Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Book summary

Mark Twain

Overview

About

Mark Twain began to work on a sequel to Adventures of Tom Sawyer to capitalize on the popularity that the novel had helped him garner. The draft for Huckleberry Finn took a more serious tone as Mark Twain explored the southern perception of Slavery and the other social issues of the South such as the mob mentality. At the time, America was going through a period known as the Gilded Age, which involved significant economic prosperity that had followed the end of the civil war. It is believed that Mark Twain believed the work to be too serious for the contemporary climate, and so he set the draft aside. 

He later returned to the draft after the Reconstruction had failed, this had been the program that the American government had pursued to heal the wounds in the south, and policies that were aimed at integrating the recently freed African American population. Mark Twain returned to his draft and sent it out for publishing. The book, along with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, cemented his position as one of the leading figures in American Literature. The book received particular pushback from the Southern States of America due to its poor depiction of the Southern People. Modern readers have a different problem with the book, and that is the extensive use of a racial slur that had been an acceptable term during Mark Twain’s time.

BOOK COVER

Plot Summary

Huckleberry Finn informs the reader that both he and Tom Sawyer had received a sum of six thousand dollars at the conclusion of their last adventure. Huckleberry Finn had then been taken in by the Widow Douglas who attempted to civilize him by teaching him about religion and sending him to school along with her sister, Miss Watson. Huck doesn’t enjoy the civilization and escapes but Tom brings him back with the promise to have him join a band of robbers that he was going to assemble soon. The band of robbers turns out to be a poor activity for Huck who grows bored of Tom’s fictitious adventures and he eventually begins to enjoy his time being civilized. All of that comes to end with the return of Huck’s alcoholic and abusive father, Pap, who kidnaps Huck as he tries to take control of the six thousand dollars that Huck had received. Huck enjoys the leisure that comes with his father, but he severely dislikes being a prisoner and being beaten by him, so he fakes his murder and escapes with a canoe to a nearby island.

Huck hides on the island, and encounters, Jim, a runaway slave who had escaped from his servitude when he had learned that Miss Watson intended to sell him to someone in New Orleans. The two runaways come together and witness a massive rainstorm that causes the river to flood. They find a house floating in the swollen river that contains the dead body of a man that has recently been shot. Jim sees the man’s face but doesn’t allow Huck to see it. Huck then goes into town to learn about what had occurred after his disappearance and learns that his murder was being blamed on Jim, while his father had also gone missing. Huck also learns that some of the townspeople were going to come to search the island for Jim, and he returns to the island in a hurry. The both of them use the canoe and raft that they possess and set off for Cairo by sailing during the night and hiding in the morning.

The two grow quite close to one another as Huck learns about Jim, and learns to recognize him as an equal to him. Jim plans to take a steamboat from Cairo for the free states, and then recover both his wife and children, something that causes Huck unease. He feels that he is being a bad person by freeing someone else’s slave and decides to inform someone so that Jim’s escape can be prevented. However, he finds himself unable to do so when the opportunity does present itself. The two of them pass Cairo accidentally due to heavy fog, and later end up in a feud between two wealthy southern families.

They have several adventures together, and finally, meet a couple of conmen who claim to be a duke and king. Huck and Jim are forced to comply with these conmen and aid them in their farces due to their weak standing. Their cruel cons reach a peak when they pretend to be the brothers of a recently deceased man and attempt to steal all the wealth the man had left for his children. The two men fail fantastically, partly due to Huck’s actions, as he decides to help the girls the men are trying to cheat. Ultimately, Huck and Jim are unable to rid themselves of the conmen, whose games begin to turn up short and they are unable to find any more marks for their farces. The king finally sells Jim using a fake runaway poster, and Jim reveals their true identities to the townspeople which leads to them being punished.

Huck has to decide whether he wants to help Jim escape when he is captured by a farmer in the town due to the king’s information. He decides that he would rather be damned than allow Jim to be a slave again. Huck finds a surprising ally in Tom Sawyer who happens to be related to the farmer that is holding Jim prisoner. Huck takes a back seat while Tom takes over the plans for the rescue which he complicates significantly for his pleasure. Finally, the rescue attempt fails as Tom is wounded by a stray bullet and Jim places Tom’s safety over his freedom. Tom finally reveals that Jim had been set free by his owner, Miss Watson, who had died and left him his freedom in her will. Huck learns from Jim that the dead body they had found in the floating house had been his father, and so Huck sets out for the west since he has no intention of ever being civilized.

  • Author(s)

    Mark Twain
  • Publication date

    1884 in England; 1885 in the United States of America

  • Language

    English

  • Classification

    Children’s novel

  • Pages

    327

Keywords

Satire, Social Commentary

Publisher

Charles L. Webster And Company.

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