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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
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CHAPTER 23

Although there's an abrupt shift at the end, this chapter is mostly comedy. In the first part Huck tells us of how the king and the duke con the men of the town out of nearly $500 and get away unhurt. The way they make their living prompts Jim to ask Huck if he isn't surprised at "de way dem kings carries on."

And that leads Huck into a long monologue on the terrible behavior of kings. He cites Henry VIII as a typical kingly rapscallion, then attributes to him everything he can think of from English history. This monologue is similar to the Shakespeare jumble we got earlier from the duke.

As for Twain, he's making us laugh again, even though he's commenting on yet another sad example of human folly.

The next morning Huck awakes to find Jim pining for his family. He says Jim cares for his family as much as white people care for theirs. "It don't seem natural," he adds, "but I reckon it's so."


That statement is just a reminder that Huck still doesn't think of Jim as quite human, even if he is committed to a friendship with him. But Twain isn't going to let his reader fall into the same trap. He ends the chapter with Jim telling a harrowing story about a time he slapped his four-year-old daughter for not obeying him. The girl had just come through an attack of scarlet fever, and Jim didn't know what effect it had had on her.

When he found out-after he'd slapped her-he was overcome with grief over what he had done. He begged God to forgive him, he says, because he would never forgive himself.

Read Jim's account of this incident carefully. Try to hear him telling Huck about it. If his story doesn't remind you of how human he is, nothing ever will.

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