The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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Chapter 31

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 31 of Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Chapter 31 | Summary

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Summary

After a few days of travel, the raft is in the Deep South. Judging that they are beyond any rumors, the duke and the king pull a bunch of different scams but none of them work out. Desperate and depressed, the duke and the king go into the wigwam and have long discussions. Huck and Jim are worried and resolve not to get involved with the con men and to give them the shake at the first opportunity.

The king goes ashore to see if they had gotten word of the performances of "Royal Nonesuch." When he does not return Huck and the duke go look for him. When they do find the king, he and the duke get into a bar fight. Huck runs off with the intention of getting on the raft and getting away from them. When he gets to the raft, however, Jim is nowhere to be found. Huck asks a local and finds out Jim was taken to Silas Phelps's place because he is a runaway slave. The king is the one who has turned him in, trading in the advertisement depicting Jim the duke had printed for a mere forty dollars.

Huck returns to the raft, very angry that the duke and the king would sell Jim after all that was done for them. Huck is torn about what to do next. He feels guilt for helping Jim and decides to write a letter to Miss Watson because it would be better for Jim to be a slave back in St. Petersburg where his family is. Huck continues to contemplate the situation and even prays before finally deciding to tear up the letter. He declares, "All right, then, I'll go to hell" and heads to the Phelps Farm with the intention of stealing Jim out of slavery.

On the way Huck bumps into the duke, who thinks Huck will tell the townspeople about the scheme. He lies about how Jim was sold and tells Huck he needs to be quiet about it. Huck promises he won't tell.

Analysis

This chapter is a turning point in the novel and in Huck's development. While Huck has had internal debates about his role in Jim's escape, this scene is different. Huck makes a decision from which he will not turn back.

In the system that Huck has been raised in, slavery is right and to help a slave is immoral. If Huck helps Jim he is risking his reputation since people will look down upon him and judge him unfavorably. Huck tries to pray for forgiveness for considering letting Jim go, but it does not work because he does not see Jim as a lesser person. Instead Huck has come to see Jim as a complete person and his equal (or moral superior) in every way. He recalls how well Jim has treated him. And there is his dilemma: he views Jim one way and his society views Jim in another way.

When Huck decides to go to "hell" on Jim's behalf, he is making a break from his society and its belief systems. He will act based on his conscience and not automatically bow to what society tells him to do. Jim's actions and treatment of Huck are different from anyone else's. His kindness, decency, and even love ultimately make Huck's decision to "go to hell" clear. Once Huck makes the decision he will not stop until Jim is freed. Huck is now comfortable with himself.

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