Huck Finn Notes Essay, Research Paper
NOTES ON HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Huck Finn reminds the readers that he has already appeared in a book about Tom Sawyer called The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This book was “made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.” He reminds us that at the end of that book, he and Tom had found six thousand dollars apiece. Since then, the Widow Douglas has been trying to civilize Huck, and judge Thatcher has invested the money for him, bringing a dollar a day in interest.
The widow’s sister, Miss Watson, also lives in the house, and she is forever picking at Huck, trying to make him do things her way. Unlike the Widow Douglas, who is kind and patient with Huck, Miss Watson is sharp and nagging. Her insistent interference makes Huck resent home life and its restraints. They won’t even let him smoke.
Huck is so disgusted with home life that he accidentally kills a spider, and he knows that this act is bound to bring bad luck to him. However, as he sits and smokes, he hears Tom Sawyer’s secret call. Huck puts out the light, slides to the ground, and finds Tom waiting for him among the trees.CHAPTERS 2 and 3As Huck joins Tom Sawyer in the garden, he accidentally trips over a root and alerts Miss Watson’s slave, Jim, to the fact that something unusual is happening. Jim sits down on the ground between Tom and Huck, and he would have discovered them if he had not gone to sleep. Tom then plays a trick on Jim -a trick which multiplies in size as Jim tells the story after he awakes. With each telling, the story becomes more fanciful until Jim becomes the most envied Negro in the village.
Tom and Huck meet some other boys, and Tom wants to organize a band of robbers. From the various “pirate-books and robber-books” that Tom has read, he binds the members of his gang together with a beautiful oath and then makes plans to “stop stages and carriages on the road, with masks on, and kill the people and take their watches and money.” Tom also wants to kidnap people and then hold them for ransom, but nobody knows what a ransom is. It is almost daylight before Huck creeps back through his window with his new clothes “all greased up and clayey. . . .”
After receiving a scolding from Miss Watson, Huck is also instructed in religion by the old maid, but he can’t make any sense out of her type of sermonizing. About this time, a drowned body has been found and many people think it is Huck’s pap, but Huck knows that he couldn’t be that lucky. Unfortunately, he knows that his father would show up again some day even though he hasn’t been around for over a year.
For about a month, the boys play robbers until Huck and all the other boys resign, for, by then, they have neither robbed nor killed anyone “but only just pretended.” The romantic Tom argues with the realistic Huck about the value of make-believe and the importance of magicians, “genies,” and the like. Huck tests the theory of genies by getting an old lamp, rubbing it for hours, and making elaborate plans for the genie. But when no genies appear, he loses faith in it and also questions Tom Sawyer’s assertions.
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After three or four months, during which time he attends school and learns to read and write, Huck sees some signs which suggest that his pap is back in town. Fearing his pap, he goes to judge Thatcher and asks if there is any money from the investments. The judge tells him the amount, and Huck wants to give it to the judge. Leaving the judge confused, Huck goes to have Jim consult his hair-ball to discover Huck’s fortune. Huck’s fears of his father’s return are justified because that night when he went to his room, “there set pap, his own self!”
Pap stands before Huck looking vicious and mean. He curses Huck out for trying to get some education, for wearing nice clothes, and for the possibility that someday he might want to get some religion. He will not tolerate the idea of his son improving himself and trying to be better than his own father. He forces Huck to give him the dollar which he had gotten from judge Thatcher and goes to get some whiskey with it. He tries to bully judge Thatcher into giving him the rest of Huck’s money, but the judge refuses. He then goes to court to get custody of Huck, and even though the Widow Douglas and the judge oppose it, a new judge gives the custody of the boy to his father. Pap promises to reform with the aid of the new judge, but the improvement is short lived. Soon Pap trades his new coat for a jug of whiskey, gets drunk, rolls off the porch, and breaks his left arm in two places. The new judge gives up on Pap.CHAPTERS 6 7
Huck is now determined to continue with his schooling, partly to spite his pap, who thrashes Huck every time he can catch him. When Pap hangs around the Widow Douglas’ house too much, she threatens him. To get even with her, he kidnaps Huck and takes him across the river to a cabin in the woods where he keeps Huck locked up every time he leaves. Soon Huck gets used to living in the woods and has no desire to return to the widow and “sivilization.”
The worse thing about living in the woods is that Pap beats Huck quite frequently and sometimes leaves him locked up in the cabin for as long as three days. Once when Pap returns from town, he is so drunk that he almost kills Huck. It is then that Huck decides that he has to find some way to escape-to avoid being killed.
The next day Huck discovers a canoe which he hides in the underbrush. When Pap catches some logs, he immediately leaves for town in order to sell them. Huck takes out a saw that he had hid, finishes sawing a hole in the wall, and then loads his canoe with provisions. He then shoots a wild pig, smashes the door of the cabin and scatters the pig’s blood all over the place. He pulls out some of his own hair and sticks it on the back of the bloody axe, thereby giving the impression that he has been murdered. He then goes to the canoe and waits until dark. After a nap, he heads across the river for jackson’s Island, barely escaping detection from Pap, who is returning home.
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The next day, Huck knows that his plan was a success when he sees a ferryboat filled with the important people of the town searching for his body. A cannon which is fired to make the body come to the surface almost kills Huck, and a loaf of bread which is supposed to lead them to the body floats to Huck’s hiding place and he eats it for his breakfast.
After they leave, Huck is left alone on the island for three days and nights and begins to get lonesome. On the third day, he discovers the remains of a camp fire. Huck is frightened and paddles over to the Illinois shore, but fearing discovery from some travelers, he returns and keeps watch over the place where he discovered the ashes. Soon, Miss Watson’s Jim appears and Huck is awfully glad to see him. Thinking Huck is dead, Jim is frightened by Huck’s “ghost.” Huck tells him that he isn’t dead, and they talk about their adventures. Jim confesses to Huck that he has run away because Miss Watson was about to sell him down south. Huck promises not to tell on Jim, even though “people would call me a low down Ablitionist and despise me for keeping mum. .
During the next few days, Jim and Huck move their supplies to a cavern at the top of the hill on jackson’s Island. They spend their days collecting various things on the river that have floated loose because of the rising river water. Among the choice possessions they find is a large raft twelve feet wide and fifteen or sixteen feet long.
One night, they see a two-story frame house float by. They catch up with it and climb aboard to see if they can find any useful articles. While there, they discover a dead man who had been shot in the back. Jim quickly throws some rags over the corpse so that Huck won’t have to see this gruesome sight. They load their canoe with all the worthwhile stuff in the cabin and head back to Jackson’s Island.
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After breakfast, Huck wants to talk about the dead man, but Jim refuses to do so, saying that it might bring them bad luck. The bad luck comes in terms of a practical joke which Huck plays on Jim. He kills a rattlesnake and curls it up at the foot of jim’s bed, thinking it will be fun to watch jim’s reaction when he sees it. But the rattlesnake’s mate crawls up around the dead one and when Jim returns, the mate bites him. Huck realizes that it happens because he was “such a fool as to not remember that wherever you leave a dead snake its mate always comes there and curls around it.” Huck quickly throws the two snakes away before Jim can discover what happened. Jim is sick for four days and nights before he recovers. After a few days, Huck becomes restless and wants to know what is going on in town. Jim advises him to dress up like a girl in some of the clothes that they salvaged from the floating house. He heads out for the shore and, in town, he finds a house of a woman who is a newcomer. He decides to talk with this woman, trying hard to remember that he is a girl.
Huck identifies himself as Sarah Williams and, as he talks with the lady, he learns of the gossip and rumors connected with the separate disappearances of Huck and Jim. Although the lady has lived in the town only two weeks, she is already well informed in regard to the different theories of the supposed murder of Huck and the disappearance of Jim. The two murder suspects are Jim and Pap. Some people think that Pap did it in order to get Huck’s money without bothering with a lawsuit. Others think that Jim did it, since he ran away the same night that Huck disappeared. There is a three-hundred dollar reward offered for Jim and a two-hundred dollar reward for Pap.
When Huck hears the lady say that she has seen smoke on jackson’s Island and that her husband is going over to see if he could capture Jim, Huck becomes so anxious that he forgets that he is a girl. Using several basic tests, the lady soon discovers that Huck is a boy. Huck then admits that he is in disguise and invents another story about his escape from a hard master and his flight to Goshen. He is promptly informed, however, that this is not Goshen; it is St. Petersburg. He convinces her that someone has played a trick on him and leaves as soon as possible.
After Huck leaves, he goes as quickly as possible back to jackson’s Island, starts a fire in the old camp site, then goes to find Jim. When he comes upon Jim, he tells him to get ready quickly because “They’re after us!” Since their raft is already loaded, it takes only a few minutes to leave, and they glide along the shady side of the island until they have passed the foot of the island.
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It is almost one o’clock before they get below the island. At daybreak they tie the raft to a tow-head on the Illinois side which is covered with trees and bushes so that they are protected from sight. Here they can watch the steamboats go by. Huck tells Jim about the conversation with the lady in the cabin and how he built the fire to make the men stay there to catch Jim when he returned.
Jim builds a tent in the middle of the raft for protection from the weather. He and Huck also make an extra steering oar for emergencies. For five nights they travel down the river, lying on their backs and looking at the stars. Every night, Huck slips ashore for provisions. Five nights below St. Louis, they encounter a big storm and they board a wrecked steamboat, even though Jim tries to dissuade Huck from boarding it.
Once on the steamboat, they see a light down the “texashall” and overhear a conversation between two robbers, Jake Packard and Bill, who are about to murder an accomplice, Jim Turner, because he threatened to inform on them. At this point, Huck has to crawl into a stateroom on the upper side to keep from being detected. The thieves accidentally follow him into the room but Huck is able to hide from them. Packard argues that instead of murdering Turner they should take their boat ashore and leave Jim Turner on the wreck which will break up in two hours and wash down the river. Huck goes back to tell Jim and to set the robbers’ boat adrift so that the men cannot get away. At this point, Jim reveals that the raft has broken loose in the storm, and they are also stranded.
Huck and Jim look for and find the boat (skifo that the robbers arrived in. just as they are about to board the skiff, Packard and Bill appear, arguing about the money which they left in Jim Turner’s pocket. They decide to go back and get it. Huck and Jim then jump into the boat, cut the rope and escape, leaving all three cutthroats stranded on the foundering boat.
Before they are able to notify anyone about the wrecked boat, a summer storm comes up and a flash of lightning reveals their raft floating ahead of them. They recapture it, and Jim guides the raft while Huck follows in the skiff until they see the lights of a village on a hillside. Huck startles the sleeping watchman of a ferryboat and relates one of his stories designed to force the watchman to rescue the people on the wrecked boat. Artfully giving the impression that the niece of the richest man in town is on the boat, Huck influences the watchmen to rescue the cutthroats.
In a few minutes, the wreck comes floating along. It is so deep in the water that Huck knows that no one could still be alive, but he paddles around it and hollers. After hearing no sound, Huck gives up and goes to catch up with Jim. By now, it is daylight and they pull to shore and sleep “like dead people.”
When Huck and Jim awaken, they examine the loot which the robbers took from the wreck and find all sorts of valuable things, along with many books which Huck reads to Jim. The books contain tales of kings and dukes and earls and their many adventures in life. The only figure familiar to Jim is “King Sollermum,” who was not a good person, in jim’s opinion, because King Solomon would have divided a child into two parts. Huck tries to explain the story of King Solomon to Jim, but Jim will not change his opinion. Furthermore, the entire concept of anyone speaking a language different from English is also astonishing to Jim who thinks that if a Frenchman is a man then he should speak like a man.
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In three more nights, Huck and Jim expect to reach Cairo, where they will sell the raft and catch a steamboat up the Ohio River. On the second night, however, there is so much fog that Huck takes the canoe and tries to find a place for them to tie up. Because of the swift current, the raft floats by and Huck cannot find Jim and the raft. He searches until he is exhausted and then falls asleep.
When he awakens, he sees the raft close by, filled with leaves and all sorts of trash, and Jim is asleep from worry and exhaustion. Huck slips onto the raft and when Jim finally wakes up, Huck tries to make him think that they have never been separated and that Jim dreamed everything that happened to them. When he has Jim almost convinced that it was all a dream, he asks Jim to interpret the dream-which Jim does; next, Huck asks him to interpret all the trash and branches on the raft. Then Jim realizes the truth and tells Huck that trash is “people … dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren’s en makes ‘em ashamed.” Huck apologizes to Jim and vows to himself that he will never play a trick on Jim again.
Jim knows that they must be close to Cairo and therefore close to freedom, and he begins to talk about his freedom in a jubilant manner. Suddenly Huck’s conscience begins to trouble him because he knows that he is helping someone else’s property to escape. But then Jim says that if the owner of his children will not sell Jim his children, then he will get an abolitionist to help steal them. This is almost more than Huck can stand, and he knows suddenly that he is doing an awful thing in helping Jim to escape, and he resolves to slip ashore and tell. As he takes a canoe to go tell, Jim calls out that he will never forget what a good friend Huck has been to him.
When Huck meets some men looking for some runaway slaves, he cannot bring himself to betray Jim. instead, he creates a story about his father on the raft having smallpox, and the men become frightened and give Huck money with instructions that he should never let it be known that his father has smallpox when he is seeking help. After the men leave, Huck feels again that he has done wrong, but it is too much bother to do right.
Later, Huck and Jim try to find out if they have passed Cairo, and when they see the clear water of the Ohio, they know that they have already passed the town. They go to the canoe so as to paddle back upstream, but the canoe has disappeared. As they continue downstream, a steamboat approaches them and, before they can get out of its way, the boat smashes directly into the raft. Jim goes overboard on one side and Huck on the other. Huck stays underwater until the thirty-foot wheel has passed over him. Soon the boat is churning along upstream again, but Huck cannot find Jim. He goes ashore alone, where he finds dogs barking in front of a large house.
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At the house, Huck is forced to identify himself He tells the man confronting him that he is George Jackson and that he fell overboard from a passing steamboat. He invents another fantastic story which the people believe. This house belongs to a wealthy landowner, whose youngest child is Buck, about Huck’s age. The two boys share a bedroom together and soon become good friends.The house is furnished in a manner that impresses Huck, but of special interest to him are the crayon drawings made by Emmeline Grangerford, who died when she was fourteen. Most of the drawings are of rather morbid subjects. Her attempts at poetry about dead people are also rated high by her relatives and by Huck. On the whole, Huck is very content to be here since there is so much good food.