Huck Finn

The Duke’s Shakespearean
soliloquy is a piece of
comedy in its own right. As
fake as it is, Huck is
David Garrick and Edmund
Kean were real people, the
most famous
Shakespearean actors of
the 19th century.
In town, Huck finds himself
in surroundings that are
directly opposite the ones
he just left with the
Grangerfords – yet no more
Huck witnesses the coldblooded shooting of a toughtalking drunk who insults a
well-dressed man named
Colonel Sherburn, who shows
a little patience by giving the
man a warning but then kills
him when the warning is
The townsfolks’ reaction? To
fight over “front-row seats” to
see the dead body, and to
revel in a reenactment of the
Only then to they decide to
lynch Sherburn.
“The average man’s a
coward…The average man
don’t like trouble and
This is Sherburn, who has
just shot and killed a man in
cold blood and is
contemptuous of the crowd
that has come to lynch him.
It is a mob comprised of
average men who lack the
courage to face a single
true man in daylight.
Without masks or the cover
of darkness, they are
The speech reflects Twain’s
own attitude toward people
in general.
The human race is, for the
most part, made up of fools
and knaves.
Note Sherburn refers to the
average man; he (and
Twain) imply the existence
of true men who can rise
above the average.
We can see Jim as a true
man of natural nobility;
Huck himself is growing
into such a man.
Twain was a humorist – but
sometimes the humor
vanished, and the result were
ugly, bitter comments about
the human race, such as
Sherburn’s speech.
Huck shows he is still a simple
kid when he is taken in by the
circus master’s ruse.
Jim’s pining for his family, and
Huck seems surprised, which
indicates he still doesn’t think
of Jim as quite human, even if
he is friends with Jim.
Jim’s account of his actions
toward his deaf daughter
shows us how human Jim
really is.
“…All kings is mostly
rapscallions, as fur as I
can make out…” (Jim)
Huck reflects Twain’s
own contempt for
European aristocracy
when he says, “They
don’t do nothing…They
just set around – except
maybe when there’s a
war; then they go to war.
But other times they just
lazy around.”
Jim calls the king and
duke rapscallions
because of their blatant
But rapscallions are
rogues rather than
villains: Their rascality
may range from mere
mischief to trickery,
fraud, and theft but never
to crimes of complete
moral depravity such as
murder or rape.
“…I do believe [Jim] cared
as much for his people as
white folks does for their’n.
It don’t seem natural, but I
reckon it’s so.”
In the slave-holding society
of Huck’s time, African
Americans are regarded as
cattle, incapable of
experiencing any of the
deeper of finer human
Therefore, their Godordained role is that of
insensible beasts of
Huck does not
consciously question the
values of his society.
Thus, he initially has
difficulty accepting Jim’s
humanity: The concept
that a black man has the
same capacity to love his
family as white people
does run contrary to
everything Huck has
been taught.
It is Huck’s loving heart
that allows him to rise
above the conditioning of
his society and recognize
Jim as a fellow human
being with a soul.
Although Huck never
questions the rightness
of slavery, his acceptance
of Jim’s humanity
unconsciously denies
any moral justification for
The plan to have Jim get
in costume on the raft is a
plot device that allows
Huck and the con men to
stay in town for several
The town’s reaction to the
con men’s story about
being the deceased
man’s relatives made
Huck say to himself, “It
was enough to make a
body ashamed of the
human race.”
Why does Huck go along
with this shameful
behavior? Jim, whom
Huck knows is in a
dangerous situation with
these ruthless
Twain expresses disgust
with more than the con
men – he also is
disgusted with the
narrow vision of the
townspeople. It all adds
up to an indictment of all
of us.
Imposter: one who
practices deceit or
fraud by pretending to
be someone he is not.
 The King is a double
impostor: He is not
really a king and is now
assuming the false
identity of Parson
Harvey Wilks so that he
can steal from the
deceased Peter Wilks’
The novel is filled with
impostors, thus
pointing up the
hypocrisy of the
 Even Huck becomes an
impostor on several
occasions, although,
when he assumes a
false identity, it is to
either protect Jim or
himself rather than
commit fraud.
Chapter 27 ends with Huck
expressing his pleasure that “I’d
worked it all off onto the niggers,
and yet hadn’t done the niggers
no harm by it.” His practical
approach to morality is still much
in evidence, but he’s also
unwilling to hurt other people
when it can be avoided.
Huck is startled and puzzled by
the discovery that in a tight spot it
might actually be better and safer
to tell the truth than lie.
He compares himself to Judas,
however – in keeping with his low
Mary Jane’s willingness to pray
for Huck may lead him to fall in
love for the first and only time in
his life.

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