The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain
Contributed by Cinderella Domino
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Chapter 4
Summary

After his skirmish with his drunken father, and not wanting to be locked up all day, Huck decides that it is time for him to escape. He finds a saw and decides to dig a hole to the outside. He carefully covers it up so that pap wont see it. When this is finished, he makes plans for his escape. He decides to hunt and kill a pig, drip the blood all over the cabin floor and make it seem as if a murder had been committed. He then takes a canoe that he had found a few days earlier and rows to a nearby island which is uninhabited.

The next morning he is awakened by the sounds of canon balls. He sees a ferryboat and realizes that people are looking for him. The boat passes very close to where he is and he can even see who is onboard. After a few days of just doing nothing, Huck decides to explore his surroundings and to his surprise he finds Jim, Miss Watson’s slave, also hiding from the people on the mainland. Jim thinks that he is seeing a ghost because everyone had thought that Huck was dead. They exchange their story and Huck finds out that Jim ran away when he found out that he going to be sold.

They each enjoy the fact that they are no longer alone.

One night they see a houseboat floating along the shore. They decide to board it to see if they can salvage any supplies for themselves. Jim sees a dead man on the boat and tells Huck that he shouldn’t look at him because he looks too awful. They find some things and take them. Back on the island, they decide to find a cave so that they can be sheltered in the event of rain.

Huck thinks about the dead man and wonders about him. Jim tells him that it is bad luck to do that. Just then bad luck does strike them. A snake bites Jim when Huck plays a joke on him and places a snakeskin near him while he is asleep.

Being curious as to what is happening on the mainland and what people are saying about them, Huck disguises himself as a girl and goes into town. He speaks to a woman who appears to be a newcomer and will not be able to recognize him.

Analysis

The character of Jim and his rapport with Huck are covered in depth in these chapters. 

Jim is an unusual character, intelligent, but superstitious and he becomes both a friend and father figure to Huck. Huck is quite immature at times, carrying on in a boyish manner, and he tends to be inconsiderate.  Jim is much more mature and is a foil to Huck’s immaturity, but the two share some important similarities. Both are skeptical of civilization and prefer the lure and adventure of the natural world. The pair are also lonely and that coupled with their sensitivity, they become good companions.

Jim shows his wisdom by predicting that there will be a storm and they are able to shelter themselves and their goods in a cave.

The reader also learns that Jim has a wife and two children who live around St. Petersburg and if he were sold to a slaver from New Orleans this would mean permanent separation from his family.  Currently, Jim is a house slave, but transfer to New Orleans would mean plantation labor and this is crushing work. Masters often used shipment down south as a real threat when they wanted to keep their slaves under control.

Jim and Huck’s relationship is one of the most important parts of the book, and it is interesting how Huck treats Jim as a peer during the telling of this story.

It is funny how superstition was so important in society as a whole where people still thought that cannonballs and loaves of bread filled with mercury could find drowned corpses. 

However, there are important ways in which the two characters differ.

Whilst Jim always seems to be caring about Huck and his feelings, Huck does behave badly towards Jim. The clear example here is the incident with the rattlesnake.

Just as Huck and Tom acted as foils for one another, so do Jim and Huck where we have a blend of maturity and consideration from Jim in contrast to the thoughtlessness and immaturity of Huck.

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