The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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Chapter 1

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 1 of Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Chapter 1 | Summary

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Summary

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn begins with a summary of the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and what has transpired since then. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn each received $6,000 from the money they found from the robbers. The money is put into a trust, and they receive a dollar a day.

Huck lives with the Widow Douglas, and her goal is to "sivilize" him. When he tires of the process Huck leaves, but Tom Sawyer finds him and says he is forming a band of robbers. Huck can join if he goes "back to the widow and [is] respectable."

Huck goes back, and the widow teaches him about religion. Once Huck learns Moses is dead, the boy loses interest. Heaven strikes him as boring, while the "bad place" sounds interesting. The widow refuses to let him smoke (even though she herself takes "snuff"). Her sister, Miss Watson, tries to teach Huck how to read and write, and he makes progress.

Despite the women's good intentions, Huck is terribly bored and lonely with his situation. He sneaks out of the house after he hears a sound and finds Tom Sawyer waiting.

Analysis

A connection is established with the earlier Tom Sawyer book right away, but the reader learns it is not necessary to have read the previous book. Huckleberry Finn is his own character and his book stands on its own. Like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn focuses on boys and adventure, but this book also serves as social commentary.

Twain instantly establishes Huck's voice: "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but that ain't no matter." While "Mr. Mark Twain" wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, this is Huckleberry Finn's book, and he'll be telling the story. Huck's voice and perspective are unsophisticated and conversational. Yet despite his funny way of seeing things, Huck is forthright and perceptive. He recognizes truth and is not afraid to question his elders. He does this repeatedly when discussing the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson. Though he lacks education, Huck recognizes and disapproves of hypocrites and hypocritical behavior. The Widow Douglas's rebuke and strict forbiddance of him smoking his pipe is contrasted with her taking snuff.

The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson are presented as upright Christian women. They insist on evening prayers and call the slaves to join them. Huck does not question this, which lets the reader know this is a common occurrence. Similarly he calls the slaves he comes into contact with "niggers," a word that comes up throughout the text and was an accepted part of the vernacular at the time being depicted. Moreover slavery was an accepted institution in the South; as a result, one could be perceived as moral and be a slaveholder.

Despite the controversy the text does explore the contrast between the rules of civilization and freedom. When Huck is in the house with the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, he feels confined. The rules of civilization don't make sense to him and seem to serve no purpose, particularly when he sees the hypocrisy. Huck longs to be free so he can live by his own rules—a theme that anticipates the figure of Jim and the controversy surrounding his characterization.

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Questions for Chapter 1

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