Huck’s decision to help Jim
Although Twain doesn’t make strong use of foreshadowing in Huckleberry Finn, he uses it to set up the main conflicts of the novel, especially regarding helping Jim. Early in the novel the Widow Douglas tells Huck about hell, “the bad place,” and informs him that she has lived her life so as to ensure that she will go to heaven, “the good place,” when she dies. Not fully understanding the meaning of heaven and hell in Christian theology, Huck decides that he’d rather be wherever the Widow Douglas is not. Therefore, he informs her of his preference for “the bad place.” This conversation foreshadows Huck’s decision to continue helping Jim escape. Whereas his conversation with the Widow Douglas focused on religious morality, the decision Huck makes later in the novel concerns social morality. Since assisting a runaway slave was a punishable offense during that period of American history, Huck has to choose between acting in a socially acceptable or unacceptable way. Just as Huck upsets the Widow Douglas by preferring hell to heaven, so too does his decision to help Jim place him at odds with society at large.
Throughout the novel, Jim expresses various superstitions that Huck initially dismisses, but eventually comes to respect, as they all turn out to be true. When Huck discovers a snakeskin and picks it up, Jim warns that this is a sign of bad luck. Then, in Chapter 10, when Huck jokingly places a dead rattlesnake near where Jim is sleeping, another snake bites Jim, causing his leg to swell severely for several days. Huck feels great remorse about not believing Jim: “I made up my mind I wouldn’t ever take aholt of a snake skin again.” This is one of the first instances of Huck’s opinion of Jim changing. In another example, Jim tells Huck that when a man has hairy arms and a hairy chest, it means that he will eventually become rich. Huck asks Jim if his arms and chest are hairy, to which Jim responds in the affirmative. At the novel’s end, Tom gives Jim forty dollars to compensate him for his troubles, and Jim declares that the omen of his body hair has come to fruition: “signs is signs, mine I tell you.”
The death of Pap
One main source of tension throughout the book is Pap’s pursuit of Huck, and the suspense of Pap’s whereabouts is only resolved at the very end when Jim reveals that the corpse they found in the house floating on the river was Pap’s dead body. However, Pap’s fate is foreshadowed several times in the book. In Chapter 3, the judge tells Huck that a body believed to be his father’s was found floating on its back, with the face unrecognizable. Huck doesn’t believe the judge about the body, because “a drowned man don’t float on his back, but on his face.” He is proved right when Pap shows up in his room asking for money, then kidnaps him and beats him. Later, Huck and Jim see a house floating down the river. Jim finds the body of a man with his face shot off, echoing the faceless corpse from earlier. Jim won’t let Huck see the body, so the reader remains in suspense as to where Pap is, and whether he will catch Huck, until the last page of the novel, when Jim reveals the identity of the man with his face shot off, saying, “he ain’t a comin’ back no mo’, Huck.”