Huckleberry Finn Chapters 20-23







Read chapter 20 (pages 175-187 in Google text)



Summary of chapter 20: Wondering about Jim, the king and duke ask Huck if he's a runaway slave. Huck is adamant in his denial, saying that they wouldn't be traveling south if he were a fugitive slave (They are forced to travel south now because of the current, which of course heads south on the Mississippi.). Huck follows his denial by telling them a compelling story about themselves. Here and elsewhere in the book, it becomes apparent to the reader that Huck is an amazing liar. It also soon becomes apparent what the king and duke do for a living: they are frauds and cheats, just as Huck suspected. Stopping at a town downstream, both the king and the duke leave the raft, using their knack for deception to cheat quite a sum of money out of the people.

To think about in chapter 20: Think about the characterization of the duke and king. What do you learn about the attitudes, beliefs, and personal qualities of the duke and the king from their words and actions? In what way is the characterization of the duke and the king satiric?

Consider their claims about their lineage, their acting, and the faulty historical and literary allusions they make. What is Twain suggesting by having the king and the duke pull their first “con” at a religious revival? Use evidence to explain how Twain characterizes the Arkansas townspeople. What is the author’s purpose in portraying them as he does? How is the success of the duke’s and king’s second advertised play Twain’s final jab at the town?


Read Chapter 21 (pages 188-209 in Google text)

Listen to Chapter 21

Summary of Chapter 21: : Now in Arkansas, the king and duke begin orchestrating their next scheme: the enactment of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Also in this chapter Huck witnesses a mob scene caused by a petty local dispute. Huck notices that the people in the mob act on the courage of others, instead of taking individual initiative of their own.



Read Chapter 22-23( pages 210-224 in Google text)

Listen to Chapter 22
Listen to Chapter 23

Summary of Chapter 22: The description of the mob scene continues, though it turns out that no one is lynched because the mob is full of cowards. The Shakespeare show also takes place this night, but with only a meager turnout, the king and duke change their plan for the next night and put up signs around the town for a show called "The Royal Nonesuch." The real appeal of the show is the fact that women and children are prohibited from coming. This will surely cause some excitement, the duke proudly exclaims.

Summary of Chapter 23:
The first two nights of the Royal Nonesuch performance takes place in this chapter. What the show really amounts to is simply the duke walking onto stage and telling everyone that they have been duped and asks them to mention the show for the following two evenings to their friends. The people, who have each been conned into paying 50 cents for the "show," are enraged and start to rush stage when one among them calls for them to stop, saying that they will be the "laughing-stock" of the town if they don't con their fellow citizens into buying tickets for the following two nights. Everyone agrees, and no violence is done to the king or duke at this time. The following two nights follow the same pattern, except on the third night the duke doesn't dare to enter the stage, knowing that the people plan to get their revenge on him this time. So instead, he and Huck run back to the raft, getting away with over four hundred dollars for the three "performances."

The most important part of the chapter, however, is a conversation between Huck and Jim, when Huck realizes that Jim severely misses his family. This causes Huck to admit, "I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their'n." Thus, Huck continues to realize that Jim is as much a person as anyone else.


To think about in chapters 22-23: How does Twain again use weather to emphasize the mood and rising action of a conflict in chapter 20?

What epiphany does Huck have in chapter 23 that advances his inner conflict? What theme is Twain addressing?

Pathos is a quality in a work or a portion thereof that makes the reader experience pity,
sorrow, or tenderness is called pathos. Generally the character is pathetic, helpless, and/or an
innocent victim suffering through no fault of their own. Identify and explain an example of
pathos in chapter 23.


Last modified: Thursday, 14 June 2012, 4:20 PM