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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 23: The Orneriness of Kings
On the second night, the play begins as soon as the house is crammed with people. The Duke raises the expectations of the audience and then raises up the curtain. The Dauphin comes on stage naked and painted wildly. When he starts prancing around, the audience goes wild and cannot stop laughing. The Duke brings down the curtain and tells them not to mention the “great tragedy” to anybody, for they will be performing for two more nights. Someone from the audience gets up and says that they will not mention to anyone that they have been taken for a ride. In fact, they repeat their act on the next two nights and then flee the town after making a profit of four hundred and sixty-five dollars.
In this chapter, the Duke and the Dauphin succeed in cleverly swindling the people of a small town out of their money. Twain again, through his humor, successfully shows his contempt for people who allow themselves to be fooled. By the time the town gets together to act against the Duke and the Dauphin, the frauds, as always, escape.
It is important to note that Huck, throughout the incidents in the Arkansas town, is an observer, not a participant. Although he thinks that the murder of Boggs is horrible and that the Duke and Dauphin are real scoundrels, he chooses to distance himself and not get involved. He also realizes that the townspeople are gullible and easily swayed, causing some of their own problems. It is also important to note Huck’s descriptions of royalty, where he mixes up history and fiction. His telling is quite comic and his point is satiric. He decides that all kings and politicians are “mighty ornery” and, therefore, not much different than the Duke and the Dauphin.
Finally it is important to note the tenderness in Jim’s story about his daughter, which makes him seem even more kind and sympathetic. It also serves as a contrast to how Huck has always been treated by Pap. Huck is amazed to know that Jim has such deep feelings and thinks to himself, “I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their’n.” This realization deepens the closeness that Huck feels for Jim.