- born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri,
- four years old, his family moved to Hannibal, a
town on the Mississippi River
- spent his young life in fairly affluent family that owned
number of household slaves
- left school, worked for a printer
- in 1851, having finished his
apprenticeship, began to set type for his brother Orion’s newspaper, the Hannibal Journal
- in his early twenties, Clemens gave up his printing
career in order to work on riverboats on Mississippi River
- became riverboat pilot
- riverboat life provided him with pen name Mark Twain, derived
from riverboat leadsmen’s signal—“By the mark, twain”—that water was deep enough for safe passage
- gave him material for several of his books, including the
raft scenes of Huckleberry Finn and the material for his autobiographical Life on the Mississippi (1883)
- continued to work on river until 1861
as Civil War shut down Mississippi for travel &
- went west with his brother Orion, working first
as silver miner in Nevada
- then stumbling into his true calling, journalism
- in 1863, he began to sign
articles with name Mark Twain
- began work on Huckleberry
Finn, sequel to Tom Sawyer
- new novel took on more serious character as it focused on
institution of slavery & South
- despite many personal troubles he continued to
be in demand as public speaker until his death in 1910
- through twentieth century, Huck Finn has become famous not merely
as crown jewel in work of one of America’s preeminent writers, but also as subject of intense controversy occasionally
has been banned in Southern states because of its steadfastly critical look at South & hypocrisies of slavery
- dismissed as vulgar or racist because it uses word “nigger,”
term whose connotations obscure novel’s deeper themes—which are unequivocally antislavery—and even prevent
some from reading and enjoying it altogether historical context in which Twain wrote made his use of the word insignificant—and,
indeed, part of realism he wanted to create proved significant not only as novel that explores racial and moral world
of its time but also, through the controversies that continue to surround it, as artifact of those same moral & racial
tensions as they have evolved to present day:Something new happened in Huck Finn that had never happened in American literature
- It was book,
as many critics have observed, that served as Declaration of Independence from
genteel English novel tradition
Finn allowed different kind of writing to happen: clean, crisp, no-nonsense, earthy
vernacular kind of writing that jumped off printed page with unprecedented immediacy and energy
- it was a book that talked : Huck's voice, combined with Twain's
satiric genius, changed shape of fiction in America,
& African-American voices had much to do with making it what it was
List of Characters
Huckleberry Finn -
· narrator of the novel
· 13 year old son of the local drunk
of St. Petersburg, Missouri, a town on the Mississippi
Tom Sawyer -
· Huck’s friend
protagonist of Tom
· foil to Huck
Widow Douglas and Miss Watson -
· 2 wealthy sisters who live together in large house in St. Petersburg
· adopt Huck
· Miss Watson: gaunt & severe
· most prominent representative of the hypocritical religious & ethical values
Twain criticizes Widow Douglas: gentler in her beliefs
· more patient with Huck
· one of Miss Watson’s household slaves
· superstitious & occasionally sentimental
· intelligent, practical, and ultimately more of an adult than anyone else in the
· frequently acts unselfishly
· longs for his family
· friendship with both Huck & Tom
· demonstrates to Huck that humanity has nothing to do with race
· runaway slave
· town drunk and ne’er-do-well
· wreck at the beginning with disgusting, ghostlike white skin & tattered clothes
· disapproves of Huck’s education
· beats Huck frequently
· represents both debasement of white society & failure of family structures
duke and dauphin -
· pair of con men
· older man claims to be “dauphin,” son of King Louis XVI & heir
to the French throne
· younger man claims to be usurped Duke of Bridgewater
· conduct disturbing swindles as they travel down river on raft
Judge Thatcher -
· local judge
· shares responsibility for Huck with Widow Douglas
in charge of safeguarding money
that Huck and Tom found at end of Tom Sawyer
· has daughter, Becky, Tom’s girlfriend in Tom Sawyer
· called “Bessie” by Huck
· family that takes Huck in after steamboat hits his raft, separating him from Jim
· live in tacky country home
· long-standing feud with another local family, Shepherdsons
· Twain uses 2 families to engage in humor & to mock overly romanticizes ideas
about family honor
Silas and Sally Phelps -
· Tom Sawyer’s aunt & uncle
· good people
· hold Jim in custody & try to return him to his rightful owner
· only intact & functional family
Aunt Polly -
· Tom Sawyer’s aunt & guardian
· Sally Phelps’s sister
Huck Finn vocabulary by chapter
1.sugar-hogshead a large barrel used to store sugar.
2.the quality word used by the South to describe aristocracy,
piece monetary equivalent of a nickel. Nickels were not minted until after the Civil War.
flat-bottomed boat propelled by oars.
milder slang alternative for “damned.”
the nation slang for “damnation.”
confer, to have an intense discussion; originally from a North American Indian word.
“sumter” mule sumpter mule, a packhorse, mule, or other
animal used for carrying baggage.
in ambuscade hide in ambush.
up to polish.
propagandizing pamphlet, especially one on a religious or political subject.
sap-head a fool.
4.irish potato the common white potato; so called because extensively cultivated
in de bills predestined, foreordained by divine decree or intent.
5. & 6.black slouch a felt hat with a broad, floppy rim.
in her shovel offered an opinion.
rope made from strands of broken or coarse flax or hemp.
a person who has one black parent and one white parent.
member of the community.
tremens involuntary muscle spasm usually associate with drinking alcohol and characterized by sweating, anxiety,
7. palavering talking or idly chattering.
line a strong fishing line suspended over the water, with short, baited lines hung at intervals.
place, as a hollow, full of soft, deep mud; a swamp, bog, or marsh, especially one that is part of an inlet or backwater.
the right side of a ship or boat or boat as one faces forward.
8. corn-pone corn meal.
in my craw courage.
er dog-leg a plug of cheap chewing tobacco.
the nearly colorless solid fat extracted from the natural fat of cattle or sheep, used in making candles and soaps.
9. & 10. Barlow knife a jackknife with one blade.
bits 25 cents.
small handbag or sewing bag, originally made of needlework and usually having a drawstring.
lively, chipper, or smart.
12. & 13. tow-head sandbar with thick reeds.
or metal spikes used to plow land.
cantaloupe or other moderate sized melon.
iron rod or wooden bar on a ship to which the sails are fastened.
Walter Scott (1771-1832) Scottish poet and novelist, author of Ivanhoe.
14. the texas a structure on the hurricane deck of a steamboat, containing
the officers‘ quarters, etc. and having the pilothouse on top or in front.
eldest son of the king of France, a title
used from 1349 to 1830.
franzy parlez-vous Francais, “Do you speak French?
15 & 16. Cairo city in southern Illinois, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
17 & 18. dog-irons iron braces used to hold firewood.
Progress a religious allegory by John Bunyan (1678).
tall flagstaff planted in the ground.
bowie a steel knife about fifteen inches long, with a single edge, usually carried in a sheath.
and tuck so close that the outcome is uncertain.
theological doctrine that God foreordained everything that would happen.
floor floor made of a heavy, broad piece of roughly dressed timber with one side hewed flat.
19 &20. gar needlefish.
a person, esp. an awkward, ungainly person.
old-fashioned type of traveling bag, made of carpeting.
and feather to cover a person with tar and feathers as in punishment by mob action.
that collects in the bilge of a ship, slang for worthless or silly talk.
cloth case covering that is filled with cotton, feathers, or hair to form a mattress or pillow.
yarn-dyed cotton cloth, usually woven in stripes, checks, or plaids.
printed cotton fabric.
a religious revival.
21, 22 & 23. Capet Hugh Capet, king of France (987-996); here, the duke’s reference to the king.
weed jimson weed; a poisonous annual weed (Datura stramonium) of the nightshade family, with foul-smelling leaves,
prickly fruit, and white or purplish, trumpet-shaped flowers.
to be made a fool
25 & 26. doxolojer the doxology; a hymn of praise to God.
rites or ceremonies.
water from Saratoga said to have medicinal properities.
27 & 28. mouch steal.
a small keyboard organ.
acute infectious disease of the skin or mucous membranes caused by a streptococcus and characterized by local inflammation
frame with spikes or sharp-edged disks, drawn by a horse or tractor and used for breaking up and leveling plowed ground, covering
seeds, rooting up weeds, etc.
29&30: cravats neckerchiefs
half-ounce gold or silver coin of the ancient Hebrews.
talk rapidly and incoherently; jabber; chatter.
31: Spanish Moss a plant often
found growing in long, graceful strands from the branches of trees in the south eastern U.S.
32&33: smokehouse a building,
especially an outbuilding on a farm, where meats, fish, etc. are smoked in order to cure and flavor them.
thing that blocks the way or prevents entrance or further movement, as in a sandbar.
one of the biblical patriarchs who was said to live 969 years.
34&35: fox-fire the luminescence
of decaying wood and plant remains, caused by various fungi.
a steward or major-domo in the household of a medieval noble.
Langudoc Languedoc, historical region of southern France.
region and former kingdom in northeast Spain and southwest France.
36&37&38: dog-fennel any
of several weeds or wildflowers of the composite family, having daisylike flower heads.
a shield or shield-shaped surface on which a coat of arms is displayed.
harp jew’s harp, a small musical instrument consisting of a lyre-shaped metal frame held between the teeth
and played by plucking a projecting bent piece with the finger.
stalks stalks of the mullein, a tall plant of the figwort family, with spikes of yellow, lavender, or white flowers.
39&40: allycumpain elecampane,
a tall, hairy perennial plant of the composite family, having flower heads with many slender, yellow rays.
41&42: Nebokoodneezer Nebuchadnezzar,
king of Babylonia who conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple,
and deported many Jews into Babylonia (586 bc).
Huck Finn Study Questions by chapter
1. With whom was Huck living at the beginning of the book?
2. Who is the narrator of the book?
3. What relation is Miss Watson to the Widow Douglas?
4. Who takes care of Huck and Tom's money?
5. Who was waiting for Huck Finn after midnight?
6. To whom did Jim belong?
7. Who did Jim say gave him the 'five-center piece' he wore around his neck?
8. Who was called a cry-baby?
9. What was the "line of business" of the gang?
10. Who was elected Second Captain over “Tom Sawyer's Gang?”
11. Why did Huck get a good 'going-over?'
12. How did Huck know that his 'Pap' wasn't drowned?
13. Where did Jim get his hairball?
14. What made Huck suspect Pap was back?
15. Who is Pap?
16. Where is Pap at the end of the chapter?
17. How did Huck's unexpected visitor get in the room?
18. What did Pap trade his new coat for?
19. What did the judge recon a body would need to reform Pap?
20. What did Pap get every time he got money?
21. What object did Huck use to escape the cabin?
22. Why does Pap not vote?
23. For what did Huck dive in the water?
24. What did Huck drop "so as to look like it had been done by accident?"
25. What was Huck's destination once he was in the canoe?
26. Why was the ferry-boat firing the cannon?
27. How long is Jackson
28. What did Huck find that made his "heart jump up amongst his lungs?"
29. Why was Jim afraid of Huck?
30. Why didn't Huck believe that bees didn't sting idiots?
31. How wide was the island?
32. What did Jim say that the little birds said?
33. Were they right?
34. How did the man in the house die?
35. What did Huck and Jim find sewed up in the lining of an old blanket overcoat?
36. After Jim got bit by the rattlesnake, what did he have Huck do with the rattles?
37. Why does Huck think that Jim got bit by the snake?
38. What two objects did they find in the stomach of the catfish?
39. Who is Sarah Williams?
40. Where is Sarah from?
41. What three ways did Mrs. Loftus ascertain Sarah's true gender?
42. What is a tow-head?
43. What two items did Huck and Jim decide to NOT "borrow?"
44. According to Huck Finn, how much do steamboat captains make per month?
45. What's the name of the wreck?
46. According to Huck Finn, how many wives did Solomon have?
47. How many boxes of cigars did Huck and Jim get from the ferry-boat?
48. How did Louis the XVI die?
49. Where did Huck lose the raft?
50. What town were Huck and Jim looking for?
51. Why was Huck miserable?
52. How did the raft get destroyed?
53. What was Huck's pseudonym?
54. How did Huck find out his pseudonym after he'd forgotten it?
55. How did Stephen Dowling Bots Die?
56. Who was Col. Grangerfords oldest son?
57. At what time was Miss Sophia supposed to have her rendezvous?
58. With whom did Sophia Grangerford run off with?
59. Who wouldn't say, "dern the fog"?
60. The two men said that they were really whom?
61. How old was the imaginary boy named Ike?
62. How much did the King make at the camp meeting?
63. What play are the duke and the king rehearsing?
64. What is the "most celebrated thing in Shakespeare"?
65. Who Killed Boggs?
66. Colonel Sherburn says that the average man is a what?
67. How much did "them rapscallions" take in in three nights?
68. Who does Huck say is Henry the Eighth's father?
69. Why did Jim feel bad about hitting his daughter?
70. What was Peter Wilkes occupation while he was living?
71. Who are Peter Wilkes' three nieces?
72. How much were the king and duke short of $6,000 in the basement?
73. Who told the girls the King was a fraud?
74. Where did Huck hide to eavesdrop on the king and duke?
75. Where did the King put the money?
76. Where did Huck stick the money?
77. Why was the dog howling in the basement during the funeral?
78. Whom did Huck say he had seen in the king's room?
79. To where was Mary Jane going for 4 days?
80. In what town did the duke and the king play the "Royal nonesuch"?
81. Who was the man with the broken arm?
82. What did the king say was tatooed on Peter Wilkes breast?
83. What did Harvey Wilkes say was tatooed on his brother’s breast?
84. What does the duke say is the one smart thing the king did, the thing that saved them?
85. At whose house was Jim when Huck came back to the raft?
86. How much did the king get for Jim?
87. How much was the reward for Jim?
88. Huck found out that you can't pray what?
89. What is Silas' wife's name?
90. Who do Mr. and Mrs. Phelps think Huck is?
91. Who was coming from town in a wagon?
92. What did the stranger do to Aunt Sally that made her almost hit him?
93. What happened to the king and the duke?
94. What two clues assured Tom and Huck that Jim was in the shed?
95. How did Tom and Huck finally decide to free Jim?
96. What did Tom and Huck hear that made them stop talking about Jim's escape?
97. How many knives did Tom want Huck to "smouch"?
98. What kind of pie did Tom tell Nat to make?
99. How many tallow candles did tom steal?
100. Where do they keep the boots and rags, and pieces of bottles and wore-out tin things,
and all such truck?
101. According to Tom, from where did William the Conqueror come, and on what ship?
102. What does "Maggoire fretta, minore atto" mean?
103. What was Jim to get instead of a rattlesnake?
104. What was Tom going to put in Jim's coffee pot?
105. What did Tom and Huck see dripping from the rafters, landing on plates and down the
back of your neck?
106. What did Tom and Huck do with the sawdust?
107. What happened that alerted the farmers to Tom, Huck, and Jim's presence?
108. What was Jim wearing during the "evasion"?
109. Who went to get the doctor? Why?
110. Why didn't the dogs lead the farmers to Jim and the boys?
111. How much did the doctor say a nigger like Jim was worth?
Chapter the last-
112. How much money was waiting for Huck back home?
113. How did Huck's Pap die?
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often considered Twain's greatest masterpiece. Combining his raw humor and startlingly
mature material, Twain developed a novel that directly attacked many of the traditions the South held dear at the time of
its publication. Huckleberry Finn is the main character, and through his eyes, the reader sees and judges the South, its faults, and its redeeming qualities.
Huck’s companion Jim, a runaway slave, provides friendship and protection while the two journey along the Mississippi on their raft.
The novel opens with Huck telling his story. Briefly, he describes what he
has experienced since, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which preceded this novel. After Huck and Tom discovered twelve thousand dollars in treasure, Judge Thatcher invested the money for them. Huck was adopted by the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, both of whom took pains to raise him properly. Dissatisfied with his new life, and wishing for the simplicity he used to
know, Huck runs away. Tom Sawyer searches him out and convinces him to return home by promising to start a band of robbers. All the local young boys join
Tom's band, using a hidden cave for their hideout and meeting place. However, many soon grow bored with their make-believe
battles, and the band falls apart.
Soon thereafter, Huck discovers footprints in the snow and recognizes them
as his violent, abusive Pap's. Huck realizes Pap, who Huck hasn’t seen in a very long time, has returned to claim the money Huck found, and he
quickly runs to Judge Thatcher to "sell" his share of the money for a "consideration" of a dollar. Pap catches Huck after
leaving Judge Thatcher, forces him to hand over the dollar, and threatens to beat Huck if he ever goes to school again.
Upon Pap’s return, Judge Thatcher and the Widow try to gain court custody
of Huck, but a new judge in town refuses to separate Huck from his father. Pap steals Huck away from the Widow's house and
takes him to a log cabin. At first Huck enjoys the cabin life, but after receiving frequent beatings, he decides to escape.
When Pap goes into town, Huck seizes the opportunity. He saws his way out of the log cabin, kills a pig, spreads the blood
as if it were his own, takes a canoe, and floats downstream to Jackson's Island. Once there, he sets up camp and hides out.
A few days after arriving on the island, Huck stumbles upon a still smoldering
campfire. Although slightly frightened, Huck decides to seek out his fellow inhabitant. The next day, he discovers Miss Watson's
slave, Jim, is living on the island. After overhearing the Widow’s plan to sell him to a slave trader, Jim ran away.
Jim, along with the rest of the townspeople, thought Huck was dead and is frightened upon seeing him. Soon, the two share
their escape stories and are happy to have a companion.
While Huck and Jim live on the island, the river rises significantly. At one
point, an entire house floats past them as they stand near the shore. Huck and Jim climb aboard to see what they can salvage
and find a dead man lying in the corner of the house. Jim goes over to inspect the body and realizes it is Pap, Huck’s
father. Jim keeps this information a secret.
Soon afterwards, Huck returns to the town disguised as a girl in order to
gather some news. While talking with a woman, he learns that both Jim and Pap are suspects in his murder. The woman then tells
Huck that she believes Jim is hiding out on Jackson's Island. Upon hearing her suspicions, Huck immediately returns to Jim
and together they flee the island to avoid discovery.
Using a large raft, they float downstream during the nights and hide along
the shore during the days. In the middle of a strong thunderstorm, they see a steamboat that has crashed, and Huck convinces
Jim to land on the boat. Together, they climb aboard and discover there are three thieves on the wreck, two of whom are debating
whether to kill the third. Huck overhears this conversation, and he and Jim try to escape, only to find that their raft has
come undone from its makeshift mooring. They manage to find the robbers’ skiff and immediately take off. Within a short
time, they see the wrecked steamship floating downstream, far enough below the water-line to have drowned everyone on board.
Subsequently, they reclaim their original raft, and continue down the river with both the raft and the canoe.
As Jim and Huck continue floating downstream, they become close friends. Their
goal is to reach Cairo, where they can take a steamship up the Ohio River and into the free states. However, during a dense
fog, with Huck in the canoe and Jim in the raft, they are separated. When they find each other in the morning, it soon becomes
clear that in the midst of the fog, they passed Cairo.
A few nights later, a steamboat runs over the raft, and forces Huck and Jim
to jump overboard. Again, they are separated as they swim for their lives. Huck finds the shore and is immediately surrounded
by dogs. After managing to escape, he is invited to live with a family called the Grangerford's. At the Grangerford home,
Huck is treated well and discovers that Jim is hiding in a nearby swamp. Everything is peaceful until an old family feud between
the Grangerford's and the Shepherdson's is rekindled. Within one day all the men in the Grangerford family are killed, including
Huck's new best friend, Buck. Amid the chaos, Huck runs back to Jim, and together they start downriver again.
Further downstream, Huck rescues two humbugs known as the Duke and the King.
Immediately, the two men take control of the raft and start to travel downstream, making money by cheating people in the various
towns along the river. The Duke and the King develop a scam they call the Royal Nonesuch, which earns them over four hundred dollars. The scam involves getting
all the men in the town to come to a show with promises of great entertainment. In the show, the King parades around naked
for a few minutes. The men are too ashamed to admit to wasting their money, and tell everyone else that the show was phenomenal,
thus making the following night’s performance a success. On the third night, everyone returns plotting revenge, but
the Duke and King manage to escape with all their ill gotten gains.
Further downriver, the two con men learn about a large inheritance meant for
three recently orphaned girls. To steal the money, the men pretend to be the girls’ British uncles. The girls are so
happy to see their "uncles" that they do not realize they are being swindled. Meanwhile, the girls treat Huck so nicely that
he vows to protect them from the con men’s scheme. Huck sneaks into the King's room and steals the large bag of gold
from the inheritance. He hides the gold in Peter Wilks's (the girls' father) coffin. Meanwhile, the humbugs spend their time liquidating the Wilks family property. At one point,
Huck finds Mary Jane Wilks, the eldest of the girls, and sees that she is crying. He confesses the entire story to her. She is infuriated, but agrees
to leave the house for a few days so Huck can escape.
Right after Mary Jane leaves, the real Wilks uncles arrive in town. However,
because they lost their baggage on their voyage, they are unable to prove their identities. Thus, the town lawyer gathers
all four men to determine who is lying. The King and the Duke fake their roles so well that there is no way to determine the truth. Finally, one of the real uncles says his
brother Peter had a tattoo on his chest and challenges the King to identify it. In order to determine the truth, the townspeople
decide to exhume the body. Upon digging up the grave, the townspeople discover the missing money Huck hid in the coffin. In
the ensuing chaos, Huck runs straight back to the raft and he and Jim push off into the river. The Duke and King also escape
and catch up to rejoin the raft.
Farther down the river, the King and Duke sell Jim into slavery, claiming
he is a runaway slave from New Orleans. Huck decides to rescue Jim, and daringly walks up to the house where Jim is being
kept. Luckily, the house is owned by none other than Tom Sawyer's Aunt Sally. Huck immediately pretends to be Tom. When the
real Tom arrives, he pretends to be his younger brother, Sid Sawyer. Together, he and Huck contrive a plan to help Jim escape from his "prison," an outdoor shed. Tom, always the troublemaker,
also makes Jim's life difficult by putting snakes and spiders into his room.
After a great deal of planning, the boys convince the town that a group of
thieves is planning to steal Jim. That night, they collect Jim and start to run away. The local farmers follow them, shooting
as they run after them. Huck, Jim, and Tom manage to escape, but Tom is shot in the leg. Huck returns to town to fetch a doctor,
whom he sends to Tom and Jim’s hiding place. The doctor returns with Tom on a stretcher and Jim in chains. Jim is treated
badly until the doctor describes how Jim helped him take care of the boy. When Tom awakens, he demands that they let Jim go
At this point, Aunt Polly appears, having traveled all the way down the river. She realized something was very wrong after her sister wrote to her
that both Tom and Sid had arrived. Aunt Polly tells them that Jim is indeed a free man, because the Widow had passed away
and freed him in her will. Huck and Tom give Jim forty dollars for being such a good prisoner and letting them free him, while
in fact he had been free for quite some time.
After this revelation, Jim tells Huck to stop worrying about his Pap and reveals
that the dead man in the floating house was in fact Huck's father. Aunt Sally offers to adopt Huck, but he refuses on the
grounds that he had tried that sort of lifestyle once before, and it didn’t suit him. Huck concludes the novel stating
he would never have undertaken the task of writing out his story in a book, had he known it would take so long to complete.