The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson Character Analysis

Two elderly sisters, the Widow and Miss Watson are Huck’s guardians at the beginning of the novel until Pap arrives on the scene. The two women demand that Huck conform to societal norms, which Huck resents. Miss Watson is hypocritical in holding Christian values yet cruelly keeping slaves, even separating Jim from his family. However, it would seem that she sees the light just before her death: she frees Jim in her will.

The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson Quotes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn quotes below are all either spoken by The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson or refer to The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn published in 1994.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The Widow Douglas, she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer, I lit out.

Related Characters: Huckleberry Finn (speaker), The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck became rich, but his riches hardly made him free. The Widow Douglas adopted him to "sivilize" him – in other words, to raise him so that he conforms to social rules and traditions.

However, as Huck's misspelling of "sivilzie" would suggest, he wants nothing to do with what he experiences as the dismal regularity and suffocating decency that society has to offer. He is too lively and freedom-loving for that, and already he intuits that what society holds up as good and moral can actually be offensive and oppressive to the human spirit. Huck will soon return to Widow Douglas's care, however, when prompted by Tom Sawyer. At this early point in the novel, Huck is still too immersed in the rigid logic of society to truly break free.

So here Huck's lighting out, or leaving, is something of a false start. It won't be until the end of the novel that Huck knows himself well enough to know what freedom really is. In this sense, the novel is a Bildungsroman, or a novel about growing up and spiritual education. 

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Chapter 3 Quotes

I went and told the Widow about it, and she said the thing a body could get by praying for it was “spiritual gifts.” This was too much for me, but she told me what she means—I must help others, and do everything I could for other people, and look out for them all the time, and never think about myself…but I couldn’t see no advantage about it—except for the other people—so at last I reckoned I wouldn’t worry about it any more, but just let it go.

Related Characters: Huckleberry Finn (speaker), The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

As part of being "sivilized," Huck is given a religious education in which he's instructed to pray. However, he gets mixed messages on this point. Miss Watson, for one, tells him to pray for whatever he wants, but Huck soon realizes we only very rarely get what we pray for. The Widow Douglas betters Miss Watson's instructions, and says that people can't get the material things they want through prayer, only "spiritual gifts." That Miss Watson and the Widow disagree suggests that religious truth is not self-evident and absolute, but dependent on interpretation. 

Huck is too practical to have much use for spiritual gifts, however. We might say that he is self-sufficient, that he has everything he needs inside of himself already. Moreover, Huck comes to think that serving others and acting selflessly isn't all it's cracked up to be: people who constantly serve society become bound by society's customs and sacrifice their freedom. Ironically, it is the untamed, unchristian Huck who develops the richest, most loving relationship in the novel, with Jim. The Christianity of the Widow and Miss Watson doesn't exactly practice what it preaches.

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The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson Character Timeline in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The timeline below shows where the character The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson appears in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...recounted in the earlier book, he and Tom Sawyer both became rich, and that the Widow Douglas adopted him and tried to “sivilize” him. However, Huck became bored with the Widow’s... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
After Huck returned to the Widow Douglas, she wept, dressed Huck in new clothes that made him uncomfortable, and again imposed... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The Widow Douglas forbade Huck from smoking in the house as well. Huck points out that the... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the Widow Douglas’s sister, Miss Watson, teaches Huck how to spell, critiques his posture, and tells him... (full context)
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
After Huck’s talk with Miss Watson , Huck goes up to his bedroom. He sits, tries to think cheerful thoughts, but... (full context)
Chapter 2
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
As Huck and Tom Sawyer sneak away from the Widow Douglas’s house, Huck trips and makes a noise. One of Miss Watson’s slaves, Jim, hears... (full context)
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Despite Huck’s protests, Tom takes some candles from the Widow Douglas’s kitchen, leaving five cents in payment, and then tricks the sleeping Jim by taking... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...debate whether he should be inducted into the Gang at all. Huck at last offers Miss Watson to be killed, which his fellows accept. (full context)
Chapter 3
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
After Huck returns home, Miss Watson scolds him for having dirtied his clothes. The Widow Douglas does not scold Huck, but washes his clothes, looking so sorry as she does... (full context)
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
...He wonders, if someone gets whatever he or she prays for, why, for example, the Widow Douglas can’t get her silver snuff-box back that was stolen. Huck concludes that, insofar as... (full context)
Chapter 4
Growing Up Theme Icon
...but gets used to it. He is also getting used to the regularity of the Widow’s household, and even coming to like it. (full context)
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
...he reaches for the spilt contents to throw some salt over his left shoulder, but Miss Watson prevents him from doing so, telling him that he is a mess-maker. As Huck uneasily... (full context)
Chapter 5
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...Thatcher into giving him Huck’s fortune, but the Judge refuses. Afterward, Judge Thatcher and the Widow go to a court of law to take Huck from Pap’s custody, but the new... (full context)
Chapter 6
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
When Pap loiters around the Widow’s estate too much, the Widow reprimands him. Pap vows to show her who Huck’s boss... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...and tattered. Huck even wonders how he ever adapted to the lifestyle endorsed by the Widow, what with its manners and rules. Though Huck had stopped cussing over the course of... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...to get Huck’s money is proceeding too slowly, and that it looks as though the Widow and Judge Thatcher may be successful in another bid to win custody of Huck. This... (full context)
Chapter 8
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
Huck thinks that the Widow or parson must have prayed for a loaf of bread to find his body, and,... (full context)
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
...honor his oath even if people call him a “low down Abolitionist.” Jim explains that Miss Watson treated him poorly and often threatened to sell him to a slaveholder in New Orleans.... (full context)
Chapter 12
Freedom Theme Icon
...wasn’t harmful to “borrow” things if you mean to pay for them eventually, but the Widow told Huck that such “borrowing” is really just stealing. Huck and Jim discuss this and... (full context)
Chapter 13
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...to so much trouble to save the gang in the steamboat. He thinks that the Widow would be proud of him, because “rapscallions and dead beats is the kind the widow... (full context)
Chapter 16
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...he should have told someone that Jim was running away, that he is meanly wronging Miss Watson , who has done nothing to harm him, by helping Jim, her property. Huck feels... (full context)
Chapter 31
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Huck considers writing a letter to Tom Sawyer asking him to tell Miss Watson that Jim is at the Phelps’ farm so Jim can at least be with his... (full context)
Chapter 42
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...any creature that walks this earth. He also reveals that he’s known all along that Miss Watson had set Jim free two months ago in her will. (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
...Huck’s true identities, and tells the disgruntled Phelpses all about Huck. She also confirms that Miss Watson had set Jim free two months ago. Finally, during a conversation between the adults, it... (full context)