I got out amongst the driftwood, and then laid down in the bottom of the canoe and let her float. I laid there, and had a good rest and a smoke out of my pipe, looking away into the sky; not a cloud in it. The sky looks ever so deep when you lay down on your back in the moonshine; I never knowed it before. And how far a body can hear on the water such nights! I heard people talking at the ferry landing. I heard what they said, too—every word of it.
In this passage, Huck describes the sights and sounds that surround him as he lies on the bottom of the canoe, floating down the Mississippi River at night. He has recently escaped from his father, who had been holding him on Jackson Island, near his home in St. Petersburg, Missouri. The passage characterizes the river as a very large place that presents Huck with new experiences and “adventures,” as in the title of the book. Huck’s surprise at the deepness of the sky and how well the sound carries suggests that these experiences are new to him. The river setting also exposes Huck to the world of adults like the ones he overhears on the ferry landing. Here and throughout the novel, the reader experiences the American South through Huck’s youthful eyes as he drifts down the river.
I never felt easy till the raft was two mile below there and out in the middle of the Mississippi. Then we hung up our signal lantern, and judged that we was free and safe once more. I hadn’t had a bite to eat since yesterday, so Jim he got out some corn-dodgers and buttermilk, and pork and cabbage and greens—there ain’t nothing in the world so good when it’s cooked right—and whilst I eat my supper we talked and had a good time. I was powerful glad to get away from the feuds, and so was Jim to get away from the swamp. We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.
In this passage, Huck calls the raft “home” and describes the river as a place where he and Jim feel free and safe to do what they want. At this point in the story, Huck and Jim have just escaped from the gunfight between the Grangerford and the Shepherdson families. Now they are back on the river, where they are free to be themselves without becoming entangled in the senseless conflicts that seem to dominate the places where they stop along the river. Although they are adrift on a raft, Huck and Jim share a home-cooked meal and feel that this is where they truly belong.
It was a monstrous big river down there—sometimes a mile and a half wide; we run nights, and laid up and hid daytimes; soon as night was most gone we stopped navigating and tied up—nearly always in the dead water under a towhead; and then cut young cottonwoods and willows, and hid the raft with them. Not a sound anywheres—perfectly still—just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. . . .and by and by you could see a streak on the water . . . and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t’other side of the river. . . then the nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they’ve left dead fish laying around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank. . .
In this passage, Huck describes the sights, sounds, and smells of the river as night transitions to day. At night, “when the whole world is asleep,” the river is quiet and undisturbed by people, a purely natural setting in which Huck and Jim are free to travel downstream on their raft. As daylight approaches, they stop and hide the raft and watch the sun rise gradually. The natural beauty of the river and surrounding woodlands gradually comes into focus, but so, too, do signs of human corruption, like the smell of rotting fish along the shoreline.
We dasn’t stop again at any town for days and days; kept right along down the river. We was down south in the warm weather now, and a mighty long ways from home. We begun to come to trees with Spanish moss on them, hanging down from the limbs like long, gray beards. It was the first I ever see it growing, and it made the woods look solemn and dismal. So now the frauds reckoned they was out of danger, and they begun to work the villages again.
At this point in the story, Huck and Jim, along with “the frauds” (the duke and the dauphin), have escaped from an angry mob in Arkansas and are floating farther south on the raft. Huck observes the change in the weather and the Spanish moss on the trees and notes that they are now very far from home. To Huck, the new surroundings seem “solemn and dismal.” For the duke and the dauphin, however, the change in scenery means they can begin running their scams again without danger of being recognized.