Chapters 20, 21 and 22
men want to know if Jim is a runaway slave. Huck firmly denies this
and indicates that they wouldn't be traveling south if he were a
fugitive. He fabricates a fantastic story themselves. It is now
quite obvious that Huck is an extraordinary liar. It also becomes
apparent that the men, the king and duke, are hucksters. Stopping
at a town downstream, both the Duke and the Dauphin leave the raft,
using their knack for deception to cheat quite a sum of money out
of the people.
In the next town, the two men plan a new perception. They intend
to perform a scene from a Shakespeare play and charge admission
for their performance. While on shore, Huck witnesses a mob scene
caused by a shooting. Huck realizes that the people in the mob act
on the courage of others, instead of taking individual initiative
of their own.
The Shakespeare show takes place the following night, but with only
a meager turnout. The Duke and the Dauphin change their plan for
the next night's performance and put up sign around the town for
a show called "The Royal Nonesuch." The real appeal of the show
is the fact that women and children are prohibited from coming.
The men are certain that this will cause some excitement.
Twain explores four interesting topics in these chapters.
One : the gullibility of people.
Two : the violence of the southern society.
Three : the cowardice of the mob, and
Four : the innocence of Huckleberry.
One : the pirate’s conversion to a missionary raises a large sum of money
from the crowd, which suggests that in a mob, people do strange things and can be swept along with the tide of hysteria. If the Dauphin had claimed conversion and asked for money to an individual, then he
would likely receive nothing, but be told to go away. However, the audacity of the Dauphin to claim conversion in front of so many is taken at face value.
Two : it seems an almost everyday occurrence that minor disputes and insults
are resolved by the gun.
Sherburn’s cold killing of the drunk seems an over-reaction and naturally causes the local people to organize a lynching. Their reaction is to meet violence with violence without any recourse to the process of law.
Three : we have seen in ‘One’ above the hysteria that the mob can
generate. In the lynch mob, cowardice is present. They pursue Sherburn like a pack of dogs, but when confronted by an armed man, they scatter after receiving a few harsh words.
Four : we see another interesting aspect of Huck’s character on his visit to
He thinks that the clown has made the jokes up on the spot where in fact the routine would have been well rehearsed. He is also amazed at the drunk trying to ride the horse failing to realize that this is stage-managed and part of the act.