Study Guide

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 1

By Mark Twain

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Chapter 1

  • Meet Huck.
  • You probably already know him from a little book called The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
  • But it's cool if you don't, because you're about to get to know him really well.
  • Like, you've probably already noticed that he's a kid, and that he doesn't talk too good.
  • He's a rich kid, though. Not long ago, he and Tom found $12,000 in a cave.
  • These days, $12,000 could hardly buy you a used car—but back then, it was a boatload of money. So much money that they gave it all over to the town official, Judge Thatcher, for safe-keeping.
  • Huck is currently living with the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson near the Mississippi River.
  • These women are trying to "sivilize" Huck, in the no-elbows-on-the-table, prayers-before-supper, doff-your-hat kind of way. Huck takes to this "civilizing" like a cow to the sun on a poppin' hot day in July.
  • We're not sure what that means exactly, but it sounds like something Huck would say.
  • Part of this "civilizing" involves teaching Huck about religion. At first he's all gung-ho to learn about Moses, until he realizes Moses is dead. Huck "[doesn't] take no stock in dead people," so there goes his religious fervor.
  • Miss Watson takes this whole civilizing process seriously, though, and she threatens that Huck will go to hell if he doesn't start behaving himself, i.e., sitting up straight at the dinner table.
  • Apparently Hell is full of slouchers.
  • Huck thinks this sounds just fine to him. Heaven sounds awfully boring. Plus, he's pretty sure Tom Sawyer is going straight to hell, and he wants to keep hanging out with his friend.
  • After dinner, Huck lights a candle in his bedroom. He can't sleep and sits awake listening to the sounds of the woods outside, imagining ghosts and all sorts of spooky things.
  • A spider crawls up Huck's shoulder and he flips it off—straight in to the candle.
  • Oops.
  • This is an "awful bad sign." After performing various good-luck ceremonies to counteract the bad luck that comes from killing a spider, Huck resigns himself to his approaching fate.
  • In fact, he pulls out his pipe for a relaxing smoke.
  • Uh, don't try this at home, Shmoopers.
  • Just after the clock strikes midnight, Huck hears a "me-yow! me-yow!"
  • He meows back softly.
  • Don't worry—Huck isn't talking to a cat. He scrambles out of the window and down a shed and, sure enough, there's Tom waiting for him.

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