The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 12 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

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

Huck and Jim are enjoying their nights travelling down the mighty Mississippi River, until they wind up stranded with some very dangerous people. This lesson will focus on the summary of Chapter 12 of ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.''


Huckleberry Finn and Jim, bored of their placid days on Jackson's Island, hatched a plan to find out what is happening in town. Huck dressed up in clothes they'd found in a floating house, and headed to town as a girl to gather news. When he got there, he met a woman who had just recently moved to town, and she told him three things of increasing importance: First, that both Jim and Huck's no-good father, Pap, are suspected of and wanted for Huck's murder. Second, that Pap hasn't been seen in a long time. Lastly, she mentions that as a result of her suspicions, her husband and another man will search Jackson's Island that very night.

Huck, due to his panic on hearing the news, made several mistakes, which led the woman to recognize him as a boy. She never learned who he really was, though, so he made his escape from her house still in 'disguise.' He hurried back to the island to warn Jim, and the two of them quickly packed up and left the island to float downriver on their raft.

Leaving Jackson's Island

Huck and Jim have just left Jackson's Island in a hurry. Huck mentions that it's a good thing no boats came along to discover them, since they were very unprepared and had just thrown everything onto the raft. He's not sure if the men who were going to search the island discovered anything, but he is sure that he and Jim have gotten away. At daylight, they tie up to a tow-head, which Huck tells us is a sandbar with densely-packed trees growing on it.

While they hide on the sandbar for the day, Huck tells Jim all about the woman he spoke to in town. Jim says that she sounds like a very smart woman and if she was doing the search instead of the men, she would have brought along dogs to search for him. He thinks that likely she did suggest it to the men. Maybe their attempt to find a dog to bring along to the island is what gave Huck and Jim time enough to get away without being caught. When it begins to get dark, Jim builds a tent on the top of the raft to keep their supplies dry. Inside and in the center of the tent, they build up a layer of dirt so they can build a fire in it. They even make an extra oar. Then, feeling much more prepared, they head back out and continue downriver.

Jim and Huck on the Raft by Achille Sirouy, 1886
Jim and Huck on the Raft by Achille Sirouy, 1886

Life on the Mississippi

This becomes the pattern of their days. They hide during the day and float at night. They spend the nights catching fish, swimming, and watching the stars. The weather is nice, and even though they pass towns, nothing really happens. The fifth night, they float past St. Louis, and Huck thinks it is like 'the whole world lit up.'

Using the money they'd found earlier, Huck often visits towns late at night to buy food, or steal a chicken or two. He also takes fruits and vegetables from fields. He worries that what he is doing is stealing. He tells Jim that Pap said it wasn't stealing if he meant to pay it back some time, but that the Widow Douglas (who tried to impart some morality to Huck in the time he lived with her) said it was still theft. Jim thinks it over and says that they are both right. So to appease themselves, Huck and Jim decide to drop from their list the crab apples, which neither like, and the persimmons, which won't be ripe for months, and keep everything else. Sometimes they are able to kill a water-fowl, so they have plenty to eat and life is pretty good on the river.

The Steamboat in the Dark

Five nights after they pass St. Louis, they come into a big storm. Jim and Huck stay in the shelter they built on the raft and watch the lightning. But in one bright flash, they see a steamboat that has crashed on a rock in the river. Huck begs Jim to let them land on the boat and look around. Jim doesn't like the idea at all.

Huck talks about all the stuff they could find on board. He says he's sure Tom Sawyer wouldn't walk away from such a chance for an adventure, and that he wishes Tom were here now. Jim gives in and they tie up to the wrecked steamboat.

The Men on the Steamboat by Achille Sirouy, 1886
The Men on the Steamboat by Achille Sirouy, 1886


Very quickly, they realize they aren't alone on the steamboat. Inside and down a hallway, they see a light and hear voices. Jim says he feels sick and they need to leave right now. Huck agrees, and they begin to creep away. But as they are leaving, they hear a voice cry out, 'O, please don't, boys; I swear I won't ever tell!'

A second voice disagrees and threatens the first man. While Jim has gone to the raft, Huck's curiosity gets the better of him. On his hands and knees, he crawls down the dark hall and looks into the room the men occupy; he sees a man tied up with two other men standing over him. One of the men is pointing a gun at the bound man. By watching and listening to them, Huck learns that they are Jim Turner, Jake Packard, and Bill.

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