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The Duke & The Dauphin in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,'' the Duke and the Dauphin come closer than any other characters to truly being villains. In this lesson, you'll learn more about this pair and their actions.

A Well-Matched Pair

Every so often, you come across a pair of people that are really well-suited to each other. This might be a couple, a pair of friends, or just two people that fell in together. With this last type, it's also true that sometimes when they meet up, it's worse for those around them than when they were separate. For example, if two bullies on a playground get together to be twice as intimidating. This is the kind of relationship we see in the Duke and the Dauphin in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

When Huck and Jim pick up this pair, they are actually strangers, but they quickly decide to work together. One is 70 and the other 30, and it doesn't take the younger one long to claim (falsely) to be the Duke of Bridgewater. The elder then tops this, claiming to be the Dauphin, Louis XVII of France, despite the fact that he doesn't speak a word of French. Both are generally ragged and worn down, and claim that this is a result of having to flee their home countries and forsake their seats of power. Clearly, then, at least in terms of lying ability, the two are a good match.

In fact, this is why they team up in the first place. Both were running small, but slightly different scams in the nearby town. They decide that they should add their areas of expertise as con-artists together, so they can run bigger scams. .

Professional Liars

The line of work for these two is lying, plain and simple. We see it immediately when they lie about their titles so Jim and Huck will wait on them. Over the course of their time with Huck, we also see them run numerous small scams. For example, at the camp meeting they visit, the Dauphin (or the King, as Huck refers to him) pretends to be a reformed pirate, so the meeting will take up a collection to help him through his troubles.

They also run a few larger scams, including the Royal Nonesuch. The two advertise and sell tickets to a play at which women and children are not allowed, to pique interest in the town. The play turns out to be just the King prancing naked onstage for a few minutes, but it sells out all three nights; no one in the town wants to look like an idiot, so they keep the reality quiet. On the third night, they all bring rotten fruit and eggs to throw, however, the king and the duke have been scamming a long time, so they flee town before that happens.

Generally Not Nice People

Obviously, being con-artists, the King and the Duke make a living off of tricking people. This, in and of itself, shows that they're really not nice people. However, there are two events that illustrate clearly how awful they actually are. These two events, in particular, serve to put the King and the Duke in contrast with Huck, and to show Huck in a good light.

The Wilks Scam

In this scam, the King and the Duke pretend to be the long-absent uncles of three girls who have just lost their father. Not only are they taking advantage of children, but of orphaned children. Not really something a good person would do, right? The two con-artists work to take the children's inheritance and sell off all their property, under the pretense that they will be taking the girls to live with them in England. Now, this scam fails, thanks, in part, to Huck. He alerts the oldest girl as to what's happening, and gives her evidence so that the townspeople can lock up the King and the Duke. This event puts Huck in a good light, and shows his conscience and his desire to help people.

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