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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 4 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

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

Huck has been dreading the return of his father for months. In Chapter 4 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Huck looks like he's in for some bad luck. Read a summary of this chapter and then test yourself.

Review

Huckleberry Finn has been living with the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson. They are slowing trying to civilize him, but he clings to some of his wild ways, especially running with his friend Tom Sawyer. Though Huck is growing disillusioned with Tom's lies, what really worries Huck is that his father, Pap Finn, is still out there somewhere.

Getting Civilized

Huck gets used to life with the Widow. He's doing better in school, especially in reading and writing. He still struggles in math, mostly because he doesn't see much use in it. He finds as the months wear on that he is playing hooky less (and getting whipped less) and he settles into the routine of school. Huck finds it's not so bad to sleep in a bed, though he still sometimes takes off for the woods when he gets restless. The Widow tells him she's 'not ashamed' of him, and Huck sees that as good progress.

Bad Luck A-Comin'

But one morning at breakfast, everything changes. Huck knocks over the salt shaker, spilling salt all over the table. Just as he's about to toss some over his shoulder to ward off bad luck, Miss Watson stops him and tells him that he is making a mess. Huck just knows that he's in for it as he leaves the house. He's too dejected to even try to do something to counter the bad luck, so he just waits for something bad to happen.

It doesn't take long. As he climbs over the garden wall, Huck notices boot prints in the new fallen snow. The prints have a cross made with nails to ward off the devil in the left boot heel.

Only one person wears boots like that. Pap, Huck's drunken, abusive father didn't drown after all.

Huck jumps up and runs down the hill to see Judge Thatcher. He tells the Judge that he doesn't want his money any more. The judge is very confused, but Huck won't tell him why he doesn't want the money. Huck says he doesn't want to tell any lies. Finally, the Judge agrees to buy Huck's share of the fortune for a dollar. He tells Huck that the money will be safe, gives Huck the dollar, and Huck signs over his fortune, feeling not very relieved.

Victor Kilian as Pap Finn in the 1939 film The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
 Victor Kilian as Pap Finn in the 1939 film The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Jim and the Fortune-Telling Hairball

That night, Huck goes to visit Miss Watson's slave, Jim. Jim has a hairball from the stomach of an ox, and he claims he can do magic with it. Huck asks Jim what his Pap will do now that he's back. Will he stay around?

Jim puts the hairball up to his ear and tells Huck that it won't work magic without money. Huck doesn't mention the dollar he got from the judge, but he does offer Jim a counterfeit quarter. Jim says the hairball will take it. Holding the ball to his ear again, Jim offers to tell Huck his whole fortune. Huck agrees.

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