When living with his abusive father, Pap, again after time apart, Huck describes Pap’s facial features using a simile:
His hair was long and tangled and greasy, and hung down, and you could see his eyes shining through like he was behind vines.
Huck’s description of his father’s hair making it seem “like he was behind vines” captures both Pap’s unruly physical appearance and also Huck’s fear of his father. He looks at him simply sitting near Huck inside their home and simultaneously has the sense that his father is a terrifying force lurking in the jungle or woods. The extreme language of this moment signals that Huck wants to be free from Pap and helps readers understand why he ultimately decides to run away, choosing an uncertain life on a raft on the Mississippi River instead of staying at home with his father.
Just before a steamboat rams into Huck and Jim’s raft on the Mississippi River, separating them, Huck describes the steamboat using a part of similes:
She was a big one, and she was coming in a hurry, too, looking like a black cloud with rows of glow-worms around it; but all of a sudden she bulged out, big and scary, with a long row of wide-open furnace doors shining like red-hot teeth, and her monstrous bows and guards hanging right over us.
In stating that the steamboat was “like a black cloud” and the furnace doors of the boat were “shining like red-hot teeth,” Huck paints a terrifying portrait that captures both the depth of his fear and the steamboat’s mite. With this language, Twain highlights the oncoming violence of the steamboat, preparing readers for the fact that this moment will separate Huck and Jim for a sizable portion of the story.
This moment also adds to Huck’s fear of society. Though nature has created moments of danger (the fog that briefly separates Huck and Jim earlier, the storms that threaten their safety, etc.), it has also offered freedom. It is noteworthy that a ship symbolizing civilization is the first thing to fully endanger the two men’s lives, forcing both Huck and Jim to jump into the water and lose each other in the dark.
While witnessing the duke and the king try to scam unsuspecting people, Huck describes the duke using a simile:
The duke he never let on he suspicioned what was up, but just went a goo-gooing around, happy and satisfied, like a jug that’s googling out buttermilk.
Here, Huck compares the duke to “a jug that’s googling out buttermilk” as a way of amplifying the duke’s feigned naivety. This is an important moment for Huck because it demonstrates his awareness of the duke’s capacity to be fraudulent, as well as his disdain for it. Whereas Huck trusted both the duke and the king at first, he has matured and become more discerning, seeing through the ways that they lie and scheme to steal people’s money. This is all part of Huck’s process of growing up over the course of the novel, moving from an innocent child to a young man with a moral compass of his own. This simile helps clarify how he sees the duke and also hints at how he sees himself—as someone who would never willfully deceive people like this.