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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Study Guide
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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn By Mark Twain
Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn suddenly have money because of their earlier adventures (in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer). The Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson attempt to civilize Huck, but Tom Sawyer appears to help Huck escape, past Miss Watson's slave, Jim. Tom and Huck meet up with Tom's gang and plan to carry out some crimes.
This plan is cut off by the arrival of "Pap", Huck's father, a drunkard and an abuser. Huck manages to keep his money out of Pap's hands, but Pap takes Huck and moves to the backwoods, where Huck is locked in his father's cabin. Huck gets away, fakes his own death, and sets off down the Mississippi.
On the river, Huck happens upon Miss Watson's slave Jim on Jackson's Island, learning that he, too, has run away. Jim heard that Miss Watson was going to sell him downriver, where slaves were treated quite badly. Jim's goal is to make it to Illinois, which is a free state. Huck first believes that Jim shouldn't try to become a free man, but the longer they travel together, the more Huck understand Jim, and the more his opinions about slavery and life in general begin to change.
Huck and Jim weather a storm on Jackson's Island, after which they scrounge up a raft which they keep. Later, an entire uprooted house floats by on the river, and they raid it. Inside, Jim finds Pap lying dead on the floor, shot to death while burglarizing the house before it was uprooted by the storm. Jim doesn't let on to Huck that the dead man is Pap.
Huck disguises himself as a girl and goes to learn the latest news. He learns that there's a reward out for Jim, who is accused of killing Huck. The two escape together, loading up the raft and taking off downriver. They are soon swamped by a passing steamship, and separated.
Huck is taken in by the Grangerford family, who are fairly prosperous. He befriends Buck Grangerford, and learns of a 30-year feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons; a feud so bitter that the families even bring guns to church with them in case the other family does something. Ironically, the pastor is preaching about brotherly love.
Finally, Buck's sister Sophia elopes with Harney Shepherdson, and the resultant chaos sees every male in the Grangerford family killed. Huck sees Buck's corpse and is almost killed himself. He runs, meeting Jim and once again boarding the raft and heading down the Mississippi.
Next, Jim and Huck resuce a pair of grifters, who introduce themelves as the son of the Duke of Bridgewater, and the Lost Dauphin (the son of Louis XVI and the rightful King of France.) The grifters force Jim and Huck to serve them as they raft southward, stopping at each town to con people out of their money. A small side scene occurs when Huck witnesses a southern gentleman named Colonel Sherburn killing a town drunkard, then facing down a lynch mob with a loaded rifle, talking them down by delivering a speech about their cowardice.
Finally, the Duke and the King impersonate the brothers of Peter Wilkes, a property owner who recently perished. The King manages to convince the townspeople that they are recently arrived from England, and are Peter's brothers -- and begins to liquidate the estate of the deceased man. Huck thwarts their plan by hiding their ill-gotten gains in Wilks' coffin until Wilks' real brothers arrive and expose everything. The Duke and the King manage to escape in the confusion.
Shortly after, the King takes Jim and sells him for the reward money while Huck is away. Huck gets righteously upset at this, and rejects the notion that Jim is merely property (which would make Huck a thief for helping Jim escape). He resolves to free Jim.
By a huge stroke of good luck, the King has managed to sell Jim to none other than Tom Sawyer's aunt and uncle -- and Tom is due in town for a visit. Huck is mistaken for Tom, and plays along, hoping to free Jim all the while. When Tom arrives, Huck tells him what's up, and Tom plays along, too, pretending to be his own little brother.
Jim then reveals the Duke and the King as the con men that they are, and they are rapidly attached to some of the crimes they committed earlier. That night, the con men are captured, tarred and featheread, and ridden out of town on a rail. At the same time, Tom develops an elaborate plan to free Jim, but gets shot in the leg as it is executed. Jim demands that Huck take Tom to the doctor in town - but demanding something of a white person is a huge deal for a slave. Huck explains that Jim was 'white on the inside', so it was all right. When they get to the doctor, Jim and Huck are captured.
Shortly after, Tom's (other) aunt arrives and identifies Tom and Huck. Tom announces that Jim has actually been free for some time, as Miss Watson had died and freed Jim in her will -- he just wanted to come up with an elaborate plan to free Jim for fun. Jim finally admits to Huck that Pap is dead, and that Huck may safely return 'home' to St. Petersburg. Tom's family plans to adopt and civilize Huck, but secretly, as the book ends, Huck plans to flee once again.