Monday, September 19, 2011

Huckleberry Finn: Chapters 1-4

Chapter one Huck introduces us to the life that he is leading as of yet.  He lives with widow Douglas who has taken him in as her son.  Huck runs away because he becomes bored and wishes for a change.  Tom Sawyer tells him to go back and live well with her and he can be part of his gang of robbers.  Once Huck returns widow Douglas tells him of the stories of Moses and he is taught spelling.  He is not interested with the story of Moses when he finds out he's dead.  One night he sits and is very lonely, a spider lands on his shoulder and he flicks it off and it dies in the flame.  Huck is superstitious and tries to do many things to reverse the bad luck that is brought upon someone who kills a spider.  Huck also talks about how he wanted to start smoking but widow Douglas says to never touch the dirty habit.  As Huck waits one night with a smoke in hand, Tom comes under his window and begins to me-yow.

Chapter two is when the band of robbers are brought together.  Huck and Tom first make the journey away from the widow Douglas' house.  They nearly escape a run-in with Jim, a large black man, and they are able to stay quiet until he falls asleep and they put his hat in the tree above him.  Once Jim awakens he tells the story that witches have taken him all over the world and the devil himself gave Jim the necklace he now wears.  Jim becomes famous among the black people and many come from miles around to see the necklace, this celebrity makes Jim a bad worker.  Once Huck and Tom leave Jim they meet up with the rest of their friends who are to be a part of the band of robbers.  They make an oath and decide what they are going to with the people the catch and rob.

Chapter three Huck discusses his beliefs on religion.  Widow Douglas tells Huck that if he prays he will get anything he asks for, and Huck tries asking for fishing hooks but he never gets them.  He then thinks about if people could get whatever they wanted just by praying why didn't they right things they had lost?  Widow Douglas tells him to do right by others and think of others before himself, but Huck comes to the conclusion that no good will ever come to him if he only thinks about others so he decides not to do this.  Huck talks about how the band of robbers go to rob the A-rabs and Spaniards because they are to have elephants, camels and diamonds. Yet when they go it's only a group of young Sunday School children, when Huck questions Tom about this Tom tells him that magicians and genies had disguised all of the animals and people as the Sunday School class.  Tom tells of how genies come from a lamp and they are forced to do what their master says, at this Huck finds an old lamp and rubs it in the forest to no avail.  Huck decides that this is just another one of Tom's lies.

Chapter four begins with Huck talking about how he beginning to like the new ways he lives, he likes school and is becoming accustomed to the widow Douglas.  One day Huck notices footprints in the new snow, he found it odd that the person did not come in.  He sees in one boot that there is a cross and once Huck sees this he immediately runs to the judge and proclaims he doesn't want any of the money he had found with Tom.  The judge is puzzled but gives Huck a paper that says he sold all of his belongings to the judge.  When Huck returns he asks Jim to tell him his future, Jim uses a large hairball and tells Huck that his father has two angels flying around him, a good one and a bad one.  He goes on to tell Huck that he's going to marry a poor woman first and then a rich one.  He warns Huck not to get behind on his bills or he'll be hung. When Huck returns to his house and lights his candle, there is his father sitting there.

I want to look at the hypocrisy in these first few chapters.  It becomes clearer to me as the chapters have unfolded.  The widow Douglas claims to be a christian woman, urging Huck to pray everyday and to do things for others before thinking of himself, yet she owns slaves.  She has house slaves and we even meet one Jim who is a slave.  The widow Douglas continues to try and raise Huck to be an honorable boy but I believe she is showing him mixed signals.  You need to put others first, but it's okay to have slaves as property and do whatever you like with them.  This would confuse me!

Huck wants nothing to do with religion.  I find Huck to be a tad selfish in these chapters.  When widow Douglas tells Huck he should pray every night Huck asks for material things that will help him or that he will enjoy.  When she tells him that he needs to put others first and not himself he doesn't like this idea.  He decides that no good will come to him so he's going to leave it well enough alone.  This screams selfishness to me.  I still see this in society today.  It's all about what the individual can get to help themselves, not what they can do for others.  I rarely see a friendship or relationship that isn't like this anymore.  Although it's a tough pill to swallow, this is definitely how society has become today.

Huck is also very superstitious.  I'm interested to see where it's going to lead in later chapters because I'm not for sure what it means right now.  As for Jim's incident with the "witches" I find very interesting.  He stretches his story and soon becomes a celebrity.  I'm not sue when this story is actually taking place, but I feel like it was before the Salem Witch Trials, which makes me interested to see if anything will come about with the witch story later on in the book.  Witches were seen as evil at the time, so Jim saying they went all over the world and they took him to see the devil himself doesn't surprise me.  I find it very interesting the stories that people can make up and believe.  


  1. The Salem witch trials were in 1692, well before this novel. However, Twain includes this exact example for a reason. What might he be commenting on?

    Is Huck selfish? Is he only out for himself? Or is Twain making some other point with Huck's response to the widow's idea of a "proper" prayer?

  2. As for the Salem witch trials I'm guessing he's showing how absolutely ridiculous they are for thinking there are witches. He's showing that people don't always know what happen so they blame witches, or just make the stories up for fun or fame. I think he's showing that they played this trick on Jim and he spun it out of control with his lies and exaggerations.

    As I think back I remember him commenting that if all he's supposed to do is do good towards others then all he wasn't going to benefit from it, only other people are. I think that's pretty selfish. However, as for the "proper prayer" I'm not for sure what he's saying. I personally think that prayer should be a conversation with God, therefore there isn't such thing as a proper prayer for me because I just talk to God whenever I want about whatever I want.