The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by: Mark Twain

Chapters 26–28

Despite these developments, however, Huck still has several lessons to learn and still struggles with the conflicting messages he receives from society and from his personal experiences. Even though Huck rightly takes the money from the con men, he does not give it to the Wilks sisters directly, and he still cannot bring himself to expose the con men to the Wilkses. It is not until two chapters later that Huck, seeing Mary Jane crying in her bedroom, blurts out that the duke and the dauphin are frauds. Also, Huck seems relatively unfazed when he hears that the dauphin’s plan to liquidate the Wilks’s property will require the separation of a slave woman from her children. Huck confesses to Mary Jane not because he is upset about the splitting of the slave family but because he feels bad that she is upset about it. Twain implies, through Huck’s struggle with the issue, that the attitudes and assumptions that enable racism and slavery in the South are deep-seated and difficult to overcome. Although Huck has made great strides, he still struggles to make sense of the confusing world around him. His predicament is understandable: after all, a world in which both seemingly good people (Miss Watson) and clearly evil people (the duke and the dauphin) are willing to perpetrate great cruelty—separating a mother from her children—is a confusing world indeed.

Although these chapters are generally serious in tone, Twain maintains his characteristic mix of absurdity, suspense, humor, and biting cynicism throughout. The funeral scene is one of Twain’s brilliant comic set pieces, complete with screechy music, blubbering mourners, and a smarmy undertaker, all of which enable Huck to make wry observations about human nature while he sweats out the fate of the money he has hidden in the coffin. Then, the climactic appearance of an alternate set of Wilks brothers at the end of Chapter 28 sets the stage for more absurdity and confrontation. The remarkable mix of serious social commentary and entertaining suspense and humor is what Twain is perhaps best known for—and what has made The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn such an enduring work.