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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 2 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

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

In chapter 2 of 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain, Huck and Tom sneak out to a meeting of their would-be band of robbers, and more of their characters becomes clear. Read on to get a summary of this chapter, and then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Review

In chapter 1 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck tells us of his adventures in the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and how he came to live with the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson. Though the sisters repeatedly attempt to civilize Huck, he clings to his wicked, wild ways. At the end of chapter 1, Huck has snuck out of the Widow Douglas's house with Tom Sawyer to form a band of robbers.

Tricking Poor Jim

Huck Finn and his friend Tom Sawyer creep through the woods in the middle of the night. Right away, Huck trips and makes a big crash, waking up Jim, one of Miss Watson's slaves. Huck and Tom freeze, but Huck begins to itch all over. Pretty soon, though, Jim goes back to sleep.

Tom wants to play a trick on Jim, but Huck refuses since he is afraid of waking the big man up. The boys sneak into Miss Watson's kitchen and take some candles, leaving a five-cent piece on the table as payment. Tom again insists on playing a trick on Jim. Huck waits for him, and eventually Tom comes back. He's taken Jim's hat off and hung it on a branch over his head.

Huck breaks the narrative here to explain what happened to Jim after this incident with the hat. Jim starts telling a story of being haunted by witches. The story grows with the telling….first he's been all over the state, then to New Orleans, and so on. Slaves come from all around to hear Jim's story, and Jim shows them Tom's five-cent piece as proof of his tale. Huck mentions that now that Jim is famous, he's not a good slave anymore.

Bands and Penalties

Huck picks up the narrative again as he and Tom continue toward their meeting place. They meet other boys along the way, most notably Ben Rogers and Tommy Barnes. The boys go to a secret place across the river to discuss forming their band of robbers.

Tom decides all the boys should write their names in blood and promise to kill and hack crosses in the chests of the families of boys who don't do what the band says. Telling secrets will have an even worse penalty: any boy who tells about the band will be slashed across the throat with his ashes scattered and his name blotted off the list in blood.

Another boy says he thinks they should also kill the families of any boys who tell about the band. This leads to a discussion on Huck's no-good Pa, who is often drunk and laying about, but who hasn't been seen in a year. Huck is worried they won't allow him in the band, so he offers up Miss Watson in his father's place. The others agree quickly.

Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in an 1886 French Illustration
Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in an 1886 French Illsutration

To Ransom or Not to Ransom

The boys begin a long conversation about what they will do in their band. They will rob coaches and carriages, declares Tom, but will not steal cattle. Someone asks what they will do with the people they rob. Will they kill them?

Of course, Tom answers, they have to kill most of them and ransom the rest. No one quite knows what ransom means, but they decide that means they will keep them in the cave until they are dead. Ben Rogers is the most vocally against Tom's plans to fill up their cave with ransomed men. Wouldn't it be easier to kill them than to keep them? Tom disagrees. He tells Ben they have to do it the way it's done in books.

Discussing Women and Heading Home

The next topic of conversation is women -- will they kill them, too? Tom says of course they won't. The women will fall in love with the robbers and never want to leave at all. Ben is disgusted, telling Tom that he's going to fill up the cave with women and ransomed men and there will be no room for the robbers.

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