The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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Chapter 3

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 3 of Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

The next morning Miss Watson gives Huck "a good going-over" because he messed up his clothes. The Widow Douglas cleans Huck's clothes and gives him a look that makes him feel guilty. Miss Watson takes him in the closet, prays, and instructs Huck to pray. She says praying can get you whatever you want. After he tries it and does not get what he wants, he tells Miss Watson, who calls him a fool. The Widow Douglas talks about spiritual gifts and helping others, but Huck thinks about it and decides it is a waste of time. The Widow Douglas talks about a loving God while Miss Watson talks about a punishing God. Huck decides there are two Gods and he prefers the widow's, "if he wanted me."

Later a man is found dead in the river and people believe it is Huck's father. He is happy about the news but comes to doubt it after he learns the person was found floating on his back, suggesting a "woman dressed up in a man's clothes." Huck says a drowned man would float on his face.

After a month Huck and the others resign from the gang. When Huck recognizes Tom's tales are fake, he loses interest in the whole matter.

Analysis

Huck continues to show himself as a thinking person. When he is introduced to a new idea he considers and will even try it before he makes a decision. There are multiple instances of that in this chapter. When Huck is told he can get anything if he prays, he asks for fishing hooks multiple times but to no avail. To Huck this is proof that prayer does not work. This scene also reveals Huck's practicality. One might think he would ask for something grander. But Huck asks for what he needs and nothing more.

Huck experiences further confusion when it comes to religion, as the widow presents God in one way and Miss Watson presents God in another way. Huck comes to believe that there must be two Gods. This can seem to represent the two-faced natures of those who pass themselves off as moral people while owning slaves and treating them in horrific ways.

Huck does not want to play the games Tom Sawyer and his gang are playing. Huck was promised robbing and killing, and that is what he expected. Therefore he loses interest, similar to the way he lost interest in prayer. The link between the two "games"—robbery and religion—is confirmed when he says about one of Tom's made-up stories, "It had all the marks of a Sunday-school."

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