As you might guess from the title, Huckleberry Finn is the hero and narrator
of this story, which consists of forty-three chapters.
We learn that Huckleberry has a considerable fortune derived from his
adventures with Tom Sawyer covered in the book of the same name.
The Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, have taken it upon themselves
to civilize Huck and have taken him into their home to teach him proper manners and religion.
Huck immediately sneaks out of the house one night to join Tom Sawyer’s gang
who aim to become robbers of the locality. Unfortunately, these adventures become merely make-believe and the members of the gang soon become discontented and it breaks up.
Huck’s father Pap Finn who is renowned for his violence and drunkenness
returns to the area having heard about his son’s fortune. He is horrified to find out that Huck has been endeavoring to better himself at school and he decides to kidnap his son and take him across the
Mississippi River to the Illinois territory.
To some extent, Huck is happy to be away from the civilizing influence of
the town and to be akin with nature again, but the beatings he receives from Pap become too severe, so he decides to fake his own murder and make an escape downriver on a raft.
He meets up with Jim, the house slave of Miss Watson who was threatening to
sell him down the river to a plantation owner. Jim’s plan is to reach the town of Cairo and then go up the Ohio River to the Free states.
Huck is in conflict regarding the rights and wrongs of assisting Jim to
attain his freedom, but the more he learns about Jim’s character, the more sympathetic he becomes to his plight.
Huck and Jim meet several colorful characters during the flight including a
band of robbers salvaging booty from a wrecked steamboat, and two feuding Southern families who involve Huck in their dispute.
The only time that the two fugitives feel free is when they are on their
raft sailing down the river.
This freedom is soon shattered when their paths cross the Duke and the Dauphin whose titles are totally fictitious. They take over control of the expedition and force Huck and Jim to stop at various towns where the two tricksters swindle the gullible townsfolk out of their money and possessions. These scams are initially quite harmless, but then they decide to pose as English brothers and hatch a plot to steal a family’s entire inheritance. At the point where they are auctioning off the estate, the two real brothers appear on the scene. In the ensuing confusion Huck and Jim escape as the crowd threaten to lynch all of them. However, the Duke and the Dauphin catch them up, and Huck for a moment is in danger of his life.
Although the Duke and the Dauphin had obtained quite a large sum of money,
this has now been lost and so Jim is sold back into slavery for $40.00.
Huck is now determined to find Jim and help him gain his freedom.
He finds out that he is captive in a hut owned by Silas and Sally Phelps who happen to be Tom Sawyer’s uncle and aunt. Huck easily falls into the role of Tom as part of his plan to free Jim. However, when Tom arrives on the scene he pretends to be another relation called Sid. Still trying to be the adventurer, Tom devises an intricate plan to free Jim. The basis of the plan is based on extracts from several novels, which he has read and it soon degenerates into a complicated farce.
When the escape finally takes place, one of the pursuing crowds shoots Tom
in the calf and Jim will not leave his injured friend, thus causing his recapture.
At the Phelp’s farm Tom reveals that Miss Watson had freed Jim in her Will,
and that there was no need for this elaborate plan to free Jim.
Jim is finally set free and Huck considers where to have his next adventure
away from the white society full of so many flaws.