The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Chapter 31 - Summary & Analysis

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SUMMARY

      The foursome sail for days continuously, without stopping. They stop only when they are sure that they are sale. The two frauds hatch a new plan to dupe more people as they are running out of money. So they try their hands at a myriad of pursuits. Starting with a lecture on "temperance", they realize that they have not made enough to get them drunk. Then they try their hands at dancing but it hops because they themselves don't know how to dance better than a kangaroo. From "yellocution", "missionarying", "mesmerizing", "doctoring" and fortune - telling, they find no luck because they themselves are not adept at any of these skills. When nothing yields results, they just lie down on the surface of the raft, planning what to do next. Spending a couple of hours inside the wigwam, they rack their brains and think of a way to bail themselves out of the situation. Their conspiracy lasts for a period of two to three hours and it makes both, Huck and Jim very uneasy.

      Finally, they disembark in a village named Pikesville. The King gets very restless and goes ahead to assess the situation there and find out if they have any scope for one of their "performances". After a few hours, Huck, along with the Duke, goes down to the village and they find the King in a "little low doggery". The King and the Duke start a squabble and, exploiting the Situation, Huck races towards where the raft is. He reaches it breathless, but happy, only to find that Jim is missing. A little boy directs him towards Silas Phelps farm and says that he saw the "nigger" there. Huck is also told that an "old fellow" (the King) sold him for forty dollars as part of the two hundred dollar prize. Huck feels extremely sad when he hears this. As his next plan of action, Huck contemplates telling Miss Watson all about Jim's whereabouts. He drafts a letter to her in which he explains everything about Jim's whereabouts. But soon, he decides against it because he is apprehensive of the ill treatment that would be meted out to Jim for his "rascality and ungratefulness", Besides this, he is perceptive enough to foresee his own sense of disgrace for having done a dishonorable deed.

      After struggling with his conscience for a long time, he decides that he would submit to the "everlasting fire" and do everything he can, to save Jim. He tears the letter and justifies his own actions by saying that ne has been "brung up wicked". He quietens the voice of his conscience by saying that he did have the opportunity to learn the right conduct in "Sunday school". The other voice of his conscience says and that he was being mean to an old lady who had done him no harm.

      As Huck goes to the Phelps' farm, he notices the Duke sticking posters for another "Nonesuch performance". The Duke, apprehensive that Huck may create trouble, misguides Huck about the place where Jim may be found. Huck pretends to believe him and sets out in that direction. As soon as he is at a safe distance, he zips towards the Phelps' farm in order to save Jim.

The foursome sail for days continuously, without stopping. They stop only when they are sure that they are sale. The two frauds hatch a new plan to dupe more people as they are running out of money. So they try their hands at a myriad of pursuits. Starting with a lecture on "temperance", they realize that they have not made enough to get them drunk. Then they try their hands at dancing but it hops because they themselves don't know how to dance better than a kangaroo. From "yellocution", "missionarying", "mesmerizing", "doctoring" and fortune - telling, they find no luck because they themselves are not adept at any of these skills. When nothing yields results, they just lie down on the surface of the raft, planning what to do next. Spending a couple of hours inside the wigwam, they rack their brains and think of a way to bail themselves out of the situation. Their conspiracy lasts for a period of two to three hours and it makes both, Huck and Jim very uneasy.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Chapter 31

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

      The conflict between the "wisdom of society" and Huck's inner voice reaches its zenith in this chapter. His decision to help Jim doesn't come easily. He experiences "Providence slapping" him and is torn apart by conventional good judgment and his independence of thought.

      As Tom Petty wrote,
"You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won't back down".

      This is exactly what Huck does. He'd rather go to hell or confront God than betray Jim who is much more than merely a companion; the latter is the only family that Huck has in the world. Huck's final decision "All right, then, I'll go to hell" - is the culmination of his journey towards emotional maturity and leads to an evolution of his conscience. He has developed the ability to take his decision himself rather than being a puppet in the hands of "society". He realizes that if his heart "warn't right" and he "warn't square", he simply couldn't pray a lie. The scene in which he writes a letter to Miss Watson, is one of the most powerful scenes in Literature.

      Unlike the King and the Duke, who have no sense of goodness and integrity, the fact that Huck grapples so hard with his own conscience, makes him a human being, in the real sense of the word. We notice how, at the end of every incident, there is a sharp contrast highlighted the two older men (king and Duke) and Jim. This contrast is, primarily, as far as moral integrity is concerned.

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