Friday, March 20, 2009

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Summary

One of the greatest books of all time: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain:

The story begins in fictional St. Petersburg, Missouri, on the Mississippi River. Two young boys, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, have each come into a considerable sum of money as a result of their earlier adventures (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer). Huck has been placed under the guardianship of the Widow Douglas, who, together with her sister, Miss Watson, are attempting to "sivilize [sic]" him. Huck appreciates their efforts, but finds civilized life confining. In the beginning of the story, Tom Sawyer appears briefly, helping Huck escape at night from the house, past Miss Watson's slave, Jim. They meet up with Tom Sawyer's self-proclaimed gang, who plot to carry out adventurous crimes.

Huck's life is changed by the sudden appearance of his shiftless father, "Pap," an abusive parent and drunkard. Although Huck is successful in preventing his Pap from acquiring his fortune, Pap forcibly gains custody of Huck and the two move to the backwoods where Huck is kept locked inside his father's cabin. Equally dissatisfied with life with his father, Huck escapes from the cabin, elaborately fakes his own death, and sets off down the Mississippi River. He also travels with Jim, who has escaped from Miss Watson. There is a $300 reward for Jim.

The Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons

While living quite comfortably in the wilderness along the Mississippi, Huck happily encounters Miss Watson's slave Jim on an island called Jackson's Island, and Huck learns that he has also run away. The two team up and shortly after missing their destination, Cairo, Illinois (in a free state to which Jim has planned to escape), Huck and Jim's raft is swamped by a passing steamship, separating the two. Huck is given shelter by the Grangerfords, a prosperous local family. He becomes friends with Buck Grangerford, a boy about his age, and learns that the Grangerfords are engaged in a 30-year blood feud against another family, the Shepherdsons.

The vendetta comes to a head when Buck's sister, Sophia Grangerford, elopes with Harney Shepherdson. In the resulting conflict, all of the remaining Grangerford males are shot and killed, and upon seeing Buck's corpse, Huck is too devastated to write about everything that happened. However, Huck does describe how he narrowly avoids his own death in the gunfight, later reuniting with Jim and the raft and together fleeing farther south on the Mississippi River.

The Duke and the King

Farther down the river, Jim and Huck rescue two cunning grifters, who join Huck and Jim on the raft. The younger of the two swindlers, a man of about thirty, introduces himself as a son of an English duke (the Duke of Bridgewater, which the King later mispronounces as "Bilgewater") and his father's rightful successor. The older one, about seventy, then trumps the duke's claim by alleging that he is actually the "Lost Dauphin", the son of Louis XVI and rightful King of France. The "Duke" and the "King" then force Jim and Huck to allow them to travel on the raft, committing a series of confidence schemes on the way south.

As these schemes unfold, Huck sees the attempted lynching of a southern gentleman, Colonel Sherburn, after Sherburn kills a harmless town drunk. Sherburn faces down the lynch mob with a loaded rifle and forces them to back down after an extended speech regarding what he believes to be the essential cowardice of "Southern justice," the lynch mob. (This vignette, which stands out as disconnected from the remaining plot, is thought to represent Twain's own contradictory and misanthropic impulses — Huck, the outcast, essentially flees from Southern society, while Sherburn, the gentleman, confronts it, albeit in a brutal, destructive fashion.[7])

The Duke and the King's schemes reach their peak when the two grifters impersonate the brothers of Peter Wilks, a recently deceased man of property. Using an absurd English accent, the King manages to convince most of the townspeople that he and the Duke are Wilks's brothers recently arrived from England, and proceeds to liquidate Wilks's estate. Huck is upset at the men's plan to steal the inheritance from Wilks's daughters and actual brothers, as well as their actions in selling Wilks's slaves and separating their families. To thwart their plans, Huck steals the money the two have acquired and hides it in Wilks's coffin. Shortly thereafter, the two con men are exposed when two other men claiming to be the Wilks's true brothers arrive. However, when the money is found in Wilks's coffin, the Duke and the King are able to escape in the confusion, rejoining Huck and Jim on the raft.

Jim's escape

After the four fugitives flee farther south on their raft, the King "captures" Jim and sells his interest in any reward while Huck is away in a nearby town. Outraged by this betrayal, Huck rejects the advice of his "conscience," which continues to tell him that in helping Jim escape to freedom, he is stealing Miss Watson's property. Telling himself "All right, then, I'll go to hell!", Huck resolves to free Jim.

Huck discovers, upon arriving at the house in which Jim is being held, that the King has sold him in a bar for forty dollars. In a parallel to the con men's earlier scheme with the Wilks family, Huck is mistaken by Tom Sawyer's Arkansas aunt, Sally Phelps, for Tom himself, and plays along, hoping to find a way to free Jim. Shortly after, Tom himself arrives, and pretending to be his own half-brother Sid, agrees to join Huck's scheme.

Jim reveals the secret of the Royal Nonesuch before the two rogues are able to set their confidence game into motion. That night the Duke and King are captured by the townspeople, and are tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.

Rather than simply sneaking Jim out of the shed where he is being held, Tom develops an elaborate plan to free him, involving secret messages, hidden tunnels, a rope ladder sent in Jim's food, and other elements from popular novels,[8] including a note to the Phelps warning them of an Indian tribe stealing their runaway slave. During the resulting pursuit, Tom is shot in the leg, and rather than complete his escape, Jim attends to him and insists that Huck find a doctor in town to treat the injury. This is the first time that Jim demands something from a white person; Huck explains this by saying "I knowed he was white on the it was all right now." Jim and Tom are then captured and brought back by the doctor.


After Jim's recapture, events quickly resolve themselves. Tom's Aunt Polly arrives and reveals Huck's and Tom's true identities. Tom announces that Jim has been free for months: Miss Watson died two months earlier and freed Jim in her will, but Tom chose not to reveal Jim's freedom so he could come up with an elaborate plan to rescue Jim. Jim tells Huck that Huck's father has been dead for some time and that Huck may return safely to St. Petersburg. (Jim discovered this when he and Huck were on Jackson Island and came upon part of a house drifting down stream. The dead body in the house, the face of which Jim did not let Huck see, was Huck's father.) In the final narrative, Huck declares that he is quite glad to be done writing his story, and despite Tom's family's plans to adopt and "sivilize" him, Huck intends to flee west to Indian Territory.

From Wikipedia.

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