The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain
Contributed by Cinderella Domino
Chapter 8
Summary

The men want to know if Jim is a runaway slave. Huck firmly denies this and indicates that they wouldn’t be traveling south if he were a fugitive. He fabricates a fantastic story themselves. It is now quite obvious that Huck is an extraordinary liar. It also becomes apparent that the men, the king and duke, are hucksters. Stopping at a town downstream, both the Duke and the Dauphin leave the raft, using their knack for deception to cheat quite a sum of money out of the people.

In the next town, the two men plan a new perception. They intend to perform a scene from a Shakespeare play and charge admission for their performance. While on shore, Huck witnesses a mob scene caused by a shooting. Huck realizes that the people in the mob act on the courage of others, instead of taking individual initiative of their own.

The Shakespeare show takes place the following night, but with only a meager turnout. The Duke and the Dauphin change their plan for the next night’s performance and put up sign around the town for a show called "The Royal Nonesuch." The real appeal of the show is the fact that women and children are prohibited from coming. The men are certain that this will cause some excitement.

Analysis

Twain explores four interesting topics in these chapters.

One: the gullibility of people.

Two: the violence of the southern society.

Three: the cowardice of the mob, and

Four: the innocence of Huckleberry.

One: the pirate’s conversion to a missionary raises a large sum of money from the crowd, which suggests that in a mob, people do strange things and can be swept along with the tide of hysteria.  If the Dauphin had claimed conversion and asked for money to an individual, then he would likely receive nothing, but be told to go away. However, the audacity of the Dauphin to claim conversion in front of so many is taken at face value.

Two: it seems an almost everyday occurrence that minor disputes and insults are resolved by the gun. Sherburn’s cold killing of the drunk seems an over-reaction and naturally causes the local people to organize a lynching.  Their reaction is to meet violence with violence without any recourse to the process of law.

Three: we have seen in ‘One’ above the hysteria that the mob can generate.  In the lynch mob, cowardice is present. They pursue Sherburn like a pack of dogs, but when confronted by an armed man, they scatter after receiving a few harsh words.

Four: we see another interesting aspect of Huck’s character on his visit to the circus. He thinks that the clown has made the jokes up on the spot where in fact the routine would have been well rehearsed. He is also amazed at the drunk trying to ride the horse failing to realize that this is stage-managed and part of the act.

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