The Phelpses: Character - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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      They are a kind old couple and extremely pious. They are Tom's Uncle and Aunt. The Phelpses make their appearance in the last part of the novel, when the "King" sells Jim to them, for forty dollars. Looking for his friend, Huck reaches the Phelps' farm and is mistaken for Tom Sawyer whom the family is expecting to visit them.

      Though simple and religious people, they, too, are not free from touches of racial prejudice. When Huck reaches the Phelps' farm, he cooks up a story of the explosion of the steamboat. Aunt Sally is extremely concerned about the safety of the people on board.

"Good gracious! anybody hurt?"
"No'm. Killed a nigger.
"Well, it's lucky; because use sometimes people do get hurt".

      On hearing that no "people" were hurt, she is relieved. Her relief, in this context, is extremely impolite and racist. She is also one of those southerners whose upbringing has taught her that black people don't count as "people", and it doesn't matter if they get hurt. For her, "niggers are not worthy of interest or significance as "people".

      It is at the Phelps' farm that Huck divulges the fact about Jims escape and quest for freedom. He takes Tom's help in helping Jim get his freedom. Tom, happy at the prospect of some more adventure, is happy to help him. He writes a couple of anonymous letters to make the villagers aware of the impending danger. As readers, we pity the old couple for all the agony that they are subjected to, as a result of Tom's pranks. They also get baffled when Tom and Huck pinch spoons, sheets and other household things to help Jim with. The old couple shows a lot of concern for both, Huck and Tom. When, after the shooting incident in chapter 40, Tom is missing, they get frantic over him.

      Uncle Silas is a simple and innocent man. His wife accuses him of being careless and losing his things. He is baffled when he fishes the lost things out of his own pocket. He says,

"I reely don't know, Sally," he says, kind of apologizing, "or you know I would tell. I was a-studying over my text in Acts Seventeen before breakfast, and I reckon I put it in there, not noticing, meaning to put my Testament in, and it must be so, because my Testament ain't in; but I'll go and see; and if the Testament is where I had it, Ill know I didn't put it in, and that will show that I laid the Testament down and took up the spoon, and-" (Chapter 37)

      Aunt Sally offers to "adopt" Huck but he vehemently opposes, the suggestion, as he doesn't want to repeat history. It is these efforts to people to "sivilize" him that he detests and wishes to run away from. After running away from Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, the last thing he ever wants is to let Aunt Sally "adopt" him.

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