Consisting of 43 chapters, the novel begins with Huck Finn introducing himself as someone readers might have heard of in the past. Readers learn that the practical Huck has become rich from his last adventure with Tom Sawyer (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) and that the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, have taken Huck into their home in order to try to teach him religion and proper manners. Instead of obeying his guardians, however, Huck sneaks out of the house at night to join Tom Sawyer’s gang and pretend that they are robbers and pirates.One day Huck discovers that his father, Pap Finn, has returned to town. Because Pap has a history of violence and drunkenness, Huck is worried about Pap’s intentions, especially toward his invested money.
When Pap confronts Huck and warns him to quit school and stop trying to better himself, Huck continues to attend school just to spite Pap. Huck’s fears are soon realized when Pap kidnaps him and takes him across the Mississippi River to a small cabin on the Illinois shore.Although Huck becomes somewhat comfortable with his life free from religion and school, Pap’s beatings become too severe, and Huck fakes his own murder and escapes down the Mississippi. Huck lands a few miles down at Jackson’s Island, and there he stumbles across Miss Watson’s slave, Jim, who has run away for fear he will be sold down the river. Huck and Jim soon learn that men are coming to search Jackson’s Island, and the two fugitives escape down the river on a raft. Jim’s plan is to reach the Illinois town of Cairo, and from there, he can take the Ohio River up to the free states.
The plan troubles Huck and his conscience. However, Huck continues to stay with Jim as they travel, despite his belief that he is breaking all of society and religion’s tenets. Huck’s struggle with the concept of slavery and Jim’s freedom continues throughout the novel.Huck and Jim encounter several characters during their flight, including a band of robbers aboard a wrecked steamboat and two Southern families who are involved in a bloody feud. The only time that Huck and Jim feel that they are truly free is when they are aboard the raft. This freedom and tranquility are shattered by the arrival of the duke and the king, who commandeer the raft and force Huck and Jim to stop at various river towns in order to perform confidence scams on the inhabitants. The scams are harmless until the duke and the king pose as English brothers and plot to steal a family’s entire inheritance.
Before the duke and the king can complete their plan, the real brothers arrive..