Publisher: Dover Publications
Item #: D206
Huckleberry Finn - the outcast of the Mississippi River town of St. Petersburg, Missouri, and son of a drunkard, habitual truant, smoker and liar- is going to be civilized by the widow and her sister, Miss Watson, even if it kills him. Though he chafes under their regime, bit by bit Huck reforms: he stops smoking in the house, he eats with a fork, lays off swearing around the widow, learns to read and write, sleeps in a bed, and even wears shoes when the weather warrants it. When Huck's Pap returns from downriver somewhere, all the widow's good work is undone. Pap takes Huck off to a cabin in the woods and he soon backslides into his wild ways. Huck would be happy if it weren't for Pap's drinking, his beatings, and his threats to kill Huck.
One day when Pap leaves Huck alone and heads to town to see about getting his hands on Huck's $6,000.00 (Huck's share of the money he and Tom Sawyer took from the robbers in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), Huck escapes. He makes it seem as though he has been murdered and his body thrown into the river. On Jackson's Island he meets Miss Watson's slave, Jim. Fearful that Miss Watson was going to sell him down river to New Orleans, Jim has run away. Together the two fugitives find a raft and head downstream. Their plan is to drift to the mouth of the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois. There they will sell the raft and buy riverboat passage up the Ohio to freedom.
Their plans founder when they bypass Cairo in the fog. Unable to take the raft upstream, they continue drifting south. When the raft is run over by a steamboat, Huck swims to shore and soon finds himself caught in the crossfire of a decades-old feud between the Grangerford and the Shepherdson families.
Eventually, both Huck and Jim find their way back to the raft and continue downstream. Their idyllic world, seemingly safe from the violence and hypocrisy of the little river towns they pass, is soon invaded by two con men, 'the king' and 'the duke,' who promptly drag Huck and Jim into their swindles. Stealing from camp-meetings, staging grotesque or obscene parodies of Shakespeare, the two charlatans appeal to and profit from the worst in human nature. Huck grows increasingly disgusted with them, but not until they plan to defraud three orphan girls out of their late uncle's money does Huck act. Although he informs on them, the plan fails, and the two escape again to Huck and Jim's raft, one step ahead of the mob.
Eventually, the king and the duke betray even Huck and Jim. They sell Jim to a local farmer, Silas Phelps, who plans to return him to his owner and collect the reward. After all this long journey, and after all we'd done for them scoundrels, here was it all come to nothing,' bemoans Huck, 'everything all busted up and ruined, because they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave again, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars.'
The last fifth of the novel describes Huck's attempts to rescue Jim from a return to slavery. Though his conscience bothers him about breaking a central taboo of southern society - one against freeing slaves - Huck's heart sends him a different message: that Jim is a man with all the emotions and hopes of any man, white or black, and as such Jim is as deserving of freedom as Huck is.