The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Chapter 24 - Summary & Analysis

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SUMMARY

      The next day, the King and Duke plan their next strategy to dupe people. They decide to go to the next town and see what they can get their hands on. Jim protests against being tied up in ropes everyday, as it gets very fatiguing. He hopes that they won't take very long. The Duke agrees with him and soon designs a remedy to the problem. He dresses him up in King Lear's costume - a long calico gown and a white wig. He paints him all over his face, hands, neck and ears with solid blue color. The words, "Sick Arab - but harmless when not out of his mind" are enough to frighten prying onlookers from coming closer.

      The "rapscallions" are tempted to try out their luck, once again, with the "Nonesuch plays" but, soon enough, good sense prevails upon the They realize that, since the town is too close to the previous one, they should not take the risk and experiment with the same ploy here again.

      The King and Huck dress up in the store clothes that they had bought and go about town, exploring it. The former is disguised as a Parson while the latter poses as his servant boy, Adolphus. They bump into a young man who is waiting for a steamboat to take him to Orleans. The King offers in a ride in the canoe. During their voyage, the young man tells them about Peter Wilks, a well-off tanner of the town, who had died the previous day. He tells them that the townspeople are waiting for his younger brothers William and Harvey to come from England and take charge of their property. The young man also tells them that one of the brothers is deaf and dumb. The King hauls out extensive information on the Wilks' family - the brother who had died earlier, his three daughters, friends of old Peter Wilks, about where the property is hidden, etc.

      After digging into the relevant information, they help the young man embark on a steamboat to Orleans. They sail another mile upstream and on reaching the shore, the King asks Huck to hurry and fetch the Duke. Together, they pose as the brothers of the deceased. The duke pretends to be the deaf and dumb one while the King acts as the older brother. Huck feels disgusted at the melodrama that ensues. He deems it "enough to make a body ashamed of the human race".

The Peter Wilks episode is a significant step towards Huck's moral development. Huck Finn, the fourteen-year old adolescent, has more integrity than the 30-year old Duke and the 70-year old King. He has, so far, been a mute spectator to the entire game of pretense. But his silence should not be concluded as an act of acquiescence to the game being played by the two frauds. He chooses to remain silent just because he has realized he cannot change or reform them.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 24

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

      The Peter Wilks episode is a significant step towards Huck's moral development. Huck Finn, the fourteen-year old adolescent, has more integrity than the 30-year old Duke and the 70-year old King. He has, so far, been a mute spectator to the entire game of pretense. But his silence should not be concluded as an act of acquiescence to the game being played by the two frauds. He chooses to remain silent just because he has realized he cannot change or reform them. Moreover, his only aim is to help Jim get his freedom and, for the sake of peace, he would keep quiet. But, by the end of the chapter, he cannot turn a blind eye to all this nonsense. His conscience stirs him enough to make him vociferously assert his abhorrence for their conduct. He equates their lowly demeanor to something that could probably be expected from a "nigger", but certainly not a "white man". This statement also exudes Huck's racial stance. Despite the fact that Jim's conduct has been honourable, all through, Huck still feels that this lowly demeanour could be expected from a "nigger". It reveals Huck's latent prejudice against "niggers." It is worthy of note that, despite his special relationship with Jim, he still doesn't hold him in high esteem simply because the latter is a "nigger.

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