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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
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It's easy to miss the full force of the decision Huck makes in this scene. You might find it comical that he thinks helping a slave will send him to hell, and if you do, you might not realize exactly what he's saying.

Remember, he believes what he's been told in Sunday School. He believes that God will punish evil people by sending them to hell for eternity. And he believes that slavery, like other American institutions, has the Heavenly Stamp of Approval.

So he isn't using a figure of speech when he makes his decision. And he isn't being sarcastic. He's dead serious when he says he'll go to hell for not turning Jim in. Yet he decides to do it because he feels for Jim as a human being, even if all the "good" people don't-even if God Himself doesn't.


Wickedness "was in my line, being brung up to it," he says, and goodness isn't. If helping the only real friend he has is called wicked by the "civilized" people, then he'll be wicked and give up all hope of reforming.

His first really evil act, then, will be to help Jim complete his escape. To do that, he hatches a plan to get rid of the king and duke for good, and then to go to the home of Silas Phelps, the man who bought Jim from the king.

He meets the duke in town, and they exchange lies about what happened to the raft and to Jim. Since he knows more of the truth than the duke does, Huck wins this battle of wits and ends up temporarily out of danger from the two con men. That leaves him free to see what he can pull off at the Phelps home.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain-Free
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