The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 11 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Huck heads over to town in disguise to find out what has been going on while he and Jim have been away. What he learns could mean disaster for both them. This lesson focuses on the summary of Chapter 11 of ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.''


Huckleberry Finn has been hiding out on Jackson's Island with Jim, a runaway slave. Huck arrived at the island after escaping his no-good father, Pap Finn, by faking his own death. Though they've had some disagreements, Huck and Jim have looked out for each other on the island. Huck helped Jim recover from a snakebite caused by Huck's foolishness. Jim had the great idea of having Huck go to town disguised as a girl to find out what has been happening since they left. Once in town, Huck finds a stranger and knocks on her door.

Jim…a Murderer?

When Huck knocks on the stranger's door, she invites him in. Introducing himself as Sarah Williams, and making up a story about a sick mother, Huck gets the woman to start talking. The woman drones on and on, and Huck worries he's picked the wrong person, but then she mentions that a boy named Huck was murdered, and Huck presses her to tell him more.

When he asks the woman who killed Huck, the woman tells him that there are two main suspects: Pap Finn and Jim. Both of them have rewards out for their capture, and the hunt for both of them continues. In fact, the woman tells Huck, she's recently seen smoke on Jackson's island, an island neighbors have told her is uninhabited. She suspects the runaway slave may be hiding out there, and has alerted her husband, who is heading over with another man to search the island…tonight!

This news makes Huck nervous, and he needs something to do with his hands. So he picks up a needle and tries to thread it, but his hands keep shaking. He notices the woman watching him, so he puts down the needle and questions her about the search. Her husband and the man are in town getting a boat now, she says, and they will head over there at midnight in hopes of catching Jim sleeping.

Jim Dresses Huck as a Girl by Achille Sirouy, 1886
Huck in Drag

Getting Suspicious

The woman frowns at Huck, obviously suspicious, and asks what his name is again. He's nervous as he stammers out, 'Mary Wilson'.

For a long time, the woman doesn't say anything, and Huck knows she's suspicious. Finally she asks him why he gave both Mary and Sarah as his name. He says the actual name is Sarah Mary Williams, and sometimes he goes by the middle name. But he is very upset and wants to leave immediately.

The woman tells Huck about rats that are overrunning her place, and shows him an iron bar that she usually throws at them, but tells him she's recently hurt her arm and can't throw very well. She asks if Sarah Mary can throw it the next time a rat shows up. When Huck sees a rat, he throws the bar so hard and so precisely, he knows he would have seriously hurt the rat had it not scurried away. Next, the woman has him hold up his hands so she can wind yarn around them. While he is occupied doing this, she drops the lead bar into his lap, and he claps his legs together to catch it.

The Game is Up

After a few more minutes, she asks Huck his 'real' name. Is it Bill? Tom? Bob? Huck knows he's been caught and gets up to leave, but the woman tells him to sit down and assures him she only wants to help. She tells him she's figured out he is a runaway apprentice and she won't tell anyone.

Thinking fast, Huck tells a story about being an orphan and being legally bound to a terrible farmer who treats him badly. This is why he has run away and is heading to his uncle's house in Goshen. The lady frowns and tells him that he is in the wrong town; he is in St. Petersburg, not in Goshen. Still suspicious, she quizzes him on things a farm boy should know. He passes her test and tells her that his real name is George Peters.

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