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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
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CHAPTER 24

This chapter is the beginning of the longest episode in the book, which extends from Chapter 24 to 30.

As the duke and the king lay plans to bilk some townspeople out of their money, Jim mentions that he's finding it difficult to stay tied up in the cramped quarters of the wigwam while the others are away all day. The duke comes up with a solution that allows him to show himself on the raft during daylight.

As you'll see when you read these chapters, this solution is really a plot device that solves a problem Twain had to face if he wanted to use the next episode. The swindle will keep Huck and the men in town for several days, and Twain couldn't just leave Jim tied up in the wigwam all that time.

Huck now has some store-bought clothes the thieves were able to get with the money they took in from their Shakespearean performance. He's going to be billed as a servant. The plan is for them to hail a steamboat between towns, then arrive in the next town and claim they've traveled from St. Louis or Cincinnati.

On the way, they offer a ride to a young man who is waiting for the boat himself, and the king initiates a conversation that turns out to be very profitable for him. He learns about a villager who has just died while expecting his brothers from England. He learns that the man was wealthy, and that no one in town has ever seen the two brothers.


From there the king "casually" conducts the conversation so that he gets one useful detail after another, until the young man has told him everything. They drop the man off at the steamboat and head back upstream.

Later in the day, three people arrive in town on a steamboat from Cincinnati. The older man claims to be the Reverend Harvey Wilks. He introduces the younger man as his deaf-mute brother, William. He doesn't have to tell anyone that the young boy with them is their servant.

Huck, of course, has known all along that this is what the duke had in mind as he pumped the young man for information. Now he watches as the two imposters pretend unbearable grief at having arrived too late to console their dying brother. He sees, too, how the simple people of the town erupt with sympathy for these two saddened travelers.

"It was enough," he tells us, "to make a body ashamed of the human race."

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