The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The duke and king and Huck are all given rooms in the Wilks home to sleep in. Later that night, the duke and king host a supper for a group of townspeople. The Wilks girls say that they have cooked poorly, but Huck thinks the food is fine and that the girls are just fishing for compliments.
The girl’s fishing for compliments is a very minor kind of fraudulence, where they say one thing while thinking another in order to exploit those around them. The duke and king are different from most people not in kind but degree.
Themes
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
One of the Wilks girls, Joanna, whom Huck calls “the hare-lip” because she is afflicted with that condition, asks Huck about England. Huck lies, but the hare-lip catches him in a contradiction, which Huck just barely wriggles out of with yet more lies. Huck resumes, but gets caught in another inconsistency, which he again wriggles out of, only to be caught in yet a third contradiction, all because he is forgetting his earlier lies.
Huck has been caught in lies before, but never as frequently as this. Why he is lying to protect the duke and king is strange in the first place, though, given how disgusted Huck is with the two con men. It could be that Huck contradicts himself so much here because his more mature and guilty subconscious is trying to expose the truth.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Joanna accuses Huck of telling her lies. Huck denies the accusation, swearing on a dictionary that he has told nothing but the truth. Joanna says she believes some of what he says but not all. Just then, Mary Jane approaches and tells Joanna that she shouldn’t talk to Huck in that way, because he is a stranger far from his native country. Huck feels bad, because Mary Jane is so good in defending him and yet he is letting the duke and king steal her and her sisters’ money. Huck decides to return the money to the girls.
Mary Jane conforms too much to societal convention for her own good. When she should trust her sister’s intuitions, she trusts Huck blindly because he is a stranger far from home. But Mary Jane, as Huck sees, is also deeply good. Because she is a human victim to Huck, and not just an abstract victim of the duke and king’s scam, Huck maturely resolves to help her.
Themes
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Huck searches the king’s room for the money but doesn’t find it. Just then the duke and king enter the room. Huck hides behind a curtain and overhears the two con men debate whether they should stick around to sell the Wilks home or leave right away to avoid detection. Huck thinks he wouldn’t have felt bad about this an hour or two ago, but that now he does. The king convinces the duke to stick around and sell the house, because doing so wouldn’t harm the Wilks girls.
Huck reflects on how he has morally matured in just two hours: whereas before putting a human face to the duke and king’s victims he would have gone along with their scam, now he feels compelled to expose the duke and king’s wrongdoing. Note also how the king’s tyrannical greed, seemingly boundless, prevents him and the duke from escaping with the money now, a costly mistake.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
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As they leave the room, the duke tells the king that they should hide the money in another place, because otherwise some slave who comes upstairs to pack up Mary Jane’s belongings might find the gold and steal some of it. Almost discovering Huck, the king takes the money from behind the curtain and hides it in a straw mattress. After the duke and king leave, Huck takes the money, planning to hide it outside. Huck slips, gold in hand, down the ladder leading from his room to the rest of the house.
The duke and king expose their racism when they suppose that a black person might try to steal the money, when they themselves are stealing the money! It must be said, though, that, while the duke and king are racists, they do not seem to be making a moral judgment against black people here, but rather are just concerned with the practical matter of keeping the money to themselves.
Themes
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon