La controverse de Valladolid

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Jean-Claude Carrière

Chapter 29

The new pair of Wilks brothers is somewhat more convincing than the imposters pretending to be them (especially since their accents seem much more real). However, because the deaf and dumb brother has injured his arm, he cannot sign, and because they have lost their luggage they cannot prove their identities.

An investigation begins, led by the lawyer, who is intelligent and was a friend of the late Mr. Wilks. He compares the handwriting of the duke and the king with letters actually written by the Wilks brothers and shows everyone that the handwriting does not match. However, the handwriting of the new Wilks arrivals does not match either, and the new Harvey Wilks explains that his brother always copied his letters since no one could read his own handwriting. But, again, bearing out this testimony is impossible, since the deaf and dumb Wilks has injured his writing hand.

The lawyer even attempts to question Huck and asks him if he is really from England. Huck attempts to lie his way through it, but the lawyer is not deceived and tells the boy he is not a very good liar and that, ironically, he must not have much practice with it. The truth, however, is that Huck does not have much practice lying to intelligent people. He does, on the other hand, have a lot of experience (and success) lying to ignorant people.

Finally, the new arrivals hit upon a way to prove their identities: Harvey Wilks asks the king what is tattooed on the late Mr. Wilks breast. Both the duke and the king look defeated, but nonetheless, the king states that it is a small thin arrow that is tattooed there. The new Harvey Wilks cries out that it is, rather, his brother’s initials. The lawyer decides there is only one way to settle it: they must dig up the corpse.

The whole town follows to the cemetery and when the coffin is exhumed, the bag of gold is discovered, in their excitement to see, the crowd allows Huck to slip away and escape. He runs all the way back to the raft and believes that he and Jim are finally free of the king and the duke. But just as they are about to glide down the river, the two frauds appear and jump aboard.

Chapter 30

Huck is accused of trying to sneak off and leave the king and the duke behind, but Huck lies his way out of trouble and the two men fall to fighting amongst themselves.

Both the king and the duke accuse the other of stealing the gold and hiding it in the coffin, planning to later come back and dig it up. Of course, they both did have the idea of stealing it and cutting out the other—but neither wishes to admit that he actually did it. The duke, however, begins to choke the king and the king submits to his fury and accepts the blame. Then the two get drunk and make up.

Huck feels much easier now that the king and the duke are friends again and are not going to cause trouble on the raft. Their greed has been their undoing and now they are left with nothing, but at least they are not fighting. Huck begins to tell Jim all that happened while he and the frauds were away.

In this chapter, the journey down the Mississippi resumes again—but it is a journey not destined to last much longer. In fact, the novel takes on a new dimension with the next chapter and a new resolution by Huck.

Chapter 31

The king and the duke return to their old tricks and devices, but are not able to make much money with the old scams. They gradually begin to grow sour and finally the king goes off into town alone. When he does not return, the duke and Huck go after him. They find him in a bar, drunk, and the two get in a fight. Huck races back to the raft, hoping to slip away with Jim—but Jim is nowhere in sight. Huck learns from a nearby boy, that Jim has been arrested on account of a warrant being out that identified him as a runaway slave whose capture was worth a reward of $200. Huck realizes that the king sold Jim back into slavery and that Jim is now on the Phelps farm.

Thus begins a battle within Huck between his conscience and his sense of loyalty to Jim. His conscience appears to confound no matter what he does: at one end it tells him he will go to hell for helping to free a slave; on the other end, it tells him he is a horrible person for letting Jim be taken back into slavery away from his family. At one point, Huck decides to confess everything and write to Miss Watson, but then he remembers how kind Jim was to him throughout their entire journey and he decides he will go ahead and free Jim himself, saying, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” It is a climactic moment in the book, for Huck is making up his mind once and for all that he will do the right thing, even if it seems like the wrong thing. He cannot quite understand it himself, but in the world in which he has been raised, he finally senses that what he has been taught was right may still be right—but he is rejecting it nonetheless because it does not allow him any peace.

Huck sets off to find Jim and free him and runs into the duke who is putting up bills for the “Royal Nonesuch” show. The duke does not want Huck around town and suspects he might tell someone about their scam. Huck makes the duke think he is leaving and then doubles back and heads for the Phelps farm.

In this chapter, the bildungsroman tale appears to be reaching its conclusion, with Huck reaching a new level of awareness concerning the conventions of society and the inner workings of his conscience. However, the narrative shifts away from this dramatic ending and reverts back to the innocent, childlike structure of Tom Sawyer—as the next chapter shows.

Chapter 32

Huck decides to trust to Providence as he approaches the farm, realizing that Providence has never failed him and always given him the right words to say when the time comes. Therefore, when Sally Phelps bursts out of the farmhouse and asks if Huck is “him,” Huck aggresses politely and lets her think he is who she thinks he is. She calls him Tom.

By and by, Huck begins to regret that he has deceived her, especially since she wants to know all about his family. But finally, she lets slip that she thinks he is Tom Sawyer—and a wave of relief washes over Huck. Huck begins to tell Aunt Sally all about Sid and Mary and the rest of the Sawyers, and she and her husband Silas are very happy at finally having him on their farm.

But then Huck hears the steamboat down on the river and reckons that the real Tom Sawyer might be along any minute. Huck tells his “aunt” and “uncle” that he must be off to fetch his luggage and that they need not bother about him. His real intention, of course, is to meet Tom before Tom gives away his identity.

In this chapter, the novel begins to come full circle, returning the narrative back to the beginning by re-introducing Tom. Huck’s adventure towards maturity and responsibility now must take a back seat to this twist, which Twain includes to return the narrative to its childlike stage.

Chapter 33

Huck meets Tom on his way from the steamboat and fills Tom in on what he is doing there (after convincing Tom that he is not a ghost). When Huck tells Tom about his intention to free Jim, Tom begins to say something about Jim, but then refrains and says that he will help Huck do it. Huck’s estimation of Tom’s character goes down in his eyes, but he allows Tom to take control of the situation.

Indeed, Tom does exactly that. He tells Huck to go on back with his luggage, and then he himself proceeds and pretends to be someone else. After fooling Sally and Silas, Tom suddenly gives Aunt Sally a big kiss on the mouth and acts dumb even as she threatens to beat him. Tom then lets it spill that he is “Sid” Sawyer, Tom’s little brother—and Aunt Sally realizes that Tom has played a joke on them. She does not, however, realize the extent of the joke.

Silas tells the boys that the captured slave has already let news out about the show being put on by the king and the duke. Huck feels bad for the two frauds, and that evening he and Tom sneak out in an attempt to tip the two men off before the town gets to them. But on the way they see that they are already too late: the king and the duke are being run out on a rail and have been tarred and feathered. The sight makes Huck feel terrible, even though he did not do anything wrong. He decides conscience is a bother and is not worth the space it takes up in a body.

In this chapter, Huck attempts to come to terms with his conscience, but the terms do not seem quite fair. It appears that, while he may be reaching a point of cynical indifference with regards to his conscience, there is still more heart in Huck Finn than in many people—as his sympathy for the two scoundrels shows (and as his care and concern for Jim—and all human beings—proves).

Chapter 34

The boys figure out where Jim is being kept and immediately set to devising a plan for his escape. Huck comes up with a reasonable, practical plan that could be put into action right away. Tom, on the other hand, insists on doing things the way they appear in books.

Tom’s plan is far more impractical and much more idealistic. Ever the romantic, he decides they must dig Jim out of the shack—even though it would be much easier to simply steal the key from Silas and sneak him out at night. Tom insists that the plan must take time, since escape plans always take time.

Then Tom decides that he wants to visit Jim, so Huck and Tom go off in the middle of the day. Jim is very happy to see them, but the other slave who has brought the boys there is surprised that Jim knows them. Tom plays it cool and pretends that nothing happened, and Huck follows along. Then Jim realizes that he is not supposed to know them and acts as if nothing has happened. The slave, named Nat, who just witnessed a happy reunion, swears that witches have tricked him again.

In this chapter, Tom begins his playful, childlike antics which are not designed to ever achieve anything other than his amusement. Huck, on the other hand, is impatient to get Jim to freedom. Yet, when it comes to leading, Huck has no chance, as Tom refuses to allow Huck to think that he in any way knows what he is about.

Chapter 35

Tom’s plans become more and more impractical as the novel becomes more and more playful in its outlook. Tom complains that the conflict is far too simple; therefore, he must complicate matters. Rather than use picks and shovels to dig out Jim, he insists that they use knives. Huck is exasperated by Tom’s decisions, yet continues to let him have his way, since Tom’s frame of reference is much broader than Huck’s and includes a number of Romantic literary figures.

Tom imagines a moat might make things more of struggle—which confounds Huck. Tom insists that Jim have a rope ladder—even though there is no necessity for one. Tom argues that Jim have a shirt so he can keep a journal on it—even though Huck states that Jim cannot write. As for a pen, Tom demands that they make one out of an old pewter spoon. Huck says it would be easier to pluck a quill from a goose—but Tom argues that it just is not done that way in books (because there are no geese in prisons). Huck argues that all of Tom’s talk is foolishness; nonetheless, he does as he is told: Tom is back to leading his old gang—even if it is just the two of them.

In this chapter, Huck shows his lack of patience for Tom’s shenanigans. For Huck, Jim’s plight is real and serious. For Tom, however, it is nothing more than a game—all the more so since he knows the truth of Jim’s circumstances, which he keeps from Huck (and which is not revealed until later).

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