Study Guide

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 16

By Mark Twain

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Chapter 16

  • The two continue on their way to Cairo (where Jim will finally be free) but eventually they think to ask the very important question: how will they know they've gotten there once they've arrived? You know, since there aren't exactly highway signs all over.
  • Huck decides to paddle ashore, tell some lies (which he likes doing anyway), and find out how far they are from Cairo.
  • Except the action is interrupted by Huck having… MORAL CRISIS #2!
  • This moral crisis has to do with the fact that he is stealing Miss Watson's slave. After all, he reasons, Miss Watson taught him books and religion and manners and all, and he's repaying her by stealing her property.
  • In the midst of this crisis, Jim rambles on about what he's going to do once he gets to a free state. He says he'll save up his money until he has enough to go back south and buy his wife and his two children from the farms around Miss Watson's.
  • If that doesn't work, he says, he'll just steal them.
  • This bothers Huck even more, all this talk of "stealing" the "property" of his neighbors. When he spots lights at the shore and paddles out in the canoe, he's pretty much decided to turn Jim in again.
  • But then, as Huck's paddling away, Jim calls out to him about how he (Huck) has been such a good friend and how he'll always be grateful.
  • This is a record-scratching conscience moment, and when Huck is stopped by a raft several yards later, he can't bring himself to turn in his friend—even though the guys on the raft are actually looking for runaway slaves themselves.
  • And they want to inspect the raft that Huck has left behind.
  • Very cleverly, Huck pretends it's his Pap back there with the smallpox—serious bad news.
  • This does the trick: the men take off but leave Huck with two twenty-dollar gold pieces to help out.
  • Trouble isn't over. Huck and Jim can't seem to figure out where Cairo is, and they wonder if they passed it in the fog.
  • And then…they realize they've passed Cairo in the fog.
  • Now, their new plan is to sell the raft as soon as possible and take a steamboat up north to the free states.
  • They stash their stuff and go to sleep in the cottonwood thicket, but when they come back, the canoe is gone.
  • Clearly, this is the fault of the rattlesnake skin.
  • In that case, so is what comes next: a huge steamboat comes straight toward them and smashes through their raft.
  • So, in short: no raft, no canoe, near-death by steamship smashing, and Jim and Huck are now separated and trying not to drown.
  • Huck makes it to shore, only to be attacked by a pack of vicious dogs.

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