write word ahead and get out all the niggers around, and have them waltz him into town with a torchlight procession and a brass-band, and then he would be a hero, and so would we. But I reckoned it was about as well the way it was. (43.1)

    Tom’s plans have the grandiose nature of a child’s dreams.

  • Foolishness and Folly

    Afterwards Jim said the witches bewitched him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over the State, and then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on a limb to show who done it. And next time Jim told it he said they rode him down to New Orleans; and, after that, every time he told it he spread it more and more, till by and by he said they rode him all over the world, and tired him most to death, and his back was all over saddle-boils. Jim was monstrous proud about it, and he got so he wouldn't hardly notice the other niggers. Niggers would come miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than any nigger in that country. Strange niggers would stand with their mouths open and look him all over, same as if he was a wonder. Niggers is always talking about witches in the dark by the kitchen fire; but whenever one was talking and letting on to know all about such things, Jim would happen in and say, "Hm! What you know 'bout witches?" and that nigger was corked up and had to take a back seat. Jim always kept that five-center piece round his neck with a string, and said it was a charm the devil give to him with his own hands, and told him he could cure anybody with it and fetch witches whenever he wanted to just by saying something to it; but he never told what it was he said to it. Niggers would come from all around there and give Jim anything they had, just for a sight of that five-center piece; but they wouldn't touch it, because the devil had had his hands on it. Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches. (2.7)

    The superstition of the black slaves appears foolish to Huck and Tom – yet they themselves express similar beliefs repeatedly throughout the novel.

    Jim tried it again, and then another time, and it acted just the same. Jim got down on his knees, and put his ear against it and listened. But it warn't no use; he said it wouldn't talk. He said sometimes it wouldn't talk without money. (4.21)

    Huck appears foolish in his inability to recognize that Jim uses the hairball to make money.

    "No, don't you worry; these country jakes won't ever think of that. Besides, you know, you'll be in costume, and that makes all the difference in the world; Juliet's in a balcony, enjoying the moonlight before she goes to bed, and she's got on her night- gown and her ruffled nightcap. Here are the costumes for the parts." (20.23)

    The duke fails to see the foolishness of his own actions, but he comments on the inferior intellect of the "country jakes."

    And then he busted into tears, and so did everybody. Then somebody sings out, "Take up a collection for him, take up a collection!" Well, a half a dozen made a jump to do it, but somebody sings out, "Let HIM pass the hat around!" Then everybody said it, the preacher too. (20.35)

    The religious crowd is presented as foolish when they are conned out of over $80.

    Well, that night we had OUR show; but there warn't only about twelve people there – just enough to pay expenses. And they laughed all the time, and that made the duke mad; and everybody left, anyway, before the show was over, but one boy which was asleep. So the duke said these Arkansaw lunkheads couldn't come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was low comedy – and maybe something ruther worse than low comedy, he reckoned. He said he could size their style. So next morning he got some big sheets of wrapping paper and some black paint, and drawed off some handbills, and stuck them up all over the village. (22.16)

    The duke and king claim that the townspeople are too ignorant to understand Shakespeare, and yet they are made foolish by their inability to comprehend the Shakespearian quality of Sherburn’s speech. We give more insight into Sherburn in his "Character Analysis."

    …and at last when he'd got everybody's expectations up high enough, he rolled up the curtain, and the next minute the king come a-prancing out on all fours, naked; and he was painted all over, ring- streaked-and-striped, all sorts of colors, as splendid as a rainbow. And – but never mind the rest of his outfit; it was just wild, but it was awful funny. The people most killed themselves laughing; and when the king got done capering and capered off behind the scenes, they roared and clapped and stormed and haw-hawed till he come back and done it over again, and after that they made him do it another time. Well, it would make a cow laugh to see the shines that old idiot cut. (23.1)

    The duke and the king claim that the townspeople are stupid, but the king makes an utter fool of himself on stage. This is a prime example of the king’s inflated sense of self (besides the obvious fact that he calls himself "the king"). These actions show the king's inability to apply his judgmental eye to his own shortcomings.

    " […] – they bein' partickler friends o' the diseased. That's why they're invited here this evenin'; but tomorrow we want ALL to come – everybody; for he respected everybody, he liked everybody, and so it's fitten that his funeral orgies sh'd be public."

    And so he went a-mooning on and on, liking to hear himself talk, and every little while he fetched in his funeral orgies again, till the duke he couldn't stand it no more; so he writes on a little scrap of paper, "OBSEQUIES, you old fool," and folds it up, and goes to goo-gooing and reaching it over people's heads to him. The king he reads it and puts it in his pocket, and says: (25.41, 25. 42)

    Despite the intelligence his scheming and plotting may suggest, the king is still foolish in many ways.

    Well, how they all took on! They crowded around the doctor and tried to quiet him down, and tried to explain to him and tell him how Harvey 'd showed in forty ways that he WAS Harvey, and knowed everybody by name, and the names of the very dogs, and begged and BEGGED him not to hurt Harvey's feelings and the poor girl's feelings, and all that. But it warn't no use; he stormed right along, and said any man that pretended to be an Englishman and couldn't imitate the lingo no better than what he did was a fraud and a liar. The poor girls was hanging to the king and crying; and all of a sudden the doctor ups and turns on THEM. He says:

    "I was your father's friend, and I'm your friend; and I warn you as afriend, and an honest one that wants to protect you and keep you out of harm and trouble, to turn your backs on that scoundrel and have nothing to do with him, the ignorant tramp, with his idiotic Greek and Hebrew, as he calls it. He is the thinnest kind of an impostor – has come here with a lot of empty names and facts which he picked up somewheres, and you take them for PROOFS, and are helped to fool yourselves by these foolish friends here, who ought to know better. Mary Jane Wilks, you know me for your friend, and for your unselfish friend, too. Now listen to me; turn this pitiful rascal out – I BEG you to do it. Will you?" (25.51, 25.52)

    Twain uses one or two intelligent and perceptive characters throughout the story to emphasize the foolishness of everyone else, particularly that of the mob. Rules of logic, morality, and ethics are still in tact... it’s just that not everyone sees things rationally or morally.

    "Cuss the doctor! What do we k'yer for HIM? Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?" (26.92)

    The king wisely remarks that, in fact, most people are foolish.

    "Blamed if I know – that is, what's become of the raft. That old fool had made a trade and got forty dollars, and when we found him in the doggery the loafers had matched half-dollars with him and got every cent but what he'd spent for whisky; and when I got him home late last night and found the raft gone, we said, 'That little rascal has stole our raft and shook us, and run off down the river.'" (31.35)

    Although the king repeatedly refers to the foolishness of the townspeople, he makes unwise decisions at several points in the novel.

    "For the land's sake, what IS the matter with the child? He's got the brain-fever as shore as you're born, and they're oozing out!" (40.23)

    Aunt Sally is consistently portrayed as a foolish character. Read up on her more in her "Character Analysis."

  • The Supernatural

    Pretty soon a spider went crawling up my shoulder, and I flipped it off and it lit in the candle; and before I could budge it was all shriveled up. I didn't need anybody to tell me that that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck, so I was scared and most shook the clothes off of me. I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep witches away. But I hadn't no confidence. You do that when you've lost a horseshoe that you've found, instead of nailing it up over the door, but I hadn't ever heard anybody say it was any way to keep off bad luck when you'd killed a spider. (1.8)

    From the very outset of the story, Huck reveals his superstitions: they have been ingrained in his mind through his upbringing and are a part of his surrounding culture. Other systems of beliefs (such as religion and social "rules") haven’t made such an impression on him.

    Afterwards Jim said the witches bewitched him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over the State, and then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on a limb to show who done it. And next time Jim told it he said they rode him down to New Orleans; and, after that, every time he told it he spread it more and more, till by and by he said they rode him all over the world, and tired him most to death, and his back was all over saddle-boils. Jim was monstrous proud about it, and he got so he wouldn't hardly notice the other niggers. Niggers would come miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than any nigger in that country. Strange niggers would stand with their mouths open and look him all over, same as if he was a wonder. Niggers is always talking about witches in the dark by the kitchen fire; but whenever one was talking and letting on to know all about such things, Jim would happen in and say, "Hm! What you know 'bout witches?" and that nigger was corked up and had to take a back seat. Jim always kept that five-center piece round his neck with a string, and said it was a charm the devil give to him with his own hands, and told him he could cure anybody with it and fetch witches whenever he wanted to just by saying something to it; but he never told what it was he said to it. Niggers would come from all around there and give Jim anything they had, just for a sight of that five-center piece; but they wouldn't touch it, because the devil had had his hands on it. Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches. (2.7)

    Just as the duke and king later con the crowd more easily because of their religious zeal, Tom and Huck are able to trick Jim because of his superstition.

    One morning I happened to turn over the salt-cellar at breakfast. I reached for some of it as quick as I could to throw over my left shoulder and keep off the bad luck, but Miss Watson was in ahead of me, and crossed me off. She says, "Take your hands away, Huckleberry; what a mess you are always making!" The widow put in a good word for me, but that warn't going to keep off the bad luck, I knowed that well enough. I started out, after breakfast, feeling worried and shaky, and wondering where it was going to fall on me, and what it was going to be. There is ways to keep off some kinds of bad luck, but this wasn't one of them kind; so I never tried to do anything, but just poked along low-spirited and on the watch-out. (4.3)

    Huck’s superstitious beliefs seem to revolve around bad luck rather than good. He follows his superstitions as a sort of precaution against certain bad events. We see it as Huck’s desire to blame bad happenings on bad luck, whereas he thinks good things are natural or have been earned in some way. Since Huck doesn't trust in religion to explain life’s negative moments, he uses superstitions instead.

    I went down to the front garden and clumb over the stile where you go through the high board fence. There was an inch of new snow on the ground, and I seen somebody's tracks. They had come up from the quarry and stood around the stile a while, and then went on around the garden fence. It was funny they hadn't come in, after standing around so. I couldn't make it out. It was very curious, somehow. I was going to follow around, but I stooped down to look at the tracks first. I didn't notice anything at first, but next I did. There was a cross in the left boot-heel made with big nails, to keep off the devil. (4.4)

    Huck’s father is also a superstitious man. Check out our "Character Analysis" of Pap for more on him.

    Miss Watson's nigger, Jim, had a hair-ball as big as your fist, which had been took out of the fourth stomach of an ox, and he used to do magic with it. He said there was a spirit inside of it, and it knowed everything. So I went to him that night and told him pap was here again, for I found his tracks in the snow. What I wanted to know was, what he was going to do, and was he going to stay? Jim got out his hair-ball and said something over it, and then he held it up and dropped it on the floor. (4.21)

    Jim is Huck’s main source of superstitious beliefs.

    Jim put the quarter under the hair-ball, and got down and listened again. This time he said the hair-ball was all right. He said it would tell my whole fortune if I wanted it to. I says, go on. So the hair-ball talked to Jim, and Jim told it to me. (4.22)

    Jim and Huck are both rendered vulnerable by their superstitions. Superstitious beliefs are something that they both believe in to explain what they otherwise find inexplicable. Huck and Jim follow their superstitious beliefs blindly; they must obey the rules, or else be punished.

    And there was the ferryboat full of people floating along down. I knowed what was the matter now. "Boom!" I see the white smoke squirt out of the ferryboat's side. You see, they was firing cannon over the water, trying to make my carcass come to the top. (8.2)

    Huck and Jim’s superstitions are the result of their environment; such beliefs are the norm, not the exception.

    "Doan' hurt me – don't! I hain't ever done no harm to a ghos'. I alwuz liked dead people, en done all I could for 'em. You go en git in de river agin, whah you b'longs, en doan' do nuffn to Ole Jim, 'at 'uz awluz yo' fren'." (8.24)

    Jim and Tom are similar in their reaction to seeing Huck after his supposed death.

    So we went over to where the canoe was, and while he built a fire in a grassy open place amongst the trees, I fetched meal and bacon and coffee, and coffee-pot and frying-pan, and sugar and tin cups, and the nigger was set back considerable, because he reckoned it was all done with witchcraft. (8.40)

    Jim’s superstitious beliefs are powerful enough to contend with what he sees with his own two eyes.

    Some young birds come along, flying a yard or two at a time and lighting. Jim said it was a sign it was going to rain. He said it was a sign when young chickens flew that way, and so he reckoned it was the same way when young birds done it. I was going to catch some of them, but Jim wouldn't let me. He said it was death. He said his father laid mighty sick once, and some of them catched a bird, and his old granny said his father would die, and he did. (8.64)

    Jim’s superstitions range from small predictions to events of huge importance.

    And Jim said you mustn't count the things you are going to cook for dinner, because that would bring bad luck. The same if you shook the table-cloth after sundown. And he said if a man owned a beehive and that man died, the bees must be told about it before sun-up next morning, or else the bees would all weaken down and quit work and die. Jim said bees wouldn't sting idiots; but I didn't believe that, because I had tried them lots of times myself, and they wouldn't sting me. (8.65)

    Huck is skeptical of Jim’s many superstitions – he sees them as ridiculous and arbitrary nature in some circumstances. You might wonder why Huck is skeptical of Jim's superstitions, but not of his own.

    "Mighty few – an' DEY ain't no use to a body. What you want to know when good luck's a-comin' for? Want to keep it off?" And he said: "Ef you's got hairy arms en a hairy breas', it's a sign dat you's agwyne to be rich. Well, dey's some use in a sign dat, 'kase it's so fur ahead. You see, maybe you's got to be po' a long time fust, en so you might git discourage' en kill yo'sef 'f you didn' know by de sign dat you gwyne to be rich bymeby." (8.67)

    Jim uses superstition the way others use religion – to comfort himself.

    AFTER breakfast I wanted to talk about the dead man and guess out how he come to be killed, but Jim didn't want to. He said it would fetch bad luck; and besides, he said, he might come and ha'nt us; he said a man that warn't buried was more likely to go a-ha'nting around than one that was planted and comfortable. That sounded pretty reasonable, so I didn't say no more; but I couldn't keep from studying over it and wishing I knowed who shot the man, and what they done it for. (10.1)

    Jim uses superstition to deceive Huck, the way the duke and the king later use religion to deceive others.

    "Now you think it's bad luck; but what did you say when I fetched in the snake-skin that I found on the top of the ridge day before yesterday? You said it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a snake-skin with my hands. Well, here's your bad luck! We've raked in all this truck and eight dollars besides. I wish we could have some bad luck like this every day, Jim." "

    Never you mind, honey, never you mind. Don't you git too peart. It's a-comin'. Mind I tell you, it's a-comin'." (10.3, 10.4)

    Jim refuses to waver in his superstitious beliefs, even in the face of contrasting evidence.

    Jim told me to chop off the snake's head and throw it away, and then skin the body and roast a piece of it. I done it, and he eat it and said it would help cure him. He made me take off the rattles and tie them around his wrist, too. He said that that would help. (10.7)

    Although he is skeptical, Huck still humors Jim and his superstitions. This goes along with his general respect for others’ beliefs, and his open-minded attitude regarding different ways of looking at the world.

    Jim said he reckoned I would believe him next time. And he said that handling a snake-skin was such awful bad luck that maybe we hadn't got to the end of it yet. He said he druther see the new moon over his left shoulder as much as a thousand times than take up a snake-skin in his hand. Well, I was getting to feel that way myself, though I've always reckoned that looking at the new moon over your left shoulder is one of the carelessest and foolishest things a body can do. Old Hank Bunker done it once, and bragged about it; and in less than two years he got drunk and fell off of the shot-tower, and spread himself out so that he was just a kind of a layer, as you may say; and they slid him edgeways between two barn doors for a coffin, and buried him so, so they say, but I didn't see it. Pap told me. But anyway it all come of looking at the moon that way, like a fool. (10.9)

    Just as he is faced with different systems of morality, Huck also chooses between the different superstitious beliefs presented by various characters.

    "Doan' le's talk about it, Huck. Po' niggers can't have no luck. I awluz 'spected dat rattlesnake-skin warn't done wid its work." (16.61)

    Jim continually expects bad luck.

    We didn't say a word for a good while. There warn't anything to say. We both knowed well enough it was some more work of the rattlesnake-skin; so what was the use to talk about it? It would only look like we was finding fault, and that would be bound to fetch more bad luck – and keep on fetching it, too, till we knowed enough to keep still. (16.66)

    Huck uses the superstitious qualities of the rattlesnake to justify and explain bad events that occur.

    A scow or a raft went by so close we could hear them talking and cussing and laughing – heard them plain; but we couldn't see no sign of them; it made you feel crawly; it was like spirits carrying on that way in the air. Jim said he believed it was spirits; but I says:

    "No; spirits wouldn't say, 'Dern the dern fog.'" (19.2, 19.3)

    Huck refutes Jim’s superstitions with his own youthful brand of logic.

    "I hain't ever done you no harm. You know that. So, then, what you want to come back and ha'nt ME for?" (33.2)

    Jim and Tom react similarly when they encounter Huck after his "death." Both need some sort of explanation for what they don’t understand – and their first assumption jumps to superstition.

    This nigger had a good-natured, chuckle-headed face, and his wool was all tied up in little bunches with thread. That was to keep witches off. He said the witches was pestering him awful these nights, and making him see all kinds of strange things, and hear all kinds of strange words and noises, and he didn't believe he was ever witched so long before in his life. He got so worked up, and got to running on so about his troubles, he forgot all about what he'd been a-going to do. So Tom says: (34.38)

    The black slave at Silas’s farm is similar to Jim in his outlandish superstitious beliefs.

    "Oh, it's de dad-blame' witches, sah, en I wisht I was dead, I do. Dey's awluz at it, sah, en dey do mos' kill me, dey sk'yers me so. Please to don't tell nobody 'bout it sah, er ole Mars Silas he'll scole me; 'kase he say dey AIN'T no witches. I jis' wish to goodness he was heah now – DEN what would he say! I jis' bet he couldn' fine no way to git aroun' it DIS time. But it's awluz jis' so; people dat's SOT, stays sot; dey won't look into noth'n'en fine it out f'r deyselves, en when YOU fine it out en tell um 'bout it, dey doan' b'lieve you." (34.78)

    Just as the duke and king use religion to deceive the overzealous crowd, Tom and Huck use superstition to deceive Nat.

    Jim only had time to grab us by the hand and squeeze it; then the nigger come back, and we said we'd come again some time if the nigger wanted us to; and he said he would, more particular if it was dark, because the witches went for him mostly in the dark, and it was good to have folks around then. (34.82)

    The slave who feeds Jim shares Jim’s exaggerated superstitions.

    And whilst we was a-standing there in the dimmish light, here comes a couple of the hounds bulging in from under Jim's bed; and they kept on piling in till there was eleven of them, and there warn't hardly room in there to get your breath. By jings, we forgot to fasten that lean-to door! The nigger Nat he only just hollered "Witches" once, and keeled over on to the floor amongst the dogs, and begun to groan like he was dying. Tom jerked the door open and flung out a slab of Jim's meat, and the dogs went for it, and in two seconds he was out himself and back again and shut the door, and I knowed he'd fixed the other door too. Then he went to work on the nigger, coaxing him and petting him, and asking him if he'd been imagining he saw something again. He raised up, and blinked his eyes around, and says:

    "Mars Sid, you'll say I's a fool, but if I didn't b'lieve I see most a million dogs, er devils, er some'n, I wisht I may die right heah in dese tracks. I did, mos' sholy. Mars Sid, I FELT um – I FELT um, sah; dey was all over me. Dad fetch it, I jis' wisht I could git my han's on one er dem witches jis' wunst – on'y jis' wunst – it's all I'd ast. But mos'ly I wisht dey'd lemme 'lone, I does." (34.57, 34.58)

    Tom takes advantage of Nat’s superstitions to cover up for his own mistake in trying to deceive him.

    "HANNEL 'm, Mars Sid? What IS you a-talkin' 'bout? I wouldn' lay de weight er my finger on um, not f'r ten hund'd thous'n billion dollars, I wouldn't." (36.65)

    Jim’s superstitions about snakes serve as comic relief.

    ...and me and Silas and my Sid and Tom on the constant watch day AND night, as I was a-telling you, and not a one of us could catch hide nor hair nor sight nor sound of them; and here at the last minute, lo and behold you, they slides right in under our noses and fools us, and not only fools US but the Injun Territory robbers too, and actuly gets AWAY with that nigger safe and sound, and that with sixteen men and twenty-two dogs right on their very heels at that very time! I tell you, it just bangs anything I ever HEARD of. Why, SPERITS couldn't a done better and been no smarter. And I reckon they must a BEEN sperits – be- cause, YOU know our dogs, and ther' ain't no better; well, them dogs never even got on the TRACK of 'm once! You explain THAT to me if you can! – ANY of you!" (41.41)

    In addition to the boys and the slaves, the white adults hold equally superstitious beliefs.

  • Drugs and Alcohol

    "Yes, he's got a father, but you can't never find him these days. He used to lay drunk with the hogs in the tanyard, but he hain't been seen in these parts for a year or more." (2.16)

    Pap’s alcoholism is no secret to the community. It explains others’ willingness and insistence at helping Huck all the time.

    He took it and bit it to see if it was good, and then he said he was going down town to get some whisky; said he hadn't had a drink all day. When he had got out on the shed he put his head in again, and cussed me for putting on frills and trying to be better than him; and when I reckoned he was gone he come back and put his head in again, and told me to mind about that school, because he was going to lay for me and lick me if I didn't drop that. (5.28)

    Violence is clearly associated with alcoholism in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

    Next day he was drunk, and he went to Judge Thatcher's and bullyragged him, and tried to make him give up the money; but he couldn't, and then he swore he'd make the law force him. (5.29)

    Pap is belligerent and insistent when drunk.

    He said he'd cowhide me till I was black and blue if I didn't raise some money for him. I borrowed three dollars from Judge Thatcher, and pap took it and got drunk, and went a-blowing around and cussing and whooping and carrying on; (5.31)

    Pap shows no shame in his public displays of drunkenness. It’s a huge part of who he is –see our thoughts on him in his "Character Analysis."

    …so every now and then I'd borrow two or three dollars off of the judge for him, to keep from getting a cowhiding. Every time he got money he got drunk; and every time he got drunk he raised Cain around town; and every time he raised Cain he got jailed. He was just suited – this kind of thing was right in his line. (6.1)

    Pap’s alcoholism is cyclical in nature, and Huck has come to expect drinking binges and violence from his father.

    Every little while he locked me in and went down to the store, three miles, to the ferry, and traded fish and game for whisky, and fetched it home and got drunk and had a good time, and licked me.

    […]

    The old man made me go to the skiff and fetch the things he had got. There was a fifty-pound sack of corn meal, and a side of bacon, ammunition, and a four-gallon jug of whisky, and an old book and two newspapers for wadding, besides some tow. (6.3-8)

    For Huck’s father, alcohol has become a priority over food and other necessities. Huck’s dad takes his need to feed the addiction to hurtful levels.

    I got the things all up to the cabin, and then it was about dark. While I was cooking supper the old man took a swig or two and got sort of warmed up, and went to ripping again. He had been drunk over in town, and laid in the gutter all night, and he was a sight to look at. A body would a thought he was Adam – he was just all mud. Whenever his liquor begun to work he most always went for the govment. (6.9)

    Huck has learned to expect certain drunken episodes from his father.

    After supper pap took the jug, and said he had enough whisky there for two drunks and one delirium tremens. That was always his word. I judged he would be blind drunk in about an hour, and then I would steal the key, or saw myself out, one or t'other. He drank and drank, and tumbled down on his blankets by and by; but luck didn't run my way. He didn't go sound asleep, but was uneasy. He groaned and moaned and thrashed around this way and that for a long time. (6.12)

    Huck tries to use his father’s alcoholism against him to plan an escape.

    I don't know how long I was asleep, but all of a sudden there was an awful scream and I was up. There was pap looking wild, and skipping around every which way and yelling about snakes. He said they was crawling up his legs; and then he would give a jump and scream, and say one had bit him on the cheek – but I couldn't see no snakes. He started and run round and round the cabin, hollering "Take him off! take him off! he's biting me on the neck!" I never see a man look so wild in the eyes. Pretty soon he was all fagged out, and fell down panting; then he rolled over and over wonderful fast, kicking things every which way, and striking and grabbing at the air with his hands, and screaming and saying there was devils a-hold of him. He wore out by and by, and laid still a while, moaning. Then he laid stiller, and didn't make a sound. I could hear the owls and the wolves away off in the woods, and it seemed terrible still. He was laying over by the corner. By and by he raised up part way and listened, with his head to one side. He says, very low:

    "Tramp – tramp – tramp; that's the dead; tramp – tramp – tramp; they're coming after me; but I won't go. Oh, they're here! don't touch me – don't! hands off – they're cold; let go. Oh, let a poor devil alone!" (6.13-14)

    Pap’s alcoholism has gone so far as to make him delusional. The disease has completely taken over his life.

    By and by he rolled out and jumped up on his feet looking wild, and he see me and went for me. He chased me round and round the place with a clasp-knife, calling me the Angel of Death, and saying he would kill me, and then I couldn't come for him no more. I begged, and told him I was only Huck; but he laughed SUCH a screechy laugh, and roared and cussed, and kept on chasing me up. Once when I turned short and dodged under his arm he made a grab and got me by the jacket between my shoulders, and I thought I was gone; but I slid out of the jacket quick as lightning, and saved myself. Pretty soon he was all tired out, and dropped down with his back against the door, and said he would rest a minute and then kill me. He put his knife under him, and said he would sleep and get strong, and then he would see who was who. (6.15)

    Huck’s very life is put in danger by his father’s alcoholism.

    Jim sucked and sucked at the jug, and now and then he got out of his head and pitched around and yelled; but every time he come to himself he went to sucking at the jug again. His foot swelled up pretty big, and so did his leg; but by and by the drunk begun to come, and so I judged he was all right; but I'd druther been bit with a snake than pap's whisky. (10.8)

    Pap’s alcoholism has left Huck with only negative associations of alcohol. Huck is able to see, however, that everyone who drinks isn’t as harmful as his Pap is; he understands that his father is an extreme case.

    Well, I was getting to feel that way myself, though I've always reckoned that looking at the new moon over your left shoulder is one of the carelessest and foolishest things a body can do. Old Hank Bunker done it once, and bragged about it; and in less than two years he got drunk and fell off of the shot-tower, and spread himself out so that he was just a kind of a layer, as you may say; and they slid him edgeways between two barn doors for a coffin, and buried him so, so they say, but I didn't see it. (10.9)

    Huck blames the negative affects of alcohol on bad luck.

    So then they put it on him, you see; and while they was full of it, next day, back comes old Finn, and went boo-hooing to Judge Thatcher to get money to hunt for the nigger all over Illinois with. The judge gave him some, and that evening he got drunk, and was around till after mid- night with a couple of mighty hard-looking strangers, and then went off with them. (11.18)

    Huck’s father prizes alcohol over finding his son’s potential murderer. In our minds, this is the last straw – Huck’s dad gets zero sympathy from anyone in the novel. His level of addiction makes him act in inhuman ways.

    And in he come, and Bill after him. But before they got in I was up in the upper berth, cornered, and sorry I come. Then they stood there, with their hands on the ledge of the berth, and talked. I couldn't see them, but I could tell where they was by the whisky they'd been having. I was glad I didn't drink whisky; but it wouldn't made much difference anyway, because most of the time they couldn't a treed me because I didn't breathe. I was too scared. And, besides, a body COULDN'T breathe and hear such talk. (12.38)

    In this novel, alcohol use is associated primarily with criminals and thieves.

    "Here comes old Boggs! – in from the country for his little old monthly drunk; here he comes, boys!" (21.30)

    Again we see that alcoholism results in habitual, cyclic bouts of drunkenness.

    All the loafers looked glad; I reckoned they was used to having fun out of Boggs. One of them says: (21.31)

    Alcoholics are presented as an inferior bunch, to be made fun of by others.

    "Wonder who he's a-gwyne to chaw up this time. If he'd a-chawed up all the men he's ben a-gwyne to chaw up in the last twenty year he'd have considerable ruputation now." (21.32)

    A drunken man in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rarely seen as anything else – Twain depicts drinking in an all-or-nothing fashion. Logically, we know that drinking is not so black and white, so why is it here? Does Twain have a bias against alcohol, or does Huck only see alcoholics when they’re at their most destructive? In this world, no one can have just one glass of wine and call it a night. In the novel, alcohol is a dehumanizing source of evil.

    Another one says, "I wisht old Boggs 'd threaten me, 'cuz then I'd know I warn't gwyne to die for a thousan' year." (21.33)

    The townspeople find camaraderie in their superiority over the local wino.

    Boggs comes a-tearing along on his horse, whooping and yelling like an Injun, and singing out: (21.34)

    Boggs, much like Huck’s Pap, makes a fool of himself when drunk.

    "Cler the track, thar. I'm on the waw-path, and the price uv coffins is a-gwyne to raise."

    Boggs makes outlandish statements when drunk, but doesn’t physically harm anyone. See more about the doomed drunkard in the "Characters Analysis" for Colonel Sherburn and Boggs.

    He was drunk, and weaving about in his saddle; he was over fifty year old, and had a very red face. Everybody yelled at him and laughed at him and sassed him, and he sassed back, and said he'd attend to them and lay them out in their regular turns, but he couldn't wait now because he'd come to town to kill old Colonel Sherburn, and his motto was, "Meat first, and spoon vittles to top off on." (21.36)

    "He don't mean nothing; he's always a-carryin' on like that when he's drunk. He's the best naturedest old fool in Arkansaw – never hurt nobody, drunk nor sober." (21.40)

    "He don't mean nothing; he's always a-carryin' on like that when he's drunk. He's the best naturedest old fool in Arkansaw – never hurt nobody, drunk nor sober." (21.40)

    In contrast to Huck’s father, Boggs is a harmless man. Boggs’s presence in the novel helps Huck distinguish the difference between a person who is also all-out bad man and a person who has lost control but doesn’t hurt anyone else. Read more about Boggs in the "Character Analysis" for Colonel Sherburn and Boggs.

    And by and by a drunk man tried to get into the ring – said he wanted to ride; said he could ride as well as anybody that ever was. They argued and tried to keep him out, but he wouldn't listen, and the whole show come to a standstill. Then the people begun to holler at him and make fun of him, and that made him mad, and he begun to rip and tear; so that stirred up the people, and a lot of men begun to pile down off of the benches and swarm towards the ring, saying, "Knock him down! Throw him out!" and one or two women begun to scream. So, then, the ringmaster he made a little speech, and said he hoped there wouldn't be no disturbance, and if the man would promise he wouldn't make no more trouble he would let him ride if he thought he could stay on the horse. So everybody laughed and said all right, and the man got on. The minute he was on, the horse begun to rip and tear and jump and cavort around, with two circus men hanging on to his bridle trying to hold him, and the drunk man hanging on to his neck, and his heels flying in the air every jump, and the whole crowd of people standing up shouting and laughing till tears rolled down. And at last, sure enough, all the circus men could do, the horse broke loose, and away he went like the very nation, round and round the ring, with that sot laying down on him and hanging to his neck, with first one leg hanging most to the ground on one side, and then t'other one on t'other side, and the people just crazy. It warn't funny to me, though; I was all of a tremble to see his danger. But pretty soon he struggled up astraddle and grabbed the bridle, a-reeling this way and that; and the next minute he sprung up and dropped the bridle and stood! and the horse a-going like a house afire too. He just stood up there, a-sailing around as easy and comfortable as if he warn't ever drunk in his life – and then he begun to pull off his clothes and sling them. He shed them so thick they kind of clogged up the air, and altogether he shed seventeen suits. And, then, there he was, slim and handsome, and dressed the gaudiest and prettiest you ever saw, and he lit into that horse with his whip and made him fairly hum – and finally skipped off, and made his bow and danced off to the dressing-room, and everybody just a-howling with pleasure and astonishment. (22.14)

    Alcoholism is a source of amusement for the townspeople. They fail to see the graver issues until Boggs is killed.

    "Yes, a duke's different. But not very different. This one's a middling hard lot for a duke. When he's drunk there ain't no near-sighted man could tell him from a king." (23.26)

    Although Huck recognizes that the duke has a greater sense of morality than the king, he believes that alcohol can corrupt anyone. Again, in this novel we see that alcohol is never ingested in moderation, and it’s considered to be a source of only bad things in this novel.

    So me and the duke went up to the village, and hunted around there for the king, and by and by we found him in the back room of a little low doggery, very tight, and a lot of loafers bullyragging him for sport, and he a-cussing and a-threatening with all his might, and so tight he couldn't walk, and couldn't do nothing to them. The duke he begun to abuse him for an old fool, and the king begun to sass back, and the minute they was fairly at it I lit out and shook the reefs out of my hind legs, and spun down the river road like a deer, for I see our chance; and I made up my mind that it would be a long day before they ever see me and Jim again. (31.4)

    Huck takes advantage of the king’s drinking to escape, just as he tried to escape his drunken father.

    "Well," I says, "when I see the king in that doggery yesterday I says to myself, we can't get him home for hours, till he's soberer; so I went a-loafing around town to put in the time and wait. (31.34)

    The duke recognizes the debilitating effects of alcohol on the king, but this doesn’t seem to stop him from drinking himself.

    "Blamed if I know – that is, what's become of the raft. That old fool had made a trade and got forty dollars, and when we found him in the doggery the loafers had matched half-dollars with him and got every cent but what he'd spent for whisky; and when I got him home late last night and found the raft gone, we said, 'That little rascal has stole our raft and shook us, and run off down the river.'" (31.35)

    The king makes alcohol his first priority when he acquires money, just as Huck’s father did.

    And then Tom he talked along and talked along, and says, le's all three slide out of here one of these nights and get an outfit, and go for howling adventures amongst the Injuns, over in the Territory, for a couple of weeks or two; and I says, all right, that suits me, but I ain't got no money for to buy the outfit, and I reckon I couldn't get none from home, because it's likely pap's been back before now, and got it all away from Judge Thatcher and drunk it up. (43.4)

    Huck defines his father exclusively in terms of his alcoholism. (You can read more on Pap in his "Character Analysis.")