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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain
Main Ideas

Allusions

Main Ideas Allusions

Chapter 1

Religious

After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers; and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by-and-by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care no more about him; because I don’t take no stock in dead people.

This is an allusion to the story of Moses and the bulrushes, told in the Bible in Exodus 2:3–10.

Chapter 3

Religious

I went and told the widow about it, and she said the thing a body could get by praying for it was ‘spiritual gifts.’

This is an allusion to chapters in the Bible, I Corinthians 12–14, in which St. Paul describes spiritual gifts.

Literary

He said if I warn’t so ignorant, but had read a book called “Don Quixote,” I would know without asking. He said it was all done by enchantment.

This is an allusion to Miguel de Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote de la Mancha, the comic tale of an aging knight’s imaginary adventures.

Literary

Why they rub an old tin lamp or an iron ring, and then the genies come tearing in, with the thunder and lightning a-ripping around and the smoke a-rolling, and everything they’re told to do they up and do it.

This is an allusion to the story of Aladdin and the magic lamp from The Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern and Indian folktales.

Chapter 5

Historical/Political

I took up a book and begun something about General Washington and the wars.

This is an allusion to George Washington, who led the Patriot army to victory in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

Chapter 6

Religious

Every time he got money he got drunk; and every time he got drunk he raised Cain around town; and every time he raised Cain he got jailed.

The expression “to raise Cain” alludes to Cain, a biblical character who was the son of Adam and Eve and murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8–9).

Religious

A body would a thought he was Adam, he was just all mud.

This is an allusion to the Bible story of how God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, recounted in Genesis 2:6-7.

Chapter 8

Historical/Political

I said I wouldn’t, and I’ll stick to it. Honest injun I will. People would call me a low down Ablitionist and despise me for keeping mum—but that don’t make no difference.

This is an allusion to abolitionism, the movement to end slavery.

Religious

Balum’s Ass dey call him for short, he’s one er dem chuckle-heads, you know.

The term “Balum’s Ass” is an allusion to a Bible story from Numbers 22:21–34 in which God uses a donkey to deliver a message to the prophet Balaam.

Chapter 12

Historical/Political

Why, you’d think it was Christopher C’lumbus discovering Kingdom-Come.

This is an allusion to Christopher Columbus’s 1492 “discovery” of America.

Chapter 13

Literary

What, you don’t mean the Walter Scott?

The name of the wrecked steamboat is an allusion to Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), a Scottish writer of historical novels, many of them set in medieval times.

Chapter 14

Religious

I didn’ know dey was so many un um. I hain’t heard ’bout none un um, skasely, but ole King Sollermun, onless you counts dem kings dat’s in a pack er k’yards. How much do a king git?

This is an allusion to King Solomon, whose story appears in the Bible in the First Book of Kings.

Religious

I doan k’yer what de wider say, he warn’t no wise man, nuther. He had some er de dad-fetchedes’ ways I ever see. Does you know ’bout dat chile dat he ’uz gwyne to chop in two?

This is an allusion to a Bible story told in I Kings 3:16–28, in which the wise King Solomon resolves a dispute between two women over a child.

Historical/Political

I told about Louis Sixteenth that got his head cut off in France long time ago; and about his little boy the dolphin, that would a been a king, but they took and shut him up in jail, and some say he died there.

This is an allusion to the execution of the French King Louis XVI and the imprisonment of the royal family during the French Revolution.

Chapter 17

Literary

There was some books, too, piled up perfectly exact, on each corner of the table. One was a big family Bible, full of pictures. One was “Pilgrim’s Progress,” about a man that left his family it didn’t say why.

This is an allusion to Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1628–1688), an allegorical novel that follows a Christian’s spiritual journey toward heaven.

Historical/Political

Another was “Friendship’s Offering,” full of beautiful stuff and poetry; but I didn’t read the poetry. Another was Henry Clay’s Speeches, and another was Dr. Gunn’s Family Medicine, which told you all about what to do if a body was sick or dead.

This is an allusion to actual publications and books that commonly appeared in ordinary homes before the Civil War.

Chapter 18

Religious

It was pretty ornery preaching—all about brotherly love, and such-like tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good sermon, and they all talked it over going home, and had such a powerful lot to say about faith, and good works, and free grace, and preforeordestination, and I don’t know what all, that it did seem to me to be one of the roughest Sundays I had run across yet.

The garbled term preforeordestination is an allusion to the doctrine of predestination, a theological concept responsible for much dissension within Protestant Christian churches.

Chapter 19

Historical/Political

Well, I’d ben a-runnin’ a little temperance revival thar, ’bout a week, and was the pet of the women-folks, big and little, for I was makin’ it mighty warm for the rummies, I tell you, and takin’ as much as five or six dollar a night[.]

This description of a con game contains an allusion to the temperance movement, a social and political campaign against the consumption of alcohol.

Historical/Political

Yes, my friend, it is too true—your eyes is lookin’ at this very moment on the pore disappeared Dauphin, Looy the Seventeen, son of Looy the Sixteen and Marry Antonette.

This is an allusion to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France, who were executed during the French Revolution, and to their son, whom monarchists called Louis XVII.

Chapter 20

Literary

In another bill he was the ‘world renowned Shaksperean tragedian, Garrick the Younger, of Drury Lane, London.’

This description of a con game alludes to David Garrick, a famous actor during the late 1700s, and to London’s most famous stage, the Drury Lane Theatre.

Literary

“You shall, then, before you’re three days older, Fallen Grandeur,” says the duke. “The first good town we come to, we’ll hire a hall and do the sword-fight in Richard III, and the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. How does that strike you?”

This is an allusion to two plays by William Shakespeare (1564–1616): Richard III, a historical drama, and Romeo and Juliet, a tragic love story.

Religious

It’s the brazen serpent in the wilderness! Look upon it and live!

This is an allusion to Bible passages from both the Old Testament (Numbers 21:8–9) and the New Testament (John 3:14).

Handcuffs and chains would look still better on Jim, but it wouldn’t go well with the story of us being so poor. Too much like jewelry. Ropes are the correct thing—we must preserve the unities, as we say on the boards.

The phrase preserve the unities is an allusion to the idea, stated by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, that a drama should be unified in place, time, and action.

Chapter 21

Literary

Hamlet’s soliloquy, you know; the most celebrated thing in Shakespeare. Ah, it’s sublime, sublime! Always fetches the house.

This is an allusion to a famous speech delivered by the title character of Hamlet, a tragedy by William Shakespeare.

Literary

To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin That makes calamity of so long life; For who would fardels bear[.]

These badly misquoted lines contain allusions to the famous soliloquy delivered by the title character in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet.

Literary

till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane[.]

This is an allusion to a line in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth.

Literary

But that fear of something after death Murders the innocent sleep, Great nature’s second course,

This is an allusion to a line in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth: “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep.”

Literary

And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune Than fly to others that we know not of. There’s the respect must give us pause:

This is an allusion to the famous soliloquy delivered by the title character in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, who says, “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune[.]”

Literary

Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst[.]

This is an allusion to a line in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth.

Literary

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

This is an allusion to the famous soliloquy delivered by the title character in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet.

Literary

The law’s delay, and the quietus which his pangs might take, In the dead waste and middle of the night, when churchyards yawn In customary suits of solemn black[.]

These badly misquoted lines contain allusions to a speech delivered by the title character in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet.

Literary

But that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns, Breathes forth contagion on the world, And thus the native hue of resolution, like the poor cat i’ the adage, Is sicklied o’er with care[.]

This is an allusion to the famous soliloquy delivered by the title character in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet.

Literary

And all the clouds that lowered o’er our housetops,

This is an allusion to the opening speech in William Shakespeare’s historical play Richard III.

Literary

With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. ʼTis a consummation devoutly to be wished. But soft, you, the fair Ophelia: Ope not thy ponderous and marble jaws, But get thee to a nunnery—go!

These badly misquoted lines contain allusions to the famous soliloquy delivered by the title character in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet.

Literary

Shaksperean Revival!!! Wonderful Attraction! For One Night Only! The world renowned tragedians, David Garrick the younger, of Drury Lane Theatre, London, and Edmund Kean the elder, of the Royal Haymarket Theatre, Whitechapel, Pudding Lane, Piccadilly, London, and the Royal Continental Theatres, in their sublime Shaksperean Spectacle entitled The Balcony Scene

The bill printed up by the duke alludes to two famous English actors and three well-known English theaters, as well as to the plays of William Shakespeare.

Chapter 23

Historical/Political/Religious

You read about them once—you’ll see. Look at Henry the Eight; this’n ʼs a Sunday-School Superintendent to him. And look at Charles Second, and Louis Fourteen, and Louis Fifteen, and James Second, and Edward Second, and Richard Third, and forty more; besides all them Saxon heptarchies that used to rip around so in old times and raise Cain.

This quote contains allusions to multiple kings of England and France and to ancient Saxon rulers as well, and the expression “raise Cain” alludes to Cain, a biblical character who was the son of Adam and Eve and who murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8–9).

Historical/Political

My, you ought to seen old Henry the Eight when he was in bloom. He was a blossom. He used to marry a new wife every day, and chop off her head next morning. And he would do it just as indifferent as if he was ordering up eggs. ‘Fetch up Nell Gwyn,’ he says. They fetch her up. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head!’ And they chop it off. ‘Fetch up Jane Shore,’ he says; and up she comes. Next morning ‘Chop off her head’—and they chop it off. ‘Ring up Fair Rosamun.’ Fair Rosamun answers the bell. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head.’

This is an allusion to King Henry VIII of England (1491–1547) and some of his wives, although the names of the wives are not completely accurate.

Literary

And he made every one of them tell him a tale every night; and he kept that up till he had hogged a thousand and one tales that way, and then he put them all in a book, and called it Domesday Book—which was a good name and stated the case.

This quote contains allusions to two books, The Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern and Indian folktales, and the Domesday Book, a twelfth-century official document of England’s government.

Historical/Political

Well, Henry he takes a notion he wants to get up some trouble with this country. How does he go at it—give notice?—give the country a show? No. All of a sudden he heaves all the tea in Boston Harbor overboard, and whacks out a declaration of independence, and dares them to come on. That was his style—he never give anybody a chance. He had suspicions of his father, the Duke of Wellington.

This quote contains several erroneous allusions, confusing King Henry VIII of England with Patrick Henry, an American Revolutionary War hero, as well as getting the facts wrong on the Boston Tea Party of 1775 and the parentage of Henry.

Chapter 24

Literary

He dressed Jim up in King Lear’s outfit—it was a long curtain-calico gown, and a white horse-hair wig and whiskers; and then he took his theatre-paint and painted Jim’s face and hands and ears and neck all over a dead dull solid blue, like a man that’s been drownded nine days.

This is an allusion to the protagonist of William Shakespeare’s tragic play King Lear, King Lear, who has episodes of madness.

Religious

Why, before, he looked like the orneriest old rip that ever was; but now, when he’d take off his new white beaver and make a bow and do a smile, he looked that grand and good and pious that you’d say he had walked right out of the ark, and maybe was old Leviticus himself.

This is an allusion is to the Bible story of Noah and the Ark, told in the Book of Genesis, but Huck gets Noah’s name wrong and calls him by another Bible name, Leviticus, instead.

Chapter 25

Religious

And the minute the words was out of his mouth somebody over in the crowd struck up the doxolojer, and everybody joined in with all their might, and it just warmed you up and made you feel as good as church letting out.

This is an allusion to the doxology, a short song of Christian worship that begins, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

Chapter 28

Religious

She had the grit to pray for Judus if she took the notion—there warn’t no back-down to her, I judge.

This is an allusion to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Christ in the Bible.

Chapter 29

Religious

It got darker and darker, and it was a beautiful time to give the crowd the slip; but that big husky had me by the wrist—Hines—and a body might as well try to give Goliar the slip.

The term Goliar is an allusion to Goliath, a giant who first appears in the Bible in 1 Samuel 17:23–24.

Chapter 33

Religious

Till I ask you! Well, I never see the beat of it in my born days! I lay you’ll be the Methusalem-numskull of creation before ever I ask you—or the likes of you.

This is an allusion to Methuselah, the longest-living person in the Bible, who, according to Genesis 5:27, lived for 969 years.

Chapter 35

Historical/Political

Why, hain’t you ever read any books at all?—Baron Trenck, nor Casanova, nor Benvenuto Chelleeny, nor Henri IV., nor none of them heroes? Whoever heard of getting a prisoner loose in such an old-maidy way as that?

This quote contains allusions to several historical figures who were famous for their dramatic escapes from prison: Baron Franz von der Trenck (1711–1749), Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798), Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571), and Henry IV of France (1553–1610).

Literary

The Iron Mask always done that, and it’s a blame’ good way, too.

This is an allusion to the hero of The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas the Elder (1802–1870).

Literary

Why, look at one of them prisoners in the bottom dungeon of the Castle Deef, in the harbor of Marseilles, that dug himself out that way; how long was he at it, you reckon?

This is an allusion to the Chateau d’If, a location in The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas the Elder (1802–1870).

Chapter 37

Historical/Political

Uncle Silas he had a noble brass warming-pan which he thought considerable of, because it belonged to one of his ancesters with a large wooden handle that come over from England with William the Conqueror in the Mayflower or one of them early ships[.]

This quote contains two allusions: one refers to the arrival of the ship Mayflower in America in 1620, and the other refers to the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.

Chapter 39

Historical/Political

But there’s always somebody spying around, that gives notice to the governor of the castle. When Louis XVI. was going to light out of the Tooleries, a servant girl done it.

This is an allusion to the attempted escape of Louis XVI of France and his family from their confinement in Tuileries Palace, which took place in 1791 during the French Revolution.

Chapter 41

Religious

[C]razy ʼs Nebokoodneezer, s’I.

This is an allusion to Nebuchadnezzar, a king who appears in the Bible.