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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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Chapter 23

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 23 of Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Chapter 23 | Summary



The duke and the king prepare for their new production. The show sells out. Huck and the crowd find the show very funny. In the end, however, the people are angry at the length of the show and feel duped. They are ready to become an angry mob again and rush the audience but instead worry that people will find them fools. So they agree to encourage others to come to the show so they will be cheated as well. On the third night there is a packed house again, but the people plan on taking revenge. The duke and Huck join the king and Jim, who are on the raft, and make a run for it. Jim does not understand how kings can act in such a manner but Huck says that's the way they are. Both Huck and Jim would like to be rid of the duke and the king.

That night Jim expresses homesickness and laments about being separated from his wife and children. He tells Huck a story about a time he was mean to his child because he did not realize she had gone deaf and dumb from scarlet fever. Jim feels very bad about it.


The reaction to the ridiculous play reveals the townspeople's spitefulness toward each other. They willingly play a part in cheating each other. These same people find it funny to see a drunk man curse someone. Their ugly behavior leaves the reader feeling they get what they deserve.

On the other side of things Jim's decency and humanity surprise Huck. Based on Huck's reaction to seeing Jim pine over his lost family, the prevailing attitude in the South is that slaves don't care "as much for [their] people as white folks does for their'n." Slave families are broken up in an attempt to destroy their family bonds. When this cruel strategy works, people presume that insensitivity is simply an inherent trait in slaves, making them less than white people. Witnessing Jim's sensitivity and recognizing that he too has feelings about his family is part of Huck's education. Huck is on the path to seeing slaves as equals to whites.

For Huck the story of how a parent is concerned and upset about how he was insensitive toward his child is particularly poignant. It contrasts with Pap, Huck's father, who beats Huck for no reason at all. The paternal side of Jim has been evident in numerous exchanges with Huck, and it is clear that such feelings have their roots in his role of father to his own children.

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