The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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Key Quotes

  1. “Give a nigger an inch and he’ll take an ell.” Chapter 16. This is a saying of Pap’s, recollected by Huck while he considers whether it is right to turn in Jim or not. It is recalled during one of Huck’s struggles with his conscience and illustrates the way in which it was easy for Huck to view himself as better than others. Ultimately, however, he abandons this view and learns humility.
  2. “Kill them! Kill them!” Chapter 18. The Shepherdsons shout this just before they kill Buck Grangerford and his cousin. Huck witnesses the awful event, and, in a way, it is like the death of his own innocence and childhood. (His innocence and childhood return in the end with the arrival of Tom Sawyer, of course). But from this point on, Huck becomes more responsible and more interactive in the lives of those around him—especially with the Wilks sisters and with Jim.
  3. “To be or not to be; that is the bare bodkin.” Chapter 21. It is the duke who states this as he attempts to teach the king Hamlet’s soliloquy. It shows, in a sense, the innocence and naivety of the two scoundrels and how it is equal to Huck’s. Indeed, they practice their swordplay on the raft like a couple of boys and the scene endears the two conmen to the reader, even if later on their actions arouse the reader’s indignation. This line humorously makes the duke and the king appealingly human, if only for a moment.
  4. “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” Chapter 31. Huck pronounces this at a climactic moment in the narrative when he decides that he will reject conventional wisdom and free Jim on his own. It signifies that he is taking responsibility for another man and that he has matured to a point where he can make his own decisions without being influenced by what others say. It also raises Huck to a heroic level, as the sheer degree of consequence is one that concerns not only this mortal life, but the immortal life...
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