The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain

Chapters 20–22

Summary Chapters 20–22

Summary: Chapter 20

The duke and the dauphin ask whether Jim is a runaway slave. Huck makes up a story about how he was orphaned and tells them that he and Jim have been forced to travel at night since so many people stopped his boat to ask whether Jim was a runaway. That night, the duke and the dauphin take Huck’s and Jim’s beds while Huck and Jim stand watch against a storm.

The next morning, the duke gets the dauphin to agree to put on a performance of Shakespeare in the next town they pass. They reach the town and find that everyone in the town has left for a religious revival meeting in the woods, a lively affair with several thousand people singing and shouting. The dauphin gets up and tells the crowd that he is a former pirate, now reformed by the revival meeting, who will return to the Indian Ocean as a missionary. The crowd joyfully takes up a collection, netting the dauphin more than eighty dollars and many kisses from pretty young women.

Meanwhile, the duke takes over the deserted print office in town and earns nearly ten dollars selling print jobs, subscriptions, and advertisements in the local newspaper. The duke also prints up a “handbill,” or leaflet, offering a reward for Jim’s capture, which will allow them to travel freely by day and tell anyone who inquires that Jim is their captive. Meanwhile, Jim has been innocently trying to get the dauphin to speak French, but the supposed heir to the French throne claims that he has forgotten the language.

Read a translation of Chapter 20 →

Summary: Chapter 21

Waking up after a night of drinking, the duke and dauphin practice the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet and the swordfight from Richard III on the raft. The duke also works on his recitation of the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet, which he doesn’t know well at all, throwing in lines from other parts of Hamlet and even some lines from Macbeth. To Huck, however, the duke seems to possess a great talent.

Next, the group visits a one-horse town in Arkansas where lazy young men loiter in the streets, arguing over chewing tobacco. Huck gives a detailed, absurd description of the town. The duke posts handbills for the theatrical performance, and Huck witnesses the shooting of a rowdy drunk by a man, Sherburn, whom the drunk has insulted. The shooting takes place in front of the victim’s daughter. A crowd gathers around the dying man and then goes off to lynch Sherburn.

Read a translation of Chapter 21 →

Summary: Chapter 22

The lynch mob charges through the streets, proceeds to Sherburn’s house, and knocks down the front fence. The crowd quickly backs away, however, as Sherburn greets them from the roof of his front porch, rifle in hand. After a chilling silence, Sherburn delivers a haughty speech on human nature in which he attacks the cowardice and mob mentality of the average person. Sherburn tells the crowd that no one will lynch him in the daytime. The mob, chastened, disperses.