The protagonist and narrator of the novel. Huck is
the thirteen-year-old son of the local drunk of St. Petersburg,
Missouri, a town on the Mississippi River. Frequently forced to
survive on his own wits and always a bit of an outcast, Huck is
thoughtful, intelligent (though formally uneducated), and willing to
come to his own conclusions about important matters, even if these
conclusions contradict society’s norms. Nevertheless, Huck is still
a boy, and is influenced by others, particularly by his imaginative friend,
friend, and the protagonist of Tom Sawyer,
novel to which Huckleberry Finn
is ostensibly the sequel.
In Huckleberry Finn,
Tom serves as a foil to Huck:
imaginative, dominating, and given to wild plans taken from the
plots of adventure novels, Tom is everything that Huck is not. Tom’s
stubborn reliance on the “authorities” of romance novels leads him
to acts of incredible stupidity and startling cruelty. His rigid
adherence to society’s conventions aligns Tom with the “sivilizing”
forces that Huck learns to see through and gradually abandons.
in-depth analysis of Tom Sawyer.
Widow Douglas and Miss Watson
Two wealthy sisters who live together in a large
house in St. Petersburg and who adopt Huck. The gaunt and severe
Miss Watson is the most prominent representative of the hypocritical religious
and ethical values Twain criticizes in the novel. The Widow Douglas
is somewhat gentler in her beliefs and has more patience with the
mischievous Huck. When Huck acts in a manner contrary to societal
expectations, it is the Widow Douglas whom he fears disappointing.
of Miss Watson’s household slaves. Jim is superstitious and occasionally
sentimental, but he is also intelligent, practical, and ultimately
more of an adult than anyone else in the novel. Jim’s frequent acts of
selflessness, his longing for his family, and his friendship with
both Huck and Tom demonstrate to Huck that humanity has nothing
to do with race. Because Jim is a black man and a runaway slave,
he is at the mercy of almost all the other characters in the novel and
is often forced into ridiculous and degrading situations.
in-depth analysis of Jim.
father, the town drunk and ne’er-do-well. Pap is a wreck when he
appears at the beginning of the novel, with disgusting, ghostlike
white skin and tattered clothes. The illiterate Pap disapproves
of Huck’s education and beats him frequently. Pap represents both
the general debasement of white society and the failure of family
structures in the novel.
The duke and the dauphin
A pair of con men whom Huck and Jim rescue as they
are being run out of a river town. The older man, who appears to
be about seventy, claims to be the “dauphin,” the son of King Louis
XVI and heir to the French throne. The younger man, who is about thirty,
claims to be the usurped Duke of Bridgewater. Although Huck quickly
realizes the men are frauds, he and Jim remain at their mercy, as
Huck is only a child and Jim is a runaway slave. The duke and the
dauphin carry out a number of increasingly disturbing swindles as
they travel down the river on the raft.
The local judge who shares responsibility for Huck with
the Widow Douglas and is in charge of safeguarding the money that
Huck and Tom found at the end of Tom Sawyer.
Huck discovers that Pap has returned to town, he wisely signs his
fortune over to the Judge, who doesn’t really accept the money,
but tries to comfort Huck. Judge Thatcher has a daughter, Becky,
who was Tom’s girlfriend in Tom Sawyer
and whom Huck calls “Bessie”
in this novel.
A family that takes Huck in after a steamboat hits
his raft, separating him from Jim. The kindhearted Grangerfords,
who offer Huck a place to stay in their tacky country home, are
locked in a long-standing feud with another local family, the Shepherdsons.
Twain uses the two families to engage in some rollicking humor and
to mock a overly romanticizes ideas about family honor. Ultimately,
the families’ sensationalized feud gets many of them killed.
The Wilks family
At one point during their travels, the duke and the
dauphin encounter a man who tells them of the death of a local named
Peter Wilks, who has left behind a rich estate. The man inadvertently
gives the con men enough information to allow them to pretend to
be Wilks’s two brothers from England, who are the recipients of
much of the inheritance. The duke and the dauphin’s subsequent conning
of the good-hearted and vulnerable Wilks sisters is the first step
in the con men’s increasingly cruel series of scams, which culminate
in the sale of Jim.
Silas and Sally Phelps
Tom Sawyer’s aunt and uncle, whom Huck coincidentally
encounters in his search for Jim after the con men have sold him.
Sally is the sister of Tom’s aunt, Polly. Essentially good people,
the Phelpses nevertheless hold Jim in custody and try to return
him to his rightful owner. Silas and Sally are the unknowing victims
of many of Tom and Huck’s “preparations” as they try to free Jim.
The Phelpses are the only intact and functional family in this novel,
yet they are too much for Huck, who longs to escape their “sivilizing” influence.
Tom Sawyer’s aunt and guardian and Sally Phelps’s sister. Aunt Polly
appears at the end of the novel and properly identifies Huck, who
has pretended to be Tom, and Tom, who has pretended to be his own younger