The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Why Huck and Jim travel DOWN the river?

Hi everyone! I have an important question. Why Huck and Jim choose to travel down the river - that is to the south. Normally a runaway slave would run to the north, isn't it? Thanks for your help!

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They plan to travel only to Cairo, then catch the Ohio River and head north. Unfortunately, they miss Cairo in the fog.

The Ohio is a much smaller river, probably easier to travel against the current than the Mighty Mississippi.

That's what I first thought but it doesn't make sense... If they were traveling down the Mississippi River to find the junction with the Ohio River, they had the Missouri State on the right hand side and Illinois on the left. Illinois was a free state, so they could just cross the river to the other side!

It's because the Mississippi River flows from North to South, so they wouldn't have been able to travel against the current that easily.

It is true that Illinois was a free state, but the fugitive slave law applied everywhere. Furthermore, because Illinois was a border state, it often had slave catchers there. It wasn't enough to get to a free state - you had to be willing to go to Canada if you wanted to be free.

As far as Cairo, the hope was to catch a steamboat there to travel up the Ohio River

That is all true but your missing the point if it was that easy there wouldn't be a story and the river means so much more to them than being set free it also gives them peace and escape from the cruel society that is on either side. Sure they to come into problems on the river but the river also represents freindship with Huck and Jim because Huck at first thought Jim was just a lonley slave but then he relizes he has feelings and is a human and a freind. In the book Huck also has a quarel within himself and says he will go to Hell instead of turning Jim in to Miss watson. That is why the Mississippi is more than a river in the book.

I came across this thread by Googling the same question which has bothered me since reading the book only a year ago.
I too thought that it would be too difficult to turn around due to the Mississippi River flowing north to south, however so does the Ohio River. If it's so much trouble to boat against the current, then why was their plan to travel up the Ohio? Unless Huck was unaware that the Ohio flows south. Whichever the case, you'd think an escaped slave would rather take his chances walking north than sailing south. It bugged me the way they simply shrugged it off as it it wasn't importanted that they're now traveling in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION!

Anyone who has rafted up river knows that you can pole your way up because the drag of shallow water slows the flow next to shore. As for the current being less strong on the Ohio, that's also not true. I have navigated from Louisville to Cairo, and the flow is quite swift...depending on the time of the year.

The best time to pole up the Ohio is in the Fall...late September through mid November. Also, poling upstream is tricky because the man on port has to have a longer pole than starboard. Anyway, there are times and strategies for poling up a river, by season and studying eddies.


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