Duke & Dauphin: in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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      A pair of swindlers, the Duke and the Dauphin play a major part in the novel. The older one is around seventy years old and claims to be heir to King Louis XVI. The "Duke" is around thirty years old and declares that he is the Duke of Bridgewater. Huck and Jim keep them in good humor by addressing them, in a royal manner, as "Your Grace" and Your Majesty".

      Huck soon realizes that the two are frauds but chooses to avoid any confrontation with them. This exhibits the former's level of maturity and prudence. The arrival of the two frauds signals an interruption in the peaceful life that Huck and Jim have on the raft. They are symbolic of the society that Huck so detests.

      Together, they are part of numerous masquerades. In order to hoodwink people, they try their hands at a myriad of professions including that of a reformed pirate, fortune-telling and "doctoring". In a small town in Arkansas, they present a show of Shakespeare's plays, Richard I and Romeo and Juliet and the "Royal Nonesuch". The townspeople get beguiled by the punch line, "Women and Children not allowed" thinking that it must be some grand adult affair, and throng to the play. After two successful attempts at duping people, they run away on the third night, as they anticipate trouble.

      They exhibit their worst countenance in the Peter Wilks episode (Chapter 24). The "King" pretends to be the English brother of a wealthy tanner, Peter Wilks, while the "Duke" claims to be the deaf and dumb one. They dupe the deceased's nieces as their "uncles". They make sickeningly syrupy speeches and exhibit their emotions in the most melodramatic way. Not satisfied with the plunder of six thousand dollars that the deceased had kept for his real family members, the two "rapscallions" also sell the estate and slaves. This disgusting demeanor is instrumental in making Huck wake up to his conscience. He decides to help the nieces and salvage the situation for them.

      By introducing these two characters, Mark Twain demonstrates his contempt for certain aspects of the southern society. He makes us realize how the so-called civilized people can be such "rapscallions" and so impervious to humanity. Through them, Twain displays how petty human beings can be. They sell Jim for forty dollars to the Phelpses. As far as compassion is concerned, they are in complete contrast to Huck and Jim. It is ironical to note that, despite being the "sivilized whites", they exhibit such nauseating behaviour. They are absolutely detached from even an iota of religiosity.

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