At one point on their journey along the Mississippi River, Huck and Jim become separated on a foggy night when one is in a raft and the other is a canoe. Huck uses a metaphor to describe how the trees appear to him while he is separated from Jim:
The whooping went on, and in about a minute I come a-booming down on a cut bank with smoky ghosts of big trees on it, and the current throwed me off to the left and shot by, amongst a lot of snags that fairly roared, the current was tearing by them so swift.
By referring to the trees as “smoky ghosts,” Huck communicates the level of fear he is experiencing in being lost in the fog. Huck was nervous about the fog before being separated from Jim, but now he is scared enough to start seeing ghosts around him. This moment shows how close Huck has come to feel to Jim, how their relationship has become a place of safety for Huck, despite the fact that he has held very racist views about Jim from the start of the novel. Though Huck comes across as child-like in this moment of believing in ghosts, it also shows how he has started to grow up and replace his racist views with fondness for—and trust in—Jim.
This metaphor also alludes to the ways that, despite offering them freedom, the Mississippi River (and the nature around it) also presents dangers. It is not slave-catchers or steamboats that separate Huck and Jim in this moment, but nature itself, indifferent to their human needs.
After getting separated from Jim, Huck spends time on land with the Grangerfords, an aristocratic family who take him under their wing. Impressed with Col. Grangerford’s temperament, he describes the man using a pair of metaphors:
He didn’t ever have to tell anybody to mind their manners—everybody was always good-mannered where he was. Everybody loved to have him around, too; he was sunshine most always—I mean he made it seem like good weather. When he turned into a cloudbank it was awful dark for half a minute, and that was enough; there wouldn’t nothing go wrong again for a week.
Huck compares Col. Grangerford’s mood shifts to shifts in weather—he was “sunshine most always” but “turned into a cloudbank” about once a week. It’s notable that Huck uses weather in his metaphor. Clearly, his time on the Mississippi River has changed him, and he has gotten used to paying close attention to the ups and downs of nature.
This moment is also noteworthy because it sets Col. Grangerford up as a foil to Huck’s abusive and unruly father, Pap. While Pap was angry and violent most of the time, Col. Grangerford is cheery most of the time, and when he is upset, it’s for “half a minute, and that was enough.” Unfortunately, Huck’s expectations of the Grangerford family’s temperament are dashed when he finds out just a page later about the decades-long violent feud the Grangerfords are engaged in. This is yet another example of the types of hypocrisy that Huck becomes aware of over the course of the novel.