The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

What the agreement is between Huck and Widow Douglas

Huck did not like living with Widow Douglas, but he made an agreement with her. What was it?

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The Widow Douglas is an honorable woman who hopes to nurture Huck into a civilized child. Here, the reader immediately understands the main theme of the novel, the conflict between civilization and freedom. In agreement with Rousseau, Twain tends to suggest that civilization corrupts rather than improves human beings. For example, in the first chapter, Huck is forced to change his natural character into the mold the Widow Douglas demands from him. He feels cramped in new clothes, and hates being limited to eating dinner only when the dinner bell rings. Twain cleverly contrasts this new lifestyle with Huck's old way of life. For example, Huck compares eating dinner off a plate to eating from a "barrel of odds and ends," which implies a pig's slop bucket. Here, Twain explains that in his earlier life, Huck competed for food with pigs, but also notes that Huck enjoyed eating from the slop bucket more than eating from the plate. Huck's relationship with food is a prominent theme throughout the novel, and during his time on Jackson's Island and working his way down river, Huck revels in and enjoys his ad hoc dining.

In the first chapter, we observe Huck is ironically trapped in a "civilized" world, when he would prefer to live freely in nature. Irony appears in other areas of the novel as well. For example, Huck explains that the Widow Douglas wouldn't let him smoke, even though, ironically, she secretly uses snuff herself.