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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In Chapter 7 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, why does Jim tell Huck about his reason for being on the island?

Besides being asked by Huck, Jim has little choice but to explain his presence on the island. Despite Huck's low place in society, he—a white person—is above Jim, a slave. If Huck so chose, he could turn Jim in or at least tell of his whereabouts. However, Jim seems to trust Huck more than one might expect a black person to trust a white person. The two have some sort of relationship as evidenced by Huck's going to Jim when he wants to know his future. Jim's paternal instinct seems to give him the awareness that Huck needs someone and is not the type of person who will turn him in. Similarly Huck comes to Jim after he has left his actual father. As the story progresses Jim will become a surrogate father to Huck.

Why is it significant that the snake brings bad luck to Jim and Huck in Chapter 9 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

When Huck and Jim first meet on the island, they get along well. As the days go on they remain compatible and enjoy each other's company. They act as equals toward each other despite how their society would view them. There are also times when Jim acts as a parent toward Huck. Their lives on the island are idyllic. Just as the snake led to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Huck's prank with the snake is the beginning of the end of the time Huck and Jim will spend on Jackson's Island. It also reminds the reader that Huck is a child. He enjoys Jim's company and appreciates his wisdom, yet he still sees him as someone he can tease due to his station in life. Seeing how Jim was impacted by his prank is the beginning of Huck's journey to see Jim as an equal.

How are Huck and Jim shown to be alike in Chapter 8 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Both Huck and Jim are outsiders in their community. Jim is a black man and a slave. He is the property of a white woman. Huck is the child of a drunk who mistreats him. The two of them have no rights and are at the mercy of others who can treat them however they wish. Each of them has come to Jackson's Island because their masters have abused them. In Jim's case Miss Watson is ready to sell him down the river, where slaves are generally treated worse, and he would be separated from his family. In Huck's case his father beats him to the point that Huck's body is covered in welts. When Huck and Jim share their stories they see just how much in common they have. Both desire to escape a society where they are powerless and treated cruelly.

How does leaving Jackson's Island in Chapter 10 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn bind Huck's and Jim's fates together?

Judith Loftus tells Huck she suspects Jim is on Jackson's Island. There's a reward out for Jim, so Judith plans on sending her husband over there with his gun when he gets home. This news sends Huck into a panic. He leaves Mrs. Loftus as quickly as he can in order to get back to the island, tell Jim, and take off in the canoe. However, Huck has no reason to be in a panic. Huck could have stayed on the island and been free of the widow, Pap, and civilization in general. It is Jim people are looking for, not Huck. Once Huck sails off from Jackson's Island with Jim, he binds their fates together. There is no escaping each other on the raft, and Huck and Jim will go along together.

Why is it significant Huck mentions Tom Sawyer when he talks of entering the wrecked boat in Chapter 12 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Jim is dead set against entering the wrecked boat. While his status as a runaway slave impacts his decision, Jim's concerns sound like those any adult would have. But Huck, despite everything he has gone through, is a child. He can be immature and impulsive. Tom Sawyer is silly. He wants real life to be like the adventure books he reads. His position in life allows him to be irresponsible. People give him a pass as they figure he is just a kid and is ultimately harmless. Huck mentions Tom Sawyer in his argument about boarding the boat because he wants to explore and be adventurous like his friend. However, unlike Tom, Huck is in a precarious position. The situation on the wrecked boat is serious, and Huck and Jim are lucky to escape with their lives.

What does the reader learn about Huck based on his feelings about the robbers in Chapter 13 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

When Huck and Tom find a way to get off the boat and escape the robbers, whom Huck labels as murderers, they are relieved. However, after they have gone just a few hundred yards away, Huck realizes that the robbers are in a deadly situation and will sink with their boat. As he considers their situation Huck pities them: "how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix." Huck goes out of his way, endangering himself and Jim, to try to help save the robbers. This incredible generosity and kindness to those who are clearly not deserving is one of many example of what Twain called Huck's "sound heart."

Why is it verbally ironic that Jim is unable to appreciate Huck's explanation of King Solomon and the French language in Chapter 14 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

One of the reasons that Huck and Jim get along is they are both practical people who are willing to consider others' perspectives. However, when it comes to King Solomon and the French language, Jim simply cannot appreciate what Huck is trying to say. The discussion is funny, and it also seems to paint Jim as foolish and hard headed. As a slave Jim is not allowed a sense of self. He exists to benefit others. Yet when it comes to appreciating a situation, Jim needs to be able to comprehend it through his own eyes. The questions that he asks Huck and the conclusions that Jim comes to are logical—from his perspective. King Solomon and the French language are so far removed from Jim's limited world that he is unable to appreciate the bigger picture.

In Chapter 15 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, what role does Huck's apology play in his development?

When Huck appears Jim is thrilled to see him because he was worried about him. The two have begun to develop a bond, so when Huck plays a trick on him at this point Jim is very hurt. He sees Huck as his friend, and he says, "Dat truck dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed." When Jim leaves him alone and goes into the wigwam, Huck realizes he has mistreated Jim. Given time to himself Huck makes the decision to apologize to Jim. A white man never has to apologize to a black man in their society. He is always right. When Huck makes the apology he goes further than just feeling guilty like he did during the incident with the snake. Apologizing and recognizing Jim's feelings is another step toward seeing him as an equal.

How does Huck's upbringing cause a moral dilemma in Chapter 16 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

In Chapter 16 Huck and Jim are about to reach Cairo which means freedom for Jim. While Jim is excited and making plans for the future, Huck feels sick. This is the first time he truly considers his role in helping Jim obtain his freedom, and he feels guilty. He says, "Conscience says to me, 'What had poor Miss Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word?'" While Jim is physically enslaved, Huck is mentally enslaved. His conscience has led him to help Jim get his freedom. However, Huck has grown up in a system that taught him that slaves are not his equal and deserve to be treated as property. Huck is left to wrestle with his conscience and to determine right and wrong.

How does Huck's encounter with the Grangerfords in Chapters 17 and 18 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reinforce the notion of a troubled South?

Huck's first trip off the raft leads him right into the middle of a feud. Before learning about the feud, the reader is introduced to the aristocratic Grangerfords. The family treats Huck well. Yet the Grangerford family has a twisted notion of "honor." The deceased daughter was obsessed with death. Buck, a son around Huck's age, is ready to kill and die for the sake of the feud between his family and the Shepherdsons. Despite having no idea what the other side has done, uncertainty over when it began, or who started it, Buck is proud of being part of the killing. The feud is ridiculous, and an obsession with family honor keeps it going. These two feuding families fight for the sake of fighting, though they claim they are doing it for honor. Twain is mocking the South where honor was above everything and could cause people to take senseless actions. This way of thinking will lead them into the violent and deadly Civil War.

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