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Chapter 20

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 20 of Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Chapter 20 | Summary



The con men ask Huck and Jim questions, and Huck comes up with another story and denies that Jim is a slave. They want to travel during the day. With rain threatening the con men go into the wigwam and take Huck and Jim's beds. Huck and Jim take turns sleeping outside with the other one dealing with the raft during a ferocious storm.

The next day the duke and the king devise a money-making plan. They are going to perform scenes from two Shakespeare plays. The duke and the king along with Huck go ashore at the next town they see. The town is empty; it turns out the people are at a revival meeting. Huck and the king go to the meeting. A preacher has the large crowd worked up.

The king jumps on stage and makes up a pity story, claiming he's an ex-pirate, robbed of his money but determined to convert other pirates. The people give him more than $87. Meanwhile, the duke goes to an empty print shop and earns ten dollars from print jobs. He also prints up a leaflet advertising a runaway slave matching Jim's description and the $200 reward for his capture. The duke says they can travel during the day now, tie Jim up should they see anyone, and claim that they have caught the runaway and are on their way to pick up the reward.


When the con men ask if Jim is an escaped slave, Huck replies, "Goodness sakes, would a runaway nigger run south?" The question is a legitimate one and the subject of great debate among critics of the book. Many suggest that Twain had Huck and Jim continue to go South because that is the area of the river he is familiar with. While this is logical, it makes no sense for Huck and Jim to be headed South. Ultimately if they stay in the South, their attempt to escape will surely end in failure.

Despite being con men with zero morals, the duke and the king are above a black man, regardless of the quality of his character. However, the duke and the king take a particular interest in Jim's status. It is easy to imagine that they look at Jim as a potential asset. As con men the duke and the king are only interested in anything as it relates to benefitting them. If Jim is a runaway slave, then turning him in can bring them money.

Just about every person that Huck and Jim meet is corrupt or twisted. While the preacher at the revival meeting does not come into direct contact with Huck and Jim, he may very well be trying to scam the people. The king, though, upstages the preacher and jumps into his scam. Either way the people view it as a religious gathering, and the king has no compunction in taking advantage of the people.

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