The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Chapter 23 - Summary & Analysis

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SUMMARY

      The entire day is spent preparing the stage for the awaited performance and, as expected, the place is bursting with spectators. The Duke gives a short preamble in praise of the play. Followed by his opening address, the King appears crawling on all fours, naked with his body painted all over. He makes a couple of boorish actions that makes people roll with laughter Shortly afterwards, the Duke announces that the play has ended. People are astounded when they realize that they have been hoodwinked, they create a big racket. The hullabaloo continues until one gentleman stands up and says that the only way to avoid becoming the laughing stock of town is to entice others to watch the play so that everybody is in the same boat. Everyone agrees to this and, the next day word spreads around about how wonderful the show was.

      After two successful shows, they anticipate trouble on the third night. Huck and Jim are made to hide the raft two miles away from town so that they can leave at the slightest hint of trouble. They discern the spectators taking in rotten eggs and dead cats. Foreseeing threat, they sprint towards the raft. Once safe, the King and the Duke celebrate their victory over supper. They have made four hundred and sixty five dollars!

      Observing their demeanor, Jim expresses surprise over the way they conduct themselves, for, their deportment hardly seems royal and dignified. Huck gives him a lecture on the Kings of History and how they used to behave. He validates the behavior of the Duke and King by saying that they are much better than all the other kings and that one should "make allowances" because "that's the way they are raised".

      The next morning, at dawn, Huck finds Jim lamenting the loss of his family. Jim especially feels remorse for having beaten his four-year old daughter because she hadn't obeyed his orders. She had become deaf and dumb after a bout of scarlet fever - a fact that was not known to Jim. Jim had asked her to close the door and the girl had, ostensibly, disobeyed him. Actually, owing to the fact that she was deaf, she hadn't heard her father's instructions.

      Realizing how much Jim misses his family, Huck is surprised on learning the fact that a "nigger" is as full of emotions as probably a "white" man would be.

The Royal Nonesuch is another incident that displays the gullibility of the masses and how easily they can be taken in. The punch line, omen and Children not allowed, is enough to beguile people into believing that it must be some grand and ostentatious performance. People would rather fool their friends than let them know how foolish they themselves have been. They realize that they are "sold-mighty badly sold. But we don't want to be the laughing stock of this whole town". They'd rather "go out of here quiet, and talk this show up, and sell the REST of the town! Then we'll all be in the same boat. Ain't that sensible"? That's their concept of smartness and sensibility. Twain makes a derisive comment on the fragility of the human ego another "social ill" that is omnipresent.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 23

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

      The Royal Nonesuch is another incident that displays the gullibility of the masses and how easily they can be taken in. The punch line, omen and Children not allowed, is enough to beguile people into believing that it must be some grand and ostentatious performance. People would rather fool their friends than let them know how foolish they themselves have been. They realize that they are "sold-mighty badly sold. But we don't want to be the laughing stock of this whole town". They'd rather "go out of here quiet, and talk this show up, and sell the REST of the town! Then we'll all be in the same boat. Ain't that sensible"? That's their concept of smartness and sensibility. Twain makes a derisive comment on the fragility of the human ego another "social ill" that is omnipresent.

      The fact that the "King" and the "Duke" anticipate trouble on the third night reveals the fact that they are seasoned frauds. They are geared up to face trouble before it comes. It seems that they have no conscience at all because "the king and the duke fairly laughed their bones loose over the way they'd served them people. Huck's betrays his empathy towards Jim - another instance that reveals the path of moral and emotional growth that the former is treading. So far, he had been brought-up with the belief that a slave is not entitled to emotions like those of 'white' men. But Jim's display of sincere emotions for his family members startles Huck. As a result of having spent so many days with Jim, without the debasing influence of society, Huck can assess Jim in a more reasonable manner. He has the space and liberty to judge him according to his own intelligence and prudence. Huck shows his respect of the "nigger", whom everybody else rejects, thus - "He was a mighty good nigger, Jim was".

      It is noteworthy, without the influence of society, Huck assumes the maturity to form his own judgement. The former's distance from society ensures a quicker rate of moral and spiritual progression for him.

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