The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Summary and Analysis
by Mark Twain
Chapter 11 to Chapter 15
Dressed as a girl, Huck knocks on the door of the house. The woman lets him in, believing him to be a young girl. Huck inquires about the area, and the woman talks for over an hour about her problems. She finally gets to the news about Jim and Huck and tells him that there is a three hundred dollar bounty for capturing Jim. Apparently some of the townspeople believe that Jim killed Huck and ran away, while other people believe that Pap killed Huck. She tells Huck that she personally believes Jim is hiding out on Jackson's Island.
Huck becomes nervous at this news and picks up a needle and thread. He does such a poor job of threading the needle that the woman gets suspicious of his gender. Without Huck knowing he is being tested, the woman has him throw a piece of lead at a rat in order to judge his aim. Afterwards, she reveals where Huck went wrong with his "girl" behavior and asks him what his real name is, telling him to be honest. Huck cleverly pretends to be an escaped apprentice hiding in women's clothes to avoid detection.
Huck is finally able to extricate himself from the woman and immediately returns to the island. He tells Jim to grab everything and put it in the canoe. Together they shove off, after piling their belongings onto the raft, which they then tow behind them.
Jim and Huck spend the next few days traveling down the river. They improve the raft by building a wigwam, which will keep them dry and warm. Each night, Huck goes into a nearby town and buys more provisions for the next day. They only travel at night to avoid being seen and questioned.
One night, during a strong storm, they see a wrecked steamboat ahead of them. Huck convinces Jim to tie the raft to the boat and climb on board. They are surprised to hear voices, which Huck goes to investigate. There are three robbers on board, two of whom have tied up the third man. Apparently the bound man had threatened to turn them all in to the state. One of the robbers wants to kill him immediately, but the other man restrains him. The two men finally decide to kill their partner by leaving him on the boat and waiting until it sinks.
At this news, Huck scrambles back to rejoin Jim. Together they discover that their raft has come untied and floated away.
Having lost their raft, Huck and Jim search along the crashed ferryboat for the robbers' skiff. Just as they find it, the two robbers emerge and place the goods they have looted into the skiff. The robbers then remember that their partner still has his share of the money, so they return to steal it from him. Before they can return back to the boat, Huck and Jim jump into the skiff, cut the rope, and speed away downstream. Before morning, they manage to find their raft again and recapture it.
Huck then goes ashore and finds a ferry night-watchman. To try to save the robbers, because he feels guilty leaving them for dead, he tells the man that his family ran into the wreck while traveling downriver and that they are stuck there. The man immediately gets his ferry moving to try and save them. However, before he gets very far, the wreck floats by, having come loose and sunk even further. Huck realizes that all three men aboard the wreck have surely drowned. Disappointed, but proud of his effort, Huck paddles downriver until he meets up with Jim. Together they sink the skiff and tie up to wait for daylight.
Huck and Jim spend some time relaxing and discussing various things. Huck tells Jim all about kings and other aristocratic personages, and Jim is very impressed and interested. However, when Huck mentions King Solomon, Jim starts telling him that Solomon was one of the most foolish men who ever lived. Jim comments that any man who had as many wives as Solomon would go crazy, and that the notion of chopping a child in half in order to figure out which woman is the rightful mother is plain stupid. Jim remarks that the issue was about a whole child, not a half a child, and Solomon would have shown more respect for children if he had not had so many. Huck tries to explain the moral lesson Solomon was trying to teach, but Jim hears none of it.
Next, Huck tries to explain to Jim that Frenchmen speak a different language. Jim is surprised by this and cannot understand why all men would not speak the same language. Huck tries to make the analogy that a cat and a cow do not speak the same language, so neither should an American and a Frenchman. Jim then points out that a cat and a cow are not the same species, but Frenchmen and Americans are. He concludes that Frenchmen should therefore speak the same language he does. At this point Huck gets frustrated and gives up trying to argue with Jim.
Jim is hoping to reach Cairo, at the bottom of Illinois where the Ohio river merges with the Mississippi. From there, both he and Huck will be able to take a steamboat upriver and into the free states where Jim will finally be a free man.
As they approaching that section of the river, a dense fog arrives and blankets everything in a murky white. They land on the shore, but before Huck is able to tie up the raft, the raft pulls loose and starts floating downstream with Jim aboard. Huck jumps into the canoe and follows it, but soon loses sight of it in the fog. He and Jim spend several hours tracking each other by calling out, but a large island finally separates them and Huck is left all alone.
The next morning, Huck awakens and luckily manages to catch up with the raft. He finds Jim asleep and wakes him up. Jim is glad to see him, but Huck tries to play a trick on Jim by telling him that the events of the night before were just a dream. After some convincing, Jim starts to interpret the "dream." After some time, Huck finally points out the leaves and debris left from the night before, at which point Jim gets mad at Huck for playing such a mean trick on him. Huck feels terrible about what he did and apologizes to Jim.
These chapters provide insight into Jim's character. Jim is sincere and trustworthy, but also stubborn and mature. The chapters test Jim's loyalty to Huck, and vice-versa. For the first time the novel is dealing with the issue of loyalty, which will later have a strong impact on each character's decisions.
Jim's sincerity is established in several ways. The most potent example is his joy at seeing Huck alive again after they are separated by the fog. Jim gets upset with Huck for tricking him into believing it was all a dream precisely because he had invested a great deal of emotional pain into the adventure. In this section, it becomes obvious that Jim would be willing to sacrifice a great deal to ensure Huck's safety.
The problem at this juncture of the novel is that Huck does not yet reciprocate Jim's feelings. Huck is not yet willing to sacrifice part of his life to ensure Jim's safety, and thus leads Jim from one adventure to another, be it on the wrecked steamboat or during the fog. This is important because it is Huck's loyalty to Jim that will be tested later.
The stubborn and mature side of Jim is evidenced by his arguments with Huck and his attitude towards adventures. Huck comments that once Jim gets and idea into his head it is impossible to change it, and proves this to the reader by discussing Jim's opinions of Solomon and Frenchmen. Jim's stubbornness can partially be traced to his maturity. He desperately wishes to avoid any adventures because adventures bring complications. Jim would be happiest if he were able to get to Cairo and take the steamboat upriver with no interruptions.
Twain is famous for his sense of irony, and this section contains several examples. His best use of irony concerns the three robbers on the wrecked steamboat. When Huck and Jim lose their raft, they need to steal the robbers' skiff. However, the robbers return before they can steal it. The robbers then decide that they want all of their money, including their partner's share, and thus head back into the steamboat. Huck and Jim immediately steal the skiff. The irony is two-fold: not only are the robbers "robbed," they are also condemned to die on the steamboat as a result of their greed. Huck attempts to have them rescued, but the river acts faster than he can, by dragging the wreck further and causing it to sink too far for anyone to survive. Thus, the robbers meet the fate they condemned their partner to, namely drowning.
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