created the character of Huckleberry Finn for his novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
(1876). Twain would later have Huck narrate and star in his own eponymous novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(1884), generally celebrated as one of the classics of American literature, and again narrate two shorter sequels to his more famous works, Tom Sawyer Abroad
(1894) and Tom Sawyer, Detective
(1896), along with some unfinished works. The first biography below provides a summary of Huck's story in Twain's novels. Later installments will summarize his life as portrayed in different movies and TV series.
Novels of Mark Twain
Huck Finn, a boy about 13-14 years old, lives in St. Petersburg, Missouri (a fictional version of Hannibal) along the Mississippi River circa the 1840s. Huck is the only (known) child of the town drunk, "Pap" Finn, who regularly beats his son when he is in town, and has no (known) mother. When Tom Sawyer
opens, Finn has been missing for a while. Huck apparently has no living mother or siblings, and he has been living an "uncivilized" life free of any restraints or authority. Huck has no home (other than a hogshead), doesn't go to school, and does what wants when he wants. To the adults of St. Petersburg, Huck is a pariah. Boys like Tom Sawyer envy Huck his freedom.
Huck is a close friend of Tom, an imaginative kid with a love for romantic fiction, and participates in a number of adventures with him. Together, Huck and Tom witness the midnight, graveyard murder of Doc Robinson by Injun Joe, and watch him frame Muff Potter. The boys swear a blood oath to keep their knowledge secret. Later, the two boys and Joe Harper run away to Jackson's Island to live the life of pirates, and when they return to St. Petersburg, attend their own funeral. Injun Joe escapes when Tom testifies in court that Joe, not Muff Potter, killed Robinson. Later, while searching a "haunted house" for treasure, Huck and Tom hide when a disguised Joe and a partner approach the house. They watch while Joe uncovers a buried treasure, $12,000 in gold. Several days later, Huck spots Joe and his partner; hoping to find where they hid the treasure, he trails them and discovers they are planning an assault on Widow Douglas. By rousing the neighbors, Huck thwarts their scheme. In the meantime, Tom has an encounter with Joe while lost in a cave. After Joe is discovered dead from thirst in the cave, Tom and Huck return to the cave and find the gold. When they bring the gold back to St. Petersburg, they discover that Huck's role in saving Widow Douglas has been revealed, and the Widow has decided to adopt Huck. The now-wealthy Huck is due to be "civilized."
Huck finds living with the Widow stifling and runs away, but Tom finds him and persuades him to return to the Widow with the promise of membership in an exclusive gang of robbers. When Huckleberry Finn
opens, Huck is still struggling with the civilized life of Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson. He is now attending school and learning how to read. He has also befriended Miss Watson's slave Jim. Huck is gradually adjusting to his new life, even staying with the Widow when Tom's gang disbands, when his father returns to town wanting a share of Huck's riches. When Finn is frustrated in his attempts to regain custody of Huck, he kidnaps his son and takes him back to his cabin. Huck eventually escapes his abusive father while Finn is gone one day. By faking his own murder, Huck also stops both his father and the Widow from searching for him. Now back to living the life of freedom that he treasures, Huck hides out on Jackson's Island, where he discovers Jim, who ran off from Miss Watson when he discovered she was planning to sell him down the river and separate Jim from his family. After a storm, Huck and Jim recover a sizable raft and discover a dead body in a floating house. When Huck discovers that that a search party is headed for the island, the duo flee down the Mississippi River on the raft. For the most part, Huck and Jim travel by night and hide by day, having a number of adventures and becoming close companions during their travels. Huck has an ongoing struggle with his conscience because he is helping his slave friend to escape, something that he's always been taught was morally wrong.
When a steamboat crushes their raft, Huck, who believes Jim to be dead, is taken in by the Grangerford family. Weeks later, a Grangerford slave reunites Huck and Jim, who, while in hiding, has fixed their raft. The next day, the Grangerfords are wiped out during a flare-up in their feud with the Sheperdson clan. The sorrowful Huck and Jim again escape downriver only to run into more trouble when they provide refuge to two grifters. The grifters soon identify themselves as deposed royalty, the Dauphin, King of France, and the Duke of Bridgewater. The King and Duke involve Huck and Jim in several schemes, such as the Royal Nonesuch, to defraud the yokels who live in the towns along the Mississippi. Their crowning scheme involves posing as the English Wilks brothers whose wealthy Mississippi brother has just passed away, leaving a substantial estate to his three daughters. Leaving Jim at the raft and with Huck posing as their retainer, the grifters are readily accepted by the girls and the town folk. As the brothers prepare to dispose of the Wilks estate, Huck's conscience bothers hims, particularly as he becomes enamoured of the beautiful Mary Jane Wilks, the kindly eldest daughter. Huck discretely helps to thwart their scheme, which falls apart completely when the real Wilks brothers appear, but he fails to part with the grifters themselves, as the King and Duke escape with Huck and Jim on the raft.
The King and Duke's final moneymaking scheme is to sell Jim to slave hunters. After discovering Jim has gone missing, Huck finds out that he is being held at the Phelps farm in Arkansas. Struggling one last time with his conscience, Huck resolves to help Jim escape even if it means that hell go to hell. When Huck arrives at the farm, he is mistaken for the visiting nephew of Sally and Silas Phelps--Tom Sawyer! Huck catches Tom before he arrives at the farm. When he tells Tom of his plight, Tom immediately agrees to help free Jim. While posing as Tom (Huck) and his brother Sid (Tom), Tom and Huck begin to implement an elaborate scheme to free Jim that Tom inspired by the romantic novels that hes read, dreams up. Huck's participation is somewhat reluctant, but he gets caught up in Tom's vision. Jim also reluctantly goes along with the plan, which causes him a great deal of suffering. On the night the boys finally break Jim out, the trio are pursued by gunmen, alerted by a note Huck left on Toms instruction to make their adventure more dangerous. Tom is shot; Huck finds a doctor to help him, and with Jim's assistance, the doctor saves Tom's life. Jim is brought back to the Phelps farm where he is chained up again until Tom reveals that Jim had already been freed by Miss Watson, in her will, after she died.
Tom also reveals that Huck's fortune is still intact in St. Petersburg, while Jim reveals that Huck is now an orphan. The body they found in the floating house was his pap. Despite the wealth awaiting him, Huck closes Huckleberry Finn
by telling readers he plans to flee west because Aunt Sally wants to "sivilize" him.Tom Sawyer Abroad
reveals that Huck returns to St. Petersburg with Tom and Jim after their adventures in Arkansas. The three friends then partake in a fantastic balloon ride that carries them to Africa before they return home. In Tom Sawyer, Detective
, Huck and Tom return to the Phelps farm about a year after they free Jim. When Uncle Silas is accused of murder, Tom, with Huck's assistance, discovers the real murderers and solves a diamond theft as a bonus. Then he splits his reward with Huck.