The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 13 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

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

Huck Finn and Jim are stuck on board a wreck on the mighty Mississippi River. They are trapped with a gang of murderers for company, and very limited time to escape. This lesson will focus on the summary of Chapter 13 of ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.''


Huckleberry Finn and Jim have been traveling on the Mississippi River. To get away from his abusive, alcoholic father, Pap Finn, Huck faked his own death. The very same night, Jim, Miss Watson's slave, ran away to avoid being traded to New Orleans. The two had been hiding out on Jackson's Island, but a plan by some townspeople to search the island had them scrambling onto their raft and sailing away.

After many nights on the river, Huck and Jim find a wrecked steamboat and climb aboard, looking for adventure and supplies. But they aren't on the boat alone. When their raft drifts away, they find themselves trapped on the wrecked boat …with three murderers.

Escaping the Wreck and the Murderers

Huck and Jim are stuck in a very nasty situation. They are on the wreck of a steamboat, which could sink or float away at any second, with some men who are both thieves and murderers. But after a moment or two of panic, Huck realizes that the men must have gotten on board somehow, so he and Jim set off to find the murderers' boat. It seems to take forever as they search one side of the boat and then start on the other.

Jim tells Huck he's too scared to continue, but Huck reminds him what will happen if they get left there. They finally find the skiff moored to the stern of the steamboat. So Huck hangs onto the shutters on the side of the wrecked boat and reaches for the skiff. Just as he is about to slip into the little boat, a door in the side or the steamboat opens, and one of the men appears. He flings a bag full of something into the boat and gets in after it. Huck recognizes Jake Packard. The other man, Bill gets in, too, and Huck sees their chance for escape disappearing before his eyes.

He's still hanging onto the shutters for dear life, when his luck turns. Bill asks Jake if he went through Jim Turner's pockets. Neither have searched the bound man, so they get out of the skiff and go back inside, loathe to leave plunder behind.

Huck jumps into the boat with Jim right behind him. They cut the rope, and the skiff drifts downriver, leaving the three murderers on the wreck of the steamboat. They don't speak and barely breathe until they are more than a hundred yards past the wreck and can no longer see it at all.

Huck and Jim Steal the Skiff by Achille Sirouy, 1886
Huck and Jim Steal the Skiff by Achille Sirouy, 1886

Huck's Conscience

Jim rows the skiff downriver, and they look for their raft, which had drifted away from the wreck. But Huck begins to feel guilty about leaving the men to their deaths, even though they are criminals and would probably be hung for their crimes. So, he decides that he will stop at the first town they pass and send someone after the murderers.

But it's still a stormy night, and for a long time they don't see any lights. They eventually find their raft, and put the gang's plunder onto it. Then Huck tells Jim to go downriver with the raft, and light a lantern when he thinks he's floated for two miles. Huck rows the skiff toward a light he sees in the distance.

It turns out the light is coming from a ferry boat. Huck climbs on board and finds the sleeping watchman. Huck wakes him up, and to get his help, makes up a story about his family being stuck on the wreck of the steamboat.

Huck's Wild Story

Huck immediately breaks down crying, begging the watchman to take the ferry and save his family who is stuck there. The man questions him and Huck makes up the tale as he goes along.

According to Huck's tale, a woman named Miss Hooker had been on her way to visit her rich uncle, when her boat hit the wreck. Her slave, the horses, and the ferry driver were all lost, but Miss Hooker managed to climb onto the wreck. Then Huck's family, in their trading-scow, approached the wreck in the dark and also crashed into it. Everyone but the made-up Bill Whipple made it onto the steamboat. Since only Huck can swim, they sent him for help, and here he is.

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