Mark Twain – Huckleberry Finn, Chapters 21-24

Ch. 21 – Sword Exercise — Hamlet’s Soliloquy — They Loafed Around Town — A Lazy Town — Old Boggs — Dead

  • The next morning after breakfast, the king started boning up on his Rome & Juliet with the duke giving him acting notes. They got out wood laths & practiced the scene from Richard III. They went on & on until the king fell in the river.
    • The duke tested the king on Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. Apparently it was in the volume of Shakespeare that the duke didn’t have on him, so he had to summon it up from memory. While he was certain he had it correct, he did not – it wasn’t even close. But the king bought it hook, line & sinker.
    • The duke printed off bills for the show. The raft was alive because, as they floated along, the 2 were constantly practicing their lines or sword fighting. They were deep into Arkansas at this point & came to a one-horse town. They pulled over to see if it was a good place for the show.
      • There was going to be a circus later that afternoon & people were already there looking to be entertained. The duke hired the courthouse & they put up ads around town.
      • The town looked like a dump. Most of the buildings were up on stilts for when the river flooded. These people were rough, even for Huck’s standards. There was a lot of drinking out in the streets. One man, Boggs, rode into town extremely drunk. The whole town laughed at him as he claimed he’d come to kill Colonel Sherburn. Sherburn warned him, he had until 1 p.m. to keep talking & then it’d all be over. But Boggs kept at it as 1 o’clock approached. Someone went to get his daughter to persuade him to stop & leave.
        • Sherburn called out to Boggs with his pistol aimed at him. Boggs’s daughter ran out to stop it. Boggs called out for Sherburn not to shoot but he shot anyway. Then he left. After Boggs died, a lynch mob began forming.

Ch. 22 – Sherburn — Attending the Circus — Intoxication in the Ring — The Thrilling Tragedy

  • The mob went to Sherburn’s house to lynch him. Children ran away while the women of the town craned their necks from the house windows.. The mob swarmed outside his house & started tearing down his fence, moving towards the house.
    • Then Sherburn moved onto the roof of his porch with a gun. The crowd turned quiet while he stood there watching them. He chuckled to himself & spoke to them:
      • The idea that they were going to lynch him there was silly. They didn’t have the nerve to do it in broad daylight. He was born & raised in the South, & even lived in the North for a bit. To him, the average man was a coward, only it was just more visible in the North. But somehow the Southern people had convinced themselves they were braver than anyone else. The proof of this was that Southern juries didn’t convict a murder but let him go because they were afraid of what the man’s friends would do to them. So, they always acquitted a man & lynched him at night.
      • Sure, they could yell “lynch him!” They were afraid to back down & be seen for what they were – cowards. They needed someone at the head of the mob & without one, they were just pitiful. If any lynching were to happen, it would happen at night.
        • The crowd broke up immediately.
  • Huck went to the circus & sneaked under the tent because he didn’t want to spend any money. He was impressed with the performers & found the clowns to be particularly funny.
    • A drunk man tried to sneak into the circus, asking to ride a horse. The crowd really wanted to see it. 2 performers tried to keep him on but the horse broke loose. The man held on & finally jumped up on the horse’s back as if he hadn’t been drunk at all. In fact, he then took off several layers of clothes & looked like the rest of the performers.
    • At their own show, there were only 12 paying audience members. They laughed at the tragedy although none of them stayed until the end. The duke was angry & said the people weren’t sophisticated enough for Shakespeare. He reeled off new ads more to the crowd’s speed : “The Tragedy of the King’s Camelopard, or the Royal Nonesuch”.

Ch. 23 – Sold — Royal Comparisons — Jim Gets Home-sick

  • The duke & king spent all day setting up a stage & put up candles to light it up, as well as a curtain. Once the house was jammed full, the duke went on stage & gave a speech praising the tragedy.
    • The curtain went up & out came the king naked on all fours, painted with striped of all colors. The crowd nearly died laughing. When the king was done prancing around, the crowd roared & clapped until he came out & did it again. They made him do it a 3rd time.
    • Then the duke pulled down the curtain & told the crowd that they’d only be there 2 more nights because they had to run back to London. He asked them to tell their friends all about it.
      • People called out asking if that was all there was to the show (A: Yes.). They didn’t want to be the laughing stock of the town, so they would go talk up the show to get others to go, then they’d all be in the same boat.
    • All you could hear in the town the next day was how good the show was. The next night was just as packed as the night before, with the same reactions. But the duke had Jim & Huck prepare the raft a couple miles down the road before the 3rd night’s show.
      • The 3rd night was crowded with people mostly from the previous 2 nights, with rotten food in their pockets. Before the show began, the duke, Jim & Huck started off for the raft. Just as they were about to take off, the king showed up. They were 10 miles below the town before they lit up a light, ate & talked.
        • The duke told them he knew the first group would keep quiet & let the 2nd group come. But he also knew that on the 3rd night, they’d tried to get revenge. The rapscallions took in $465 in 3 nights!
      • Jim was shocked that royalty could be like that. Huck figured all royalty was like that from the history books that he’d read. But he didn’t see any point in telling Jim that they were just con artists.
  • Jim started to get homesick for his wife & children, regretting begin short with his children. Huck began to realize as Jim was talking about them that slaves can have the same familial feelings that whites have.

Ch. 24 – Jim in Royal Robes — They Take a Passenger — Getting Information — Family Grief

  • The next day, they pulled up to a spot in the river with a village on each side. The king & duke started hatching up a new plan to work towns over.
    • Jim spoke to the duke about how he was getting tired of sitting alone in the wigwam all day. He was worried he’d be confused for a runaway while the others were in town. The duke told him he’d think of something.
    • He dressed Jim in King Lear’s outfit, with a long calico gown & a white horsehair wig & whiskers. They painted his face, hands & ears blue so that he looked like he’d just drowned. They put up a sign a few feet from the wigwam: “Sick Arab – but harmless when not out of his head”. If someone came near, Jim was to prance around hollering like a beast”.
  • The rapscallions wanted to try the Nonesuch act again because it had made so much money. But they were afraid news about it would travel fast. While the duke came up with a new plan, the king & Huck went to the other side of the river. The king put on new clothes & to make a great entrance, he wanted to go by steamboat.
    • On the steamboat, the king struck up a conversation with a man who thought the king was Mr. Wilks, the brother of a recently deceased man, Peter Wilks. The brothers hadn’t seen each other since they were children & Peter sent for him a couple of months before he died. The only 2 brothers of the family left were Harvey (whom the man mistakes the king for) & William, a deaf mute. Harvey was said to be living in Sheffield, England.
    • The young man was headed to New Orleans & then on to Rio de Janeiro. The king pumped him for every little detail about the family. It turned out that Peter had a lot of land & had a few thousand dollars tucked away. He’d died the day before & the funeral was going to be the next day.
      • Huck was on to the king’s game but said nothing. They went back to the duke, & the king asked him to teach him to speak with an English accent. The duke would be playing the deaf mute brother, William.
  • The next day, the got on a steamboat. The crew were angry that they only wanted to go a few miles downstream but eventually relented. When the king landed, he asked where Peter Wilks’s house was. A man told him that he’d died the day before.
    • The king cried on the man’s shoulders. Then he made some fake sign language gestures to the duke, who dropped his carpetbag & started crying himself. The king asked about Peter’s last moments & then relayed the answer to the duke in signs. Huck was amazed at what a spectacle he was seeing.


Author: knowit68

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