Chapter 1: The novel begins with the narrator, Huck Finn, reminding us of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and that his tale picks up shortly after the two boys inherit a large sum of money. Huck now lives with the widow Douglas, but hates it and runs away. Tom Sawyer convinces him to return so he can join their gang. All attempts to “sivilize” Huck fail. The chapter ends with Huck and Tom meeting outside Huck’s window.
Chapter 2: Huck and Tom wake up Jim, the widow’s slave. They play a trick on Jim by taking off his hat and setting it on a tree branch. Jim thinks he’s been bewitched and later gains fame as a witch expert. Tom and Huck meet their friends at a cave that serves as the boys’ secret hideout. They form a band of robbers.
Chapter 3: The widow Douglas and Miss Watson try to teach Huck religion but fail. There’s a rumor circulating that Huck’s drunk, abusive father is dead. Huck knows that the report is mistaken. Tom’s gang disbands. Huck realizes that Tom’s stories are mostly lies.
Chapter 4: Huck recognizes his father’s boot print outside his house and immediately sells his money to the judge for a dollar. After getting advice from Jim’s talking hairball, Huck returns home where he finds his dad waiting in his bedroom for him.
Chapter 5: Huck’s Pap is angry that Huck has learned how to read. He goes to Judge Thatcher’s and demands Huck’s money. The widow tries to adopt Huck, but the new judge in town doesn’t want to separate a father and son. The new judge takes Pap into his home to reform him. Pap fakes his reformation and gets drunk again.
Chapter 6: Pap sues Judge Thatcher for Huck’s money and threatens Huck not to attend school, which Huck does in order to spite his Pap. Pap kidnaps Huck and the two live in a shed down by the river. Huck begins sawing his way out of the cabin. Suffering from delirium tremens, Pap chases Huck with a knife before passing out. Huck points a gun at Pap as he sleeps.
Chapter 7: Pap wakes up and sends Huck to check for fish. Huck finds a canoe and hides it. When Pap leaves, Huck finishes sawing his way out of the cabin and fakes his own death by slaughtering a pig and smearing the blood in the cabin. He paddles the canoe to Jackson’s Island.
Chapter 8: A ferry searches for Huck’s body the next morning on account of his “murder.” Huck feels guilty for causing pain to those who care for him. Huck relaxes for three days. On day 4, he finds Jim who thinks Huck’s a ghost. Huck is happy to find company until he discovers that Jim is a runaway slave.
Chapter 9: Jim and Huck find a cave where they wait out a storm. They see a damaged houseboat floating by and raid it. Jim sees a dead body but won’t let Huck see it.
Chapter 10: Huck is curious about the dead man, but Jim gets him to change the subject. Huck puts a dead snake by Jim’s bed as a joke. The snake’s mate bites Jim. Huck goes to shore dressed as a girl to get news.
Chapter 11: Huck discovers that Pap is suspected for Huck’s murder and a $200 reward has been offered to find him. There’s a $300 bounty for Jim. The lady’s husband says she saw smoke on Jackson’s Island and her husband is going there tonight to get Jim. The lady discovers Huck is a boy and promises she won’t turn him in. Huck returns to the island to warn Jim.
Chapters 12 – 16
Chapter 12: Huck and Jim float down the Mississippi for a few days. They spot a boat and Huck, looking for an adventure, decides he and Jim should hop aboard. They overhear two robbers threatening to kill a third. Jim and Huck’s raft breaks loose and floats away.
Chapter 13: Jim and Huck steal the robbers’ getaway boat. Huck feels bad and goes to shore for help. Jim and Huck abandon the robbers’ getaway boat and go to sleep.
Chapter 14: Jim and Huck go through the items salvaged from the robbers’ boat. Huck tells Jim stories about kings and queens. Jim expresses his dislike for adventures, pointing out that they could get him killed or captured.
Chapter 15: As they head for the Ohio River, Huck and Jim get separated by a thick fog. Huck finally rejoins Jim, who is sleeping. He tells Jim that he dreamed the entire incident. When Jim notices the debris on the raft, he realizes the truth and is upset. Huck apologizes.
Chapter 16: Huck’s conscience troubles him on account of his helping the widow’s “property” escape and he resolves to turn Jim in. When Jim tells Huck he’s his only friend and the only one that hasn’t lied to him, Huck changes his mind. Huck encounters two men who want to search Huck’s raft for a runaway slave. Huck concocts a story about his family having small pox and the two change their mind. Huck and Jim’s canoe is stolen and their raft is destroyed by a steamboat. Huck escapes to shore and he’s surrounded by dogs.
Chapters 17 – 20
Chapter 17: Huck is saved by the dogs’ owner. Huck introduces himself as George Jackson and creates an eleborate story. He le
arns of a feud between this family and the Sheperdsons. The family, the Grangerfords let Huck stay with them.
Chapter 18: Buck Grangerford tries to shoot a Shepherdson. He tells Huck about their feuding families but can’t remember why the two are fighting. One of the Grangerford slaves leads Huck into the woods where Jim is waiting. Huck learns that Sophia Grangerford has run off with Haney Shepherdson. Huck then finds Buck and another Grangerford in the woods having a gun fight with two Shepherdsons. Buck and his friend are killed. Huck and Jim leave.
Chapter 19: Back on their raft, Huck and Jim pick up two strangers. They pretend to be royalty. Huck and Jim wait on them, calling them “your majesty” and other titles. Huck realizes they’re lying but doesn’t want to cause trouble and continues with the charade.
Chapter 20: The Duke and the Dauphin inquire about Jim. Huck claims they travel at night because he’s tired of so many people asking if Jim is a runaway slave. The dauphin and the duke attend a revival meeting. The dauphin claims he is a reformed pirate, soon to be returning to the Indian Ocean as a missionary. The revivalists take up a collection for the dauphin. While in town, the duke takes over a deserted printing shop. He creates fliers, identifying Jim as a runaway slave, which they carry around as evidence they have captured him, so they can travel by day.
Chapter 21: The duke and the dauphin, after a night of drinking, wake up and practice scenes from Shakespeare, which they mess up. They stop at a town in Arkansas where they see a man shot in front of his daughter, followed by a lynch mob chasing the shooter.
Chapter 22: The mob heads to the shooter’s house where he delivers a speech on cowardice. The crowd disperses. Only 12 people attend the duke’s Shakespeare show and they jeer him the entire time. The duke and dauphin advertise for their next show at which no children or women are permitted.
Chapter 23: The duke and dauphin play to a full house, an angry full house on account of them getting ripped off by such a short performance. All those at the opening night decide to tell the rest of the town how great the show is so they won’t feel stupid about being the only ones ripped off. The second night is also packed. On the third night, angry men from the first two nights arrive to hurt the duke and the dauphin who escape with Huck and Jim after receiving a large sum of money. On the raft, Huck is confused by Jim’s longing for his family and admits that Jim loves his family just as much as any white man.
Chapter 24: The duke and dauphin arrive in the next town, pretending to be the brothers of a man who has recently deceased who has left a large sum of money. Huck is ashamed.
Chapter 25: The duke and dauphin win the hearts of the townspeople and are given $6,000 to invest as they see fit. Doctor Robinson claims the two men are frauds, but nobody believes him. Huck is disgusted.
Chapter 26: Huck feels guilty for letting the duke and dauphin swindle the kind sisters. He vows to get them their money back and hides in the duke’s room. The two enter and Huck overhears them talking about getting all the Wilks’ property. Huck steals the money.
Chapter 27: Huck hides the money in Peter Wilks’ coffin. The coffin is sealed at the funeral and Huck doesn’t know whether or not the duke got the money back or if it’s still there. He vows to write Mary when he leaves town to let her know. The duke and the dauphin sell the family’s estate and slaves, breaking up a family. Huck is relieved in knowing the family will be reunited as soon as the fraud is discovered.
Chapter 28: Huck finds Mary Jane crying over the separation of the slave family. Huck tells her the truth about the duke and instructs her to go to a friend’s house. Later that day, two men, the actual Wilks brothers, interrupt the auctioning of the family’s estate.
Chapter 29: The real Wilks brothers and the fake Wilks brothers are brought to a tavern. They are all asked to sign a piece of paper to compare signatures. The duke and dauphin temporarily talk their way out of the situation. The real Harvey Wilks comments on the deceased’s tattoo. To resolve the conflict, Peter Wilks’ coffin is opened. The crowd is shocked to see the $6,000 in the coffin. In the uproar, Huck escapes to the raft. He and Jim celebrate until they notice the duke and the dauphin are about to overtake them on their own boat.
Chapter 30: After nearly strangling Huck for deserting them, the duke and the dauphin blame each other for losing the money.
Chapter 31: The duke and the dauphin attempt several unsuccessful scams. Huck escapes to the raft and finds Jim missing. Huck discovers that the dauphin sold Jim to a farmer named Silas Phelps for $40. Huck, despite his own moral objections, resolves to steal Jim back. Huck runs into the duke posting fliers for his show. Duke tells Huck that Jim’s forty miles away.
Chapter 32: Huck arrives at the Phelps’ where he is warmly greeted. The Phelps assume Huck is their nephew, Tom, Tom Sawyer, whose arrival is expected.
Chapter 33: Huck intercepts a shocked Tom before he arrives at the Phelps. Tom agrees to help Huck free Jim. Huck and Tom sneak out of the house that night and witness the duke and the dauphin being tarred and feathered and run out of town.
Chapter 34: Tom recalls seeing food being taken to the shed, which he surmises is where Jim is being kept. Huck decides to steal the key and escape with Jim in the night. Tom ridicules Huck and comes up with an elaborate plan that could get them killed. Huck is shocked at Tom’s willingness to help a slave escape. The two decide to dig Jim out of the shed.
Chapter 35: Tom complains that SIlas has not guarded Jim well enough. He creates obstacles to make the escape more daring.
Chapters 36 to End
Chapter 36: Tom and Huck use pickaxes to get their way to Jim who is happy to see them but confused by their complicated plan.
Chapter 37: Sally notices missing tablecloths and silverware. She suspects everyone but Tom and Huck.
Chapter 38: Tom continues creating senseless obstacles.
Chapter 39: Tom and Huck capture rats and snakes to make Jim’s rescue more dramatic. They accidentally infest the house with them. Tom writes letters from an unknown friend to the Phelpses. The terrifying letters mention a band of robbers coming to set Jim free.
Chapter 40: The letter alerts local farmers who gather with shotguns. The farmers attack the shed, containing Jim, Tom, and Huck. The three escape. Tom receives a bullet wound in the leg.
Chapter 41: Huck finds a doctor and sends him to Tom. Huck runs into Silas who takes him home. The neighborhood is discussing the strange contents of the shed and marvel at the skill of the desperados.
Chapter 42: Tom is brought in, half conscious, with the doctor and Jim, who is chained and put back in the shed. The doctor extols Jim’s behavior, who sacrificed his freedom to save Tom. Tom wakes up, dismayed that Jim has been chained, relating to those in attendance that the widow Douglas died two months prior and set Jim free in her will. Tom’s Aunt Polly arrives to sort out the mess.
Chapter 43: Aunt Polly and the Phelpses set Jim free and treat him like a king. Tom repays him with forty dollars. Tom heals. Huck finds out the dead man on the boat was his father.
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This post is part of the series: Huckleberry Finn Study Helps
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Chapter Summaries
- Test Your Knowledge of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
- The Huck Finn Controversy
- Satire and Irony in Huckleberry Finn
- Examples of Satire in Huck Finn: Superstitions