Study Guide

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Lies and Deceit

By Mark Twain

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 n***** 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.)