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Huck Finn Essay On Each Chapter Essay, Research Paper

CHAPTER 1

-

In the opening paragraph, Huck introduces himself to us as the

narrator of the story. He talks to us in a relaxed, matter-of-fact

tone that makes him sound friendly, honest, and maybe a little less

respectful than he should be. He does, after all, come close to

calling Mark Twain a liar.

Try to imagine Twain writing that paragraph, in which he has a

fictional character accuse him of “stretching the truth” in an earlier

book. Twain seems to be sharing a joke with you, the reader, but

Huck isn’t in on the joke. Huck doesn’t say it to be funny. He says it

innocently, not realizing that it could be taken as an insult.

Keep this trick of Twain’s in mind as you read the book, because

you’ll find him doing it dozens of times. He’ll be expecting you to

understand things better than Huck, who’s just a simple, almost

illiterate kid. Twain will often be winking at you over Huck’s head,

the way two grownups might be quietly amused at the naive things

said by a young child.

Huck tells us that he’s been living with the Widow Douglas, a

woman he seems to like even though she has set out to “sivilize”

him. His friend, Tom Sawyer, has persuaded him to go along with her,

and Huck finds himself living in a house, wearing clean clothes, and

eating meals on schedule- activities that seem very unnatural to him.

Although he’s able to put up with the widow, her sister, Miss

Watson, is another story. He describes her as a “slim old maid, with

goggles on,” and he complains about her trying to teach him spelling

and manners. When she tells him about heaven and hell, he figures hell

must be a better place, since Miss Watson assures him that she is

going to heaven.

After an unpleasant session with Miss Watson, Huck goes up to his

room and stares out the window. The night sounds of the woods make him sad, until one sound begins to stand out- he recognizes it as a signal

from Tom Sawyer. Huck sneaks out of the house, feeling better now that

he and his friend are off on an adventure.

CHAPTER 2

-

As Huck and Tom begin sneaking past the house in the dark, they make

enough noise to attract the attention of Jim, Miss Watson’s black

slave. He comes out of the kitchen to see what caused the noise,

sits down in the dark to wait for it to happen again, and falls

asleep.

Tom slips into the kitchen to steal some candles for their

adventure, and when he comes back, Huck is anxious to get going. But

Tom insists on playing a prank on Jim before they leave. Huck knows

this is a dumb idea, because if Jim wakes up, they’ll be in deep

trouble for sneaking out of the house after dark.

But dumb or not, Tom gets to do what he wants. As the self-appointed

leader of the gang, Tom manages to get his own way just about all

the time. So he lifts Jim’s hat from his head and hangs it on a nearby

limb. Huck tells us that Jim later turned this incident into an

elaborate tale of being visited by witches while he slept.

Huck and Tom get together with the rest of the gang, and they all

travel downriver to a cave Tom has picked out as a meeting place. Huck

reports what happens at the meeting, making no comment on it.

At the meeting, Tom outlines his plan for forming a gang of

bloodthirsty robbers. He talks of the blood oath they’ll take

together. He says that anyone who reveals the gang’s secrets will be

killed, along with his whole family. He describes what will be done

with the body of such a traitor.

Where does Tom get such ideas? He gets them from the adventure books

he reads. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always understand what he’s

reading, as you’ll be able to tell later from his explanation of

what it means to “ransom” someone.

Read this whole scene very carefully, and you’ll get a good

picture of what Tom is- a kid who’s smarter than most of the others,

but not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. Tom does read more than

the others, he does have a quick mind and a lively imagination. But

he’s the leader of this group more because of his forceful personality

than any real difference between him and the others. If you wanted

to be very critical of Tom, you could call him two things- a phony and

a bully.

But Huck doesn’t say anything along these lines. He doesn’t see

how ridiculous Tom’s statements are. He works from the assumption that Tom is much smarter than he is and he takes Tom’s statements at face value. As was true in the first chapter, Twain doesn’t expect you to

be that naive. He expects you to see the truth about Tom, even if

the young narrator misses it.

CHAPTER 3

-

The morning after the secret meeting, Huck has to put up with a

scolding from Miss Watson and- worse- looks of hurt disappointment

from the Widow Douglas. Miss Watson tells him he might get better if

he prays, but he has his doubts about that.

Huck then tells us about a time when he went off into the woods

and “had a long think” about praying. (He’s in the habit of going

off by himself and thinking when something bothers him.) If prayer

is so powerful, he wonders, why don’t people like the Deacon, Widow

Douglas, and Miss Watson have everything they want?

The widow explains to him that praying will win him “spiritual

gifts,” and that the best kind of prayer is the kind that’s meant to

help other people. Huck goes off and thinks about that for a while,

then decides that he isn’t interested in something that will help

other people but not him.

Huck also talks about the difference between the Providence (God)

that the widow tells him about, and the one he hears about from Miss

Watson. Huck thinks they are two different Gods, and this is another

case of Twain talking to you over the head of his narrator. Twain is

suggesting that God can be imagined in different ways by people with

different personalities.

Huck says he’d prefer belonging to the widow’s God, but he can’t see

why God would want someone so ignorant, low-down, and ornery. By

this time you should begin to see that Twain doesn’t share Huck’s

low opinion of himself- and he doesn’t expect you to share it either.

Huck believes that just about everyone he comes in contact with is

better than he is. For example, as much as he dislikes Miss Watson, he

doesn’t immediately dismiss everything she tells him. He may reject it

after he’s thought it over a bit, but his first reaction is, “She’s

smarter than I am. Maybe she’s right.”

He even goes along with everything Tom Sawyer suggests, no matter

how silly the suggestion is. Tom reads books and goes to school. Tom

is “sivilized,” so he must be better than Huck.

At this point, Huck talks a bit about his father, who disappeared

more than a year ago. Pap was a drunkard who used to beat Huck

whenever he was sober. Huck certainly doesn’t miss him. He tells us

that a body was found floating in the river, and that some people

believe it was Pap. Huck doesn’t think so, and he’s afraid his

father will show up again.

Huck isn’t very excited about playing robber with Tom’s gang. They

do a lot of running around, he tells us, and they scare people

sometimes, but they aren’t stealing anything. And they certainly

haven’t killed anybody yet.

In Tom’s imagination, though, they are doing all the things he

said they would. They have swords and guns, they steal jewels and gold

ingots, they’re getting ready to ambush “a whole parcel of Spanish

merchants and rich Arabs.”

Huck knows they’re really brandishing broomsticks and stealing

turnips but Tom’s description of the Spaniards and “A-rabs,” with

their elephants and camels, does catch his interest. So he shows up

the next day to take part in the spectacle.

What Huck sees is a Sunday School picnic for little kids. What Tom

sees are the Spaniards and Arabs he described. The gang has been

enchanted by magicians, Tom explains, and they only think they’re

looking at a kid’s picnic.

Read this conversation between Huck and Tom carefully, because it

shows a contrast between the two boys- a contrast that will become

important later in the book. In this conversation, Huck makes

several suggestions about how they can carry out their plan to rob and

kill. Tom counters all of Huck’s suggestions with fantasy elements

from the books he’s read- magicians, magic lamps, giant genies.

Huck is thinking about the concrete world around him; Tom is

following a set of “rules” he’s put together from his books. The two

boys are not talking about the same thing.

Tom becomes exasperated with Huck’s realistic, down-to-earth

approach to robbing and killing, and finally calls him a “perfect

saphead” for not knowing anything. Huck, of course, doesn’t claim that

he isn’t a saphead, because he secretly believes he is. Instead of

arguing, he goes off to test what Tom has said. He tries conjuring

up a giant by rubbing a tin lamp.

When nothing happens, he puts Tom into the same class as the widow

and Miss Watson. Tom might believe that the stuff he reads about is

true, but to Huck, it has “all the marks of a Sunday school.”

CHAPTER 4

-

In the first three chapters Twain established the personality of his

main character. In this chapter he begins to develop the plot- a

series of “adventures” involving Huck.

Each of these adventures is almost a story in itself, even though

most of them go on for several chapters. So from here on it would

probably be better to read the book in sections instead of one chapter

at a time. I’ll still summarize the novel chapter by chapter, but I’ll

let you know when a new section begins and how many chapters it

involves.

You should read Chapters 4-7 as a unit, since they all deal with

Pap, Huck’s alcoholic father. Huck begins Chapter 4 by telling us he

has actually adjusted to civilized life. The first paragraph

suggests that he doesn’t know as much arithmetic as he thinks he does,

but he doesn’t “take no stock in mathematics, anyway.”

He isn’t deliriously happy with school, and living in a house, and

all the rest of it, but he doesn’t hate it the way he used to. Then

one morning he knocks over the salt shaker at the breakfast table.

As we saw near the end of Chapter 1, Huck is very superstitious

and gets himself quite worked up over signs of bad luck. He’s

certain the spilled salt means something terrible. Sure enough, when

he goes outside, he sees bootprints in the snow, and he recognizes

them as belonging to his father.

What he instantly does might seem puzzling at first, but we get an

explanation soon enough. He runs to Judge Thatcher, who is the trustee

of the money Huck got for helping to catch a gang of robbers. (That.

adventure is mentioned in the second paragraph of the novel.)

He begs the judge to take the $6000 and the interest, so he “won’t

have to tell no lies.” The judge doesn’t really understand Huck’s

motives, but he buys the account from the boy for one dollar. Huck

knows that his father is going to be after the money, and his father

has beaten him in the past for less reason than $6000. He wants to

be able to say he has no money- and he wants it to be the truth.

This shows us something interesting about Huck’s character. Pap is

not one of the people he respects. He’s already told us he hopes never

to see him again. He expects the man to beat him and to try to steal

his money. Yet, he’s unwilling to tell a lie, even in such a desperate

situation. Remember, this is the boy who has told us how low-down

and ornery he must be in the eyes of God.

After Huck gets rid of his money, he goes to visit Jim, Miss

Watson’s slave. Jim has a hair-ball that is supposed to have come from

the stomach of an ox, and they both believe it has magical powers.

Huck asks Jim to use the hair-ball to predict what Pap is planning

to do. Jim goes through a long, singsong speech, in which he

predicts so many things that he actually predicts nothing. He gets

so carried away that he predicts things that will happen to Huck

many years in the future.

Huck then goes up to his room and finds Pap waiting there for him.

-

—————————————————————–

NOTE: This is Jim’s second appearance in the story, and very soon he

will become a major character. This is as good a time as any to deal

with the kind of person he is and with Twain’s use of the word nigger.

In recent years, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has often been

the subject of debate and has even been banned in some schools and

public libraries. The argument and the censorship revolve around the

character of Jim.

Jim is illiterate, superstitious, childlike, easily led, and

apparently not very bright. Some people think the book could lead



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