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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
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THE STORY

CHAPTER 1

In the opening paragraph, Huck introduces himself to us as the narrator of the story. He talks to us in a relaxed, matter-of-fact tone that makes him sound friendly, honest, and maybe a little less respectful than he should be. He does, after all, come close 2to calling Mark Twain a liar.

Try to imagine Twain writing that paragraph, in which he has a fictional character accuse him of "stretching the truth" in an earlier book. Twain seems to be sharing a joke with you, the reader, but Huck isn't in on the joke. Huck doesn't say it to be funny. He says it innocently, not realizing that it could be taken as an insult.

Keep this trick of Twain's in mind as you read the book, because you'll find him doing it dozens of times. He'll be expecting you to understand things better than Huck, who's just a simple, almost illiterate kid. Twain will often be winking at you over Huck's head, the way two grownups might be quietly amused at the naive things said by a young child.


Huck tells us that he's been living with the Widow Douglas, a woman he seems to like even though she has set out to "sivilize" him. His friend, Tom Sawyer, has persuaded him to go along with her, and Huck finds himself living in a house, wearing clean clothes, and eating meals on schedule-activities that seem very unnatural to him.

Although he's able to put up with the widow, her sister, Miss Watson, is another story. He describes her as a "slim old maid, with goggles on," and he complains about her trying to teach him spelling and manners. When she tells him about heaven and hell, he figures hell must be a better place, since Miss Watson assures him that she is going to heaven.

After an unpleasant session with Miss Watson, Huck goes up to his room and stares out the window. The night sounds of the woods make him sad, until one sound begins to stand out-he recognizes it as a signal from Tom Sawyer. Huck sneaks out of the house, feeling better now that he and his friend are off on an adventure.

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