Study Guide

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Youth

By Mark Twain


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 n*****'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 n***** 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 n*****s 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.