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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 12: Better Let Blame Well Alone
Jim and Huck float down the river all night on their raft. In the early morning, they land on the Illinois side of the river in an area that affords them protection from being seen. Huck tells Jim about what he has found out from Mrs. Loftus; he also tells him about building the fire to confuse the men who come searching for Jim. Then they both set about making the raft more fit for travel. Jim builds a tent on the raft for protection from sun and rain and also makes a place to build a fire. Both of them work on an extra oar for emergencies. Finally, they decide to travel under the cover of darkness and come ashore during the day. For the next four nights, they drift along without incident. Every night Huck slips ashore to one of the small towns they pass to buy some groceries, and during the day, he often “lifts” a chicken. He also “borrows” watermelons from fields and justifies his actions by saying he intends to pay everything back.
On the fifth night, it begins to rain heavily. Huck and Jim seek shelter under the tent and let the raft take care of itself. In the glare of lightning, they see a steamboat knocked against the rocks. Huck wants to go and investigate and see if they can retrieve anything of value; Jim is against the idea, but follows Huck’s lead. As they board the boat, they hear voices that are arguing about splitting some loot. Jim does not wait to hear anything more and backs away, but Huck is curious to know more. He goes further, looks through a window, and finds three men inside. One of them is stretched on the floor with both his hands and legs tied. Two men are standing over him, one holding a gun. The man on the floor, Jim Turner, is begging the other two to spare his life. Bill wants to kill him, but the other man, Jake Pickard, does not want to. The three men are obviously scoundrels, and each one is trying to doublecross the other. Once Huck realizes this, he rushes back the way he came and asks Jim to let loose their boat so that all three of them will be unable to escape. When Huck tells Jim that they should also get away in their raft, Jim says that it has drifted away.
With this chapter, the second part of the novel begins; it will relate the adventures that Huck and Jim have as they travel down the Mississippi on their raft. Their first adventure begins with the discovery of the wrecked steamboat and the scoundrels on board. While Huck is investigating the boat, their raft is lost, and he and Jim barely escape from being caught.
In the chapter, Huck, at twelve, again asserts himself as the one in control. Jim may be the voice of wisdom and reason, but he follows the directions given by Huck. Jim advises against going over to explore the grounded steamboat, but Huck insists. He still has no understanding of what Jim is going through or the danger that the Negro faces; as a result Huck takes foolish chances.