The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 18 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

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

Two families are feuding, and the unlucky Huck has walked right into their midst. This lesson will focus on the summary of Chapter 18 of ~'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn~'.


Previously in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck Finn and his friend, the escaped slave Jim, were traveling down the Mississippi River to try to get Jim to freedom. The raft was run over by a steamboat, and Jim and Huck were separated in the river. Huck managed to swim for shore, where he was surrounded by a pack of dogs and men with guns. His life was only spared when he said he was not a Shepherdson. He gave his name as 'George Jackson' to the family with the guns, the Grangerfords. Their son Buck, who was the same age as Huck, welcomed Huck in and gave him clothes to wear. The Grangerfords are well-to-do and literate, and Huck is enjoying his time with them.

The Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons

In Chapter 18, Huck spends a lot of time describing the members of the Grangerford family. They are all imposing and aristocratic, and Huck is quite in awe of the older members of the family. The family is rich and each person has his or her own slave. Huck says that the slave assigned to him, Jack, doesn't have much to do since Huck is used to fending for himself. He and Buck get along well and spend time together.

Huck quickly learns about the other aristocratic family in town, the Shepherdsons. They use the same steamboat landing and attend the same church, so Huck sees them as he goes about his life with the Grangerfords.

'What are You Fighting For?'

One day Huck and Buck are hunting in the woods when they hear a horse behind them. On Buck's advice, the boys hide and they soon see Harney Shepherdson riding by them. Buck shoots at him but only knocks his hat off. Harney returns fire, and Huck and Buck run back to the Grangerford's house.

Huck pulls Buck aside when things calm down and asks him why he shot at Harney. Buck says there's a feud between their families. Huck doesn't understand, so Buck explains that a feud is when two families fight each other until they are all dead.

This still doesn't make much sense to Huck, so he asks Buck why the Shepherdsons and the Grangerfords are feuding. Buck doesn't know. In fact, nobody on either side does, but they just keep fighting because they always have been. Buck tells him that his fourteen-year-old cousin Bud was killed earlier this year. Of course, that set off the feud again and they killed the man who killed Bud.

Huck remarks that they seem like cowards, but Buck tells him that's wrong. There are no cowards in the Shepherdson or Grangerford families.

Brotherly Love

The next Sunday, Huck heads to church with the Grangerfords. The Shepherdsons are there, too, and everyone keeps his gun on hand and glowers while the priest preaches brotherly love.

After church, they are having a lazy afternoon when Miss Sophia Grangerford, the youngest Grangerford daughter, pulls Huck aside and asks him for a favor. She's left her Testament in church, and she'd love if Huck went to fetch it for her.

Huck goes, and when he finds the book he notices there is a slip of paper stuck inside it. It reads 'Half-past two' and nothing else. Huck makes sure to put the paper back before he gives the bible to Miss Sophia. When she gets the book, she immediately pulls out the paper and begins smiling and laughing. Huck asks her what the paper says and she asks him if he read it. He denies it, telling her that he can't read.

Miss Sophia asks Huck a Favor by Achille Sirouy 1886
Miss Sophia asks Huck a favor by Achille Sirouy 1886

A Surprise for Huck

Huck takes a walk by the river and the slave who is assigned to him, Jack, tells Huck that he knows where a whole bunch of water moccasins are. Huck has no desire to see the water moccasins, but figures the slave is up to something and follows him.

The slave leads Huck to Jim, and Huck is thrilled to see that his friend and traveling companion has survived the wreck of the raft. Jim isn't surprised to see Huck. He knew Huck had survived, but was too afraid of being captured to call out to him. While Huck's been staying with the Grangerfords, Jim's been fixing up the raft, which was damaged but not destroyed in the collision with the steamboat. In fact, he's almost done.

Huck and Jim Embrace by Achille Sirouy 1886
Huck is thrilled to find Jim alive!

The Battle

The next morning, when Huck wakes up, no one is around. The house is empty. Confused, Huck goes outside and finds the slave Jack, who tells him that Miss Sophia has run off with Harney Shepherdson, and the rest of the Grangerfords have set out to kill Harney and bring back Miss Sophia.

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