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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

Huck awakens from a nap on Jackson's Island and is ready to go back to sleep when he sees a ferryboat pass carrying people he knows. Cannonballs are shot over the water with the intention of bringing Huck's body up to the surface. Huck knows that sometimes bread is used during a river sweep for bodies and manages to find a loaf to satisfy his hunger. He then feels bad for upsetting those who care about him.

Huck explores the island for the next few days. On the fourth day of exploring he comes across a fresh campfire. He is very scared and returns to his camp, packs up his canoe and climbs a tree to see what is going on. The next morning Huck returns to the area and finds Jim, Miss Watson's slave. Huck is happy to see him, but Jim thinks he's a ghost. Huck tells Jim his story and then Jim explains that he escaped from Miss Watson because he overheard her saying she is going to sell him down river.

Jim and Huck discuss superstitions. Jim also talks about the money he has lost to scams.

Analysis

The meeting between Huck and Jim on the island begins the main part of the story. When Huck and Jim share their reasons for running away, it is instantly clear how much they have in common. Both are on the outskirts of society. Both are escaping the control of others. Both seek to rule their own fate. In many ways they are on the same level.

However, in the pre-Civil War South, the black person is always lower than everyone else. Those in town are using the cannon to look for Huck. They are genuinely saddened by his absence and do all they can to find him—even if it is just his dead body. If they were to find Jim, however, they might turn the cannon on him. Slaves are viewed as subhuman and the property of owners who can do nearly anything they want to them. Huck realizes Jim's position. By not turning Jim in Huck risks being called "a low-down Abolitionist."

However, Huck is willing to risk animosity and worse, as he has broken from society and no longer feels bound by its rules. When Huck gives Jim his word that he will not tell, that is more valuable than the rules of society. Huck is forging his own way.

Jim's reaction to Huck when he first sees him is comical. He comes off as silly and childlike. Yet during the conversation about superstition, Huck is impressed with Jim's knowledge. Jim no longer seems like the silly slave but is instead a knowledgeable man. This is the beginning of Huck's education about slaves and black people. Ultimately he will see Jim as an equal.

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