The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapters 21-24 Summary

In chapter twenty-one, the King and the Duke work on their Shakespearean scenes. The Duke prints up some show bills to advertise their performance then they wander around town a bit. Huck witnesses an argument between a man named Boggs who is angry with old Colonel Sherburn. Colonel Sherburn takes out a pistol and shoots Boggs in the middle of the street with everyone watching then tosses the pistol on the ground and walks away. Boggs dies, and the crowd is stunned. They decide that they should lynch Sherburn.

In chapter twenty-two, Huck follows the crowd to Sherburn's house where they find him on his roof with a shotgun. Sherburn speaks to the crowd about how cowardly they are and how he knows that they aren't really going to do anything then tells them to leave, which they do. Huck then sneaks into a circus where he sees a show involving a man riding a horse and revealing costume after costume, which Huck thoroughly enjoys. That evening the King and the Duke perform the Shakespearean show, which only twelve people go to see, and those people keep laughing at the dramatic scenes they perform. The Duke is mad, so he changes their sign to advertise a new show with the line "Ladies and Children not admitted," which suggests that the show will be dirty. He assumes this tantalizing line will lure the "Arkansaw lunkheads" as he calls them to the performance.

In chapter twenty-three the new show is put on by the King and the Duke, which consists mainly of the King dancing naked on the stage after being painted a rainbow of colors. The people who attended were angry that they paid money to see that, so they decide to return the next night with a bigger crowd along with rotten eggs and cabbages and things to throw at the performers. However, the King and the Duke were smart enough to collect the price of admission and then quickly escape before the crowd could get them. They made four hundred and sixty-five dollars in all. Later, Huck has a talk with Jim about his family in which Jim reveals that his daughter, Elizabeth had scarlet fever and lost her sense of hearing, but he didn't realize it right away and mistreated her for not listening to him, which he feels horrible about. This revelation again shows the human side of Jim and creates sympathy from Huck, which in turn creates sympathy from the reader.

Chapter twenty-four begins with the men coming up with a new idea for allowing Jim to walk around during the day without being chained up. They paint him blue and hang a sign that says "Sick Arab" around his neck. The King and the Duke discussed doing the inappropriate Royal Nonesuch play again but decided it wasn't safe to try it yet in case word spread to this town about what they did. The King decided to go the other direction and pretend to be a rich man coming down on a steamboat, so he asked Huck to accompany him pretending to be his servant. Waiting for the boat the King learns about a man named Peter Wilks who had recently died. The family had been expecting his brothers to show up from England for the funeral the next day, but so far they hadn't arrived. The town was disappointed the brothers, Harvey and William, weren't there because Peter left behind three daughters along with money and property. The King heard this and got an idea. Huck ran to fetch the Duke, and the King explained that they were going to pretend to be the dead man's brothers in order to inherit his money and property. The Duke had to pretend to be deaf and the King had to pretend to be British. They boarded a steamboat and rode just a couple miles to the town where Peter Wilks had lived then the King shows up asking about him. The townspeople explain that he recently died and the King and the Duke cry and pretend to be shocked and heartbroken.

Huck is very accommodating of the King and the Duke in these chapters even though he often doesn't approve of their behavior. He never lets on that he thinks they shouldn't cheat people or steal people's identities, but he is privately disgusted by it. Huck often witnesses regrettable behavior, including that of Colonel Sherburn or the way the King and the Duke treat Jim. Sometimes, he seems to have a conscience about it while other times it doesn't bother him. This indifference may reflect his developing morals and empathy as he is still an adolescent.

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