The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain

Chapters 14–16

Summary Chapters 14–16

Summary: Chapter 14

Jim and Huck find a number of valuables among the robbers’ bounty from the Walter Scott, mostly books, clothes, and cigars. As they relax in the woods and wait for nightfall before traveling again, Huck reads books from the wreck, and the two discuss what Huck calls their “adventures.” Jim says he doesn’t enjoy adventures, as they could easily end in his death or capture. Huck astonishes Jim with stories of kings, first reading from books and then adding some of his own, made-up stories. Jim had only heard of King Solomon, whom he considers a fool for wanting to chop a baby in half. Huck cannot convince Jim otherwise. Huck tells Jim about the dauphin (whom Huck mistakenly calls the “dolphin”), the son of the executed King Louis XVI of France. The dauphin currently is rumored to be wandering America. Jim refuses to believe that the French do not speak English, as Huck explains. Huck tries to argue the point with Jim but gives up in defeat.

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Summary: Chapter 15

Huck and Jim approach the Ohio River, their goal. One foggy night, Huck, in the canoe, gets separated from Jim and the raft. He tries to paddle back to the raft, but the fog is so thick that he loses all sense of direction. After a lonely time adrift, Huck reunites with Jim, who is asleep on the raft. Jim is thrilled to see Huck alive, but Huck tries to trick Jim by pretending that Jim dreamed up their entire separation. Jim tells Huck the story of his dream, making the fog and the troubles he faced on the raft into an allegory of their journey to the free states. But soon Jim notices all the debris, dirt, and tree branches that collected on the raft while it was adrift. He gets mad at Huck for making a fool of him after he had worried about him so much. “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger,” Huck says, but he eventually apologizes and does not regret it. He feels bad about hurting Jim.

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Summary: Chapter 16

Jim and Huck worry that they will miss Cairo, the town at the mouth of the Ohio River, which runs into the free states. Meanwhile, Huck’s conscience troubles him deeply about helping Jim escape from his “rightful owner,” Miss Watson, especially after all she has done for Huck. Jim talks on and on about going to the free states, especially about his plan to earn money to buy the freedom of his wife and children. If their masters refuse to give up Jim’s family, Jim plans to have some abolitionists kidnap them. When Huck and Jim think they see Cairo, Huck goes out on the canoe to check, having secretly resolved to give Jim up. But Huck’s heart softens when he hears Jim call out that Huck is his only friend, the only one to keep a promise to him.

Huck comes upon some men in a boat who want to search his raft for escaped slaves. Huck pretends to be grateful, saying no one else would help them. He leads the men to believe that his family is on board the raft and is suffering from smallpox. The men, fearing infection, back away and tell Huck to go further downstream and lie about his family’s condition to get help. Out of pity, they leave Huck forty dollars in gold. Huck feels bad because he thinks he has done wrong in not giving Jim up. However, he realizes he would feel just as bad if he had given Jim up. Huck re solves to disregard morality in the future and do what’s “handiest.”

Floating along, Huck and Jim pass several towns and worry that they have passed Cairo in the fog. They stop for the night and resolve to take the canoe upriver but in the morning discover that it has been stolen. They attribute the canoe’s disappearance to continued bad luck from the snakeskin on Jackson’s Island. Later, a steamboat collides with the raft, breaking it apart. Jim and Huck dive off in time but are separated. Huck makes it ashore, but a pack of dogs corners him.

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Analysis: Chapters 14–16

We see in these chapters that Huck, though open-minded, still largely subscribes to the Southern white conception of the world. When Jim assesses their “adventure,” Huck does admit that he has acted foolishly and jeopardized Jim’s safety, but he qualifies his assessment by adding that Jim is smart—for a black person. Huck also genuinely struggles with the question of whether or not to turn over Jim to the white men who ask if he is harboring any runaway slaves. In some sense, Huck still believes that turning Jim in would be the “right” thing to do, and he struggles with the idea that Miss Watson is a slave owner yet still seems to be a “good” person. Over the course of these chapters, as he spends more time with Jim, Huck is forced to question the facts that white society has taught him and that he has taken for granted.