Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Written by: Mark Twain
Central Theme:
Synopsis: Two boys, one an escaped slave, float down the Mississippi on a raft, having adventures.
Genre(s): Picaresque
First published: December 10, 1884
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Source: Read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn here
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"Notice. Persons trying to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."

This novel is an Even Better Sequel to Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

After his worthless father shows up to demand a fortune Huck has found, Huck escapes to Jackson's Island in the Mississippi River. From there, Huck and Jim, a fugitive slave, float down the river on a raft. They have several adventures and are joined by two men claiming to be the Duke of Bridgewater and the Dauphin of France.

Considered a pillar of American literature, though also very controversial to be carried in schools due to its copious use of the n-word. A genre-savy Reader finds it even more entertaining and knowing a good deal of history doesn't hurt either. There are many instances of tropes.

The book is in public domain, and the full text is available for free at Project Gutenberg.

Tropes used in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn include:

But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.

  • The Artful Dodger: As in Tom Sawyer, Huck is never more miserable than when he's being "sivilized". He eventually gets used to it, until he ends up on the run again and vows to never go back.
  • Black Best Friend: Jim is the Ur Example.
  • Bowdlerize: An edition has recently been released with every incidence of the n-word changed to "slave". In their piece on it, The Daily Show pointed out a 1955 TV adaptation that wrote Jim out entirely.
  • Civilian Villain: Old Finn (Huck's father) is a perfect example.

the old man cried, and said he'd been a fool, and fooled away his life; but now he was agoing to turn over a new leaf and be a man nobody wouldn't be ashamed of ...
reckoned a body could reform him with a shotgun, maybe, but he didn't know no other way.

  • Complaining About Things You Haven't Paid For: Employed to set up a Stealth Insult--"He didn't charge nothing for his sermons; and it was worth it, too."
  • Complexity Addiction: Tom apparently suffers from this; his plan for freeing Jim is needlessly complicated and based on fiction he's read. Of course, it's later revealed that the whole rescue was pointless, since Jim was supposed to be a free man, and Tom knew it the whole time and was only having fun. But telling him that the moment he arrives would kill the potential of an epic prank.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back
  • Delinquents: Huck and (even more so) Tom.
  • Demoted to Extra: Becky Thatcher.
  • Dirty Old Man: The Dauphin; this is, interestingly, not played for laughs at all - Huck is outright disgusted.
  • Disguised in Drag: At one point, Huck dresses as a girl to keep the townspeople from recognizing him.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Huck.
  • Emo Teen: Emmeline Grangerford, just one of the troops proved to be Older Than They Think in this book.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When the Dauphin and the Duke are plotting to steal the inherited property of a family whose rich elder has just died, the Duke mentions to the Dauphin that he's having some moral qualms about stealing all the family's belongings besides money (i.e. their house). The Dauphin assures him that the houses will be returned to the family at the expense of the people they will sell them to after they run off with all the money and the people realize they were impostors.
  • External Retcon / Start of Darkness: Jon Clinch's Finn, which is mostly about Pap Finn.
  • Feuding Families: The Grangerfords and Shepardsons; Huck stops by just before the tipping point in their feud.
  • Flanderization: Tom Sawyer in this book is defined by his love of adventure stories, which was only one aspect of his character in Tom Sawyer.
  • Funetik Aksent: Literally everyone, including Huck in the narration. There's an author's note at the beginning pointing out that several different Funetik Aksents are being demonstrated, lest the reader think "that all these characters were attempting to talk alike and not succeeding."
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Jim telling Huck's dad's fortune:

Dey's two angels hoverin' round 'bout him. One uv 'em is white and shiny, en t'other one is black. De white one gits him to go right a little while, den de black one sail in en bust it all up.

  • Groin Attack:
    • The Duke and the Dauphin were punished by tarring and feathering and being ridden out of town on a rail. This means that they were stripped naked, covered in tar and feathers, and been paraded around town straddling a fresh-cut, splintery fence rail. To be fair, they deserved it.
    • In a Deleted Scene Huck witnesses two men in a fistfight on a barge; one of them crouches down and sticks his ass way out in order to shield his groin from attack.
  • I'm Going to Hell For This: A rare non-comedic example, Huck says this before tearing up a letter to Miss Watson to save Jim himself.
  • Inconvenient Itch: Lampshaded early in the book, when Huck and Tom hide from Jim.

There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn’t scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I’d die if I couldn’t scratch. Well, I’ve noticed that thing plenty times since. If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain’t sleepy—if you are anywheres where it won’t do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places.

  • Innocent Bigot: Huck. Actually, practically every white person in the book, to some degree. Except the villainous ones, who are just ordinary bigots.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Huck and Jim are 13 and 33, respectively.
  • Jerkass: Tom Sawyer, at least until he gets a karmic shot in the leg, called out on his BS, and starts to finally realize the error of his ways afterwards.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Duke and the Dauphin when their conning catches up to them.
  • Lighter and Softer: The last chapters of the novel, which were written after a hiatus of several years, abandon the relative seriousness of the story until then and return to Tom Sawyer's mood of slapstick comedy.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: It's explained near the beginning that Huck has told his story to Mark Twain, the same as Tom Sawyer did. One of the first novelists to use the trope, with Huckleberry Finn predating Sherlock Holmes by three years.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Tom takes inspiration for his adventures at the beginning of the book from Don Quixote, believing it to be a story of a great adventure.
  • Mood Whiplash: Huck has just seen a man get shot to death for no real reason, and the lynch mob that goes after the killer is dispersed by a Breaking Lecture. What's his reaction? Go to the circus!
  • N-Word Privileges: Jim has them. But then, since this is pre-Civil War Missouri, everyone has them.
  • Narm: In-universe, with the poems and pictures made by Emmeline Grangerford alas.
  • Nobody Here But Us Birds: As in Tom Sawyer, Tom and Huck use cat cries as signals.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Dauphin is loosely based on Emperor Norton, whom Mark Twain personally knew when he worked as a newspaperman in San Francisco.
  • Not So Different: Huck sees Jim crying one night over not knowing where his family was, and starts to realize that Jim has the same feelings white people do, and it's the start of his unlearning of everything he's been taught.
  • Parental Abandonment
  • Parental Substitute
  • Picaresque
  • Plot Hole / Retcon: Or something. The first chapter of Huck Finn states that Tom Sawyer was more or less accurate. Huck then spends the rest of the chapter recapping the ending of Tom Sawyer, only with a mind-boggling number of trivial details changed. Notably, over the course of about a week in-story, Tom Sawyer apparently forgets what ransom means and that he ever knew it. There are a fair number of other little differences.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Huck: What's ransom?
Tom: Money. You make 'em raise all they can off'n their friends...
sometime in the next few weeks, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,
Ben Rogers: Ransomed? What's that?
Tom: I don't know. But that's what they do.

  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: The book is scathingly anti-slavery, but is often banned from schools for supposed racial insensitivity--it has the n-word in it. In response to New South Books' plans to release an edition that replaces Twain's many uses of Nigger with the word "slave", there are plans to replace the word N-Word with the word Robot Do see above for Fair for Its Day, though.
  • Punny Name: A "granger" is a cattle rancher; cattle ranchers and sheepherders were old rivals in the 1800s, thus the Grangerfords and Shepardsons don't get along.
  • Rule of Cool: Parodied to pieces by Tom's plan to free Jim, which could be done simply and quickly, but Tom insists on engineering around the Rule of Cool. It goes badly.
  • The Runaway: Huck's escape from his alcoholic father sets up the rest of the plot.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Huck helps the fugitive slave Jim escape from being sold back into slavery even though he is told (and he believes!) he would go to hell for such actions.
  • Shout-Out: Tom models his adventures on the stories he's read. The careful reader can identify the specific stories even when he doesn't mention the titles--for example, "Why, look at one of them prisoners in the bottom dungeon of the Castle Deef, in the harbor of Marseilles, that dug himself out that way."
  • Snake Oil Salesman: The Duke and the Dauphin are this and just about every other kind of Con Man, except maybe the Competent sort.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • Huck disguises himself as a girl but is ultimately undone by his inability to thread a needle and his unusual way of catching a ball of yarn.
    • In the Disney film, he is caught after throwing a pot to hit a mouse, and nails it - a girl wouldn't know how to throw the thing.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Discussed. When Tom and his gang are playing robbers, Tom mentions that if they capture any young women, they'll have to hold them in their cave, and by and by they'll fall in love and never want to leave.
  • Stylistic Suck: Emmeline Grangerford's sappy poetry. Huck likes it, though.
  • Take That: Huck and Jim run into a sunken, decayed steamship called Walter Scott.
  • Tar and Feathers: The Dauphin and the Duke, later.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Huck's main conflict is the story is whether to do what he's been told is good, that is follow the rules and the law, or to follow what his own awakening morals tells him is right. His speech stating 'All right, I'll go to hell' is him choosing to do what he thinks is right even though his community has confused what is lawful with what is good to the point he believes he's risking hell by freeing Jim from Slavery.
  • Took a Level In Dumbass: In Tom Sawyer, Tom is pretty clever, but The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn gives his character a Wrong Genre Savvy makeover.
  • Two Roads Before You: Huck deciding whether to do the right thing and turn in Jim.

I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.

  • Unreliable Narrator: Lampshaded in the famous opening paragraph.
  • Walking the Earth
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Tom Sawyer, who, among other things, insists that Jim tunnel out of his prison with a spoon rather than unlocking the door and walking out.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: At the end, Huck reunites with Tom and returns to childlike scheming, just to drive home that it's time to get past all that.