Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 New Characters
Huckleberry Finn: the protagonist and narrator Widow Douglas: Huck’s guardian Miss Watson: the widow’s sister Tom Sawyer: Huck’s best friend
Chapter 1 Summary
Huck Finn introduces himself as a character who has already appeared in Mark Twain’s earlier novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He briefly reviews the end of Tom Sawyer’s story, reminding the reader how he and Tom found money that robbers had hidden in a cave. Judge Thatcher has invested the money for them, six thousand dollars apiece in gold, and the interest alone is now worth a dollar a day, a large amount of money at that time. The Widow Douglas has taken Huck in as her son, and is trying to civilize him by teaching him proper dress and proper manners. To make matters worse, the Widow’s sister, Miss Watson, lives with her and relentlessly nags Huck about his behavior. Huck is lonely and discouraged despite the Widow Douglas’ efforts to give him a good home. He accidentally kills a spider and is sure it will bring him bad luck. Soon after the clock strikes midnight, Huck sneaks out of his upstairs bedroom window to answer Tom Sawyer’s mysterious call.
Chapter 1 Discussion and Analysis
Twain’s choice of a 13-year-old narrator supplies much of the humor in the novel. The narrator, Huck Finn, reports the events and ideas through his own eyes, and often his innocence and truthfulness contrast sharply with the Widow Douglas’ sense of propriety. In the first chapter, Miss Watson holds herself up to Huck as the epitome of a virtuous woman. Although Huck does not see the contradiction between her intolerance of him and her belief that she was going to the “good place” (heaven), he naively replies, “Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.” It is this kind of frankness that allows Twain to comment on the hypocrisy of society through the eyes of a young and innocent narrator. Through Huck’s encounters with Miss Watson and the Widow Douglas, Twain satirizes the religious sensibility of the day. Huck finds the widow’s story of Moses boring and unrelated to everyday life. Miss Watson’s concept of the “good place,” where one would go around playing a harp and singing all day, does not appeal to him at all. Besides, they required their slaves to come in for prayers before they went to bed at night, a flagrant contradiction to the principles of Christianity in which they professed to believe. In this novel, Twain satirizes the pious Christians who professed kindness and civility, but who bought and sold slaves as property before the Civil War. The theme of individual freedom is brought out in Huck’s aversion to the Widow Douglas and her attempts to change him. Later in the novel, the journey down the river will be an escape from the hypocrisy of society’s corrupt institutions and a search for freedom from that society for both Huck and Jim.
Chapters 2 and 3 Summary and Analysis
Chapters 2 and 3 New Characters
Jim: Miss Watson’s black slave Jo Harper and Ben Rogers: two members of Tom and Huck’s gang Tommy Barnes: the youngest member of the gang
Chapters 2 and 3 Summary
As Huck and Tom Sawyer tiptoe through the garden, Huck stumbles over a root, which gets the attention of Jim, Miss Watson’s slave. He calls out, but the boys, afraid of being caught sneaking out at night, become extremely quiet. Jim sits down between them but falls asleep before he is aware that they are near enough to touch. Tom cannot resist the temptation to play a trick on Jim. He hangs Jim’s hat in the tree, knowing that Jim will wonder how it got there. The next day, seeing his hat in the tree, Jim conjures up stories about witches and how they rode him around the world. He is proud of this and consequently the envy of all the other slaves in the neighborhood. Having sneaked out, Huck and Tom meet Joe Harper, Ben Rogers, and the other members of Tom’s “band of robbers.” Tom Sawyer’s gang is patterned after the “pirate books,” and “robber books” that he has read. They take a skiff down the Mississippi River for several miles to explore the cave that Tom has found earlier. As they organize their gang, the boys take an oath to keep the gang a secret, signing their names in blood. If anyone tells the secret, that boy and his family must be killed. Tom sets the rules. They will become masked highwaymen, stopping stages and carriages, killing the people on board and robbing them of their possessions. Tom wants to kidnap people for ransom, but neither he nor the other boys know what “ransom” means. When Huck returns early in the morning, his clothes are very dirty, and he receives a scolding from Miss Watson. There is news in town about a drowned body found up the river. Most people think it is Huck’s father, but Huck is sure that it is not. The boys play robbers for a month but soon tire of it, since they haven’t killed anyone. Furthermore, Tom’s “Spaniards” and “A-rabs” with hundreds of elephants, camels, and mules, loaded down with diamonds, turn out to be only a Sunday school picnic. Tom blames the incident on magicians who have, with the help of genies, changed the Spaniard and A-rab scene into a Sunday school picnic, but Huck feels it is only “one of Tom Sawyer’s lies.”
Chapters 2 and 3 Discussion and Analysis
In these chapters we meet Jim, a prominent character in the novel. His superstitious beliefs are a recurrent thematic element throughout the novel. In this case, it has been his bad luck to have ridden around the world with witches. Twain’s satire of the institution of slavery will reach its greatest height through the character of Jim, and his warm human relationship with Huck, in subsequent chapters. Tom Sawyer is introduced in this chapter as a foil to Huck. Tom’s imaginative but impractical romantic notions, taken from the books he reads, are challenged by Huck when he goes to the woods to rub the old tin lamp. When the genie does not appear, he decides that the whole thing is just another one of “Tom Sawyer’s lies.” Twain is satirizing Tom’s romantic adventure stories. Tom must do everything by the book, and the height of absurdity is his insistence upon kidnapping people for ransom when he doesn’t even know what the word means. The Mississippi River is introduced as a symbolic image. Twain contrasts the freedom and peacefulness of life on the river with the corruption of society on the shore. In one short line we sense the river’s power: “the river, a whole mile broad, and awful still and grand.” Life on the river will ultimately become an idyllic escape for Huck and Jim.
Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis
Chapters 4 and 5 New Characters
Judge Thatcher: former judge who invests Huck’s money for him Pap: Huck’s father The new judge: tries to reform Pap The new judge’s wife: takes Pap into her house
Chapters 4 and 5 Summary
Huck has been going to school for about three or four months and has learned to read and write. Although he plays “hooky” occasionally, he is learning to tolerate school. He is also becoming more comfortable living with the widow. Huck has almost forgotten his father until one day he sees his footprints in the snow. Pap’s bootheel has left the imprint of a cross made of nails, used to ward off the devil. Afraid his father has come for his money, Huck wastes no time getting to Judge Thatcher’s whom he begs to take the six thousand dollars and one hundred fifty dollars interest. The judge, surprised and puzzled, finally buys the “property” from him for a dollar. Huck then consults Jim, who relies on his hairball from the stomach of an ox to tell Huck’s fortune. Jim listens while the hairball talks to him, but he does not get a straight answer. Huck’s fears are not unfounded, however; when he goes up to his room, he finds Pap waiting for him. Huck is startled and afraid, but Pap’s dirty, sickly image soon calms his fears, and he speaks right up when his father starts harassing him about his fine clothes and his education. Pap, however, threatens to “take it out of him” for trying to be better than his own father. He grabs the dollar the judge had given Huck, so he can go downtown for some whiskey. He tries to get the rest of Huck’s money from Judge Thatcher, but the judge ignores his request. Later Judge Thatcher and the Widow Douglas go to court to try to win custody of Huck, but the new judge grants custody to Pap. Pap promises to “turn over a new leaf.” The new judge and his wife give him dinner, a new coat, and a clean bed, but he sneaks out in the middle of the night and trades his new coat for a jug of whiskey. He gets drunk, falls off the porch, and breaks his arm.
Chapters 4 and 5 Discussion and Analysis
Huck is slowly becoming accustomed to the proper dress and manners he had such an aversion to earlier in the novel. Huck’s changed attitude toward school and living in a civilized manner makes his father’s sudden appearance seem even more untimely. Huck’s fear that his father is back in town drives him to see Judge Thatcher. Huck realizes that Pap has come for his six thousand dollars. If he gets rid of the money, Huck is sure his father will leave him alone. His vivid memories of his father’s beatings prompt him to give the money to Judge Thatcher. At first the judge seems confused by the immediacy of Huck’s secret request, but when the judge arranges to buy his “property” for one dollar he seems to understand Huck’s dilemma. He is afraid Pap will be after him for the money. Superstition is a recurrent theme in these chapters. After Huck spills the salt, he is certain that bad luck will be the result. His fears are justified when he sees Pap’s footprints in the snow. In desperation he goes to Jim for help. Jim’s hairball, taken from the stomach of an ox, speaks to him, but the spirit inside the hairball keeps wavering from one answer to another. The hairball tells him that perhaps Pap will stay or perhaps he’ll leave. Twain’s subtle mockery of superstition is reflected in the tone of this scene. Pap’s attitude, contrary to that of a normal, loving parent, is one of jealousy and anger because of his son’s accomplishments. He scolds Huck for his ability to read and write only because he does not want him to be better than his father.