Study Guide

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Man and the Natural World

By Mark Twain

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.)