Huckleberry Finn is a boy about thirteen or fourteen. He has been brought up by his father, the town drunk, and has a hard time fitting into society. Tom Sawyer and his friends occasionally call him "Huck Finn". Widow Douglas is the kind old lady who has taken Huck in after he and Tom come into some money. She tries her best to civilize Huck, believing it is her Christian duty. Miss Watson is the widow's sister, a tough old spinster who also lives with them. She is fairly hard on Huck, causing him to resent her a good deal. Samuel Clemens may have drawn inspiration for her from several people he knew in his life. Jim is Miss Watson's big, mild-mannered slave to whom Huck becomes very close in the novel, when they reunite after Jim flees Miss Watson to seek refuge from slavery, and Huck and Jim become fellow travelers on the Mississippi River. Tom Sawyer is Huck's friend and peer, the main character of other Twain novels and the leader of the town boys in adventures, is "the best fighter and the smartest kid in town". "Pap" Finn, Huck's father, is the town drunk. He is often angry at Huck and resents him getting any kind of education. He also returns to Huck whenever he needs more money for alcohol. Judith Loftus plays a small part in the novel — being the kind and perceptive woman whom Huck talks to in order to find out about the search for Jim — but many critics believe her to be the best female character in the novel. The Grangerfords, an aristocratic Kentuckian family headed by the sextagenarian Colonel Saul Grangerford, take Huck in after he is separated from Jim on the Mississippi. Huck becomes close friends with the youngest male of the family, Buck Grangerford, who is Huck's age. By the time Huck meets them, the Grangerfords have been engaged in an age-old blood feud with another local family, the Shepherdsons. The duke and the king are two otherwise unnamed con artists whom Huck and Jim take aboard their raft just before the start of their Arkansas adventures. They are featured prominently throughout the novel, duping many local townspeople with their various get-rich-quick schemes. The middle-aged "duke" claims to be the long-lost Duke of Bridgewater (though he mistakenly says "Bilgewater" and is sometimes called this by the king), while the elderly "king" claims to be the long-lost Dauphin of France, and so is sometimes called "Capet" by the duke. Mary Jane, Joanna, and Susan Wilks are the three young nieces of their wealthy guardian, Peter Wilks, who has recently died. The duke and the king try to steal the inheritance left by Peter Wilks, by posing as Peter's estranged brothers from England. Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas Phelps, are the two people whose nephew Huck poses as, after he abandons the duke and king. She is a loving, but high-strung lady, and he a plodding old man, both farmer and preacher.
Many other characters play important but minimal roles in the many episodes that make up the novel. They include slaves owned by the various families they meet, supporting townspeople, rafts-men, a doctor and a steamboat captain.
Huckleberry Finn, as depicted by E. W. Kemble in the original 1884 edition of the book In Missouri
The story begins in fictional St. Petersburg, Missouri (based on the actual town of Hannibal, Missouri), on the shore of the Mississippi River, sometime between 1835 (when the first steamboat sailed down the Mississippi) and 1845. Huckleberry "Huck" Finn (the protagonist and first-person narrator) and his friend, Thomas "Tom" Sawyer, have each come into a considerable sum of money as a result of their earlier adventures (detailed in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer). Huck explains how he is placed under the guardianship of the Widow Douglas, who, together with her stringent sister, Miss Watson, are attempting to civilize him and teach him religion. Finding civilized life confining, his spirits are raised somewhat when Tom Sawyer...
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