The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.
In these lines, which appear on the first page of the novel, Huck discusses events that have occurred since the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the novel in which he made his first appearance. Here, Huck establishes his opposition to “sivilizing,” which seems natural for a thirteen-year-old boy rebelling against his parents and other authorities. Our initial inclination may be to laugh and dismiss Huck’s urges for freedom. At the same time, however, we see that Huck’s problems with civilized society are based on some rather mature observations about the worth of that society. Huck goes on to associate civilization and respectability with a childish game—Tom’s band of robbers, in which the participants are to pretend to be criminals. Under the influence of his friend, Huck gives in and returns to the Widow’s, but as the novel progresses, his dislike for society reappears and influences the important decisions he makes.