Le Premier Homme

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Albert Camus

Chapter 1

Huck informs the reader that unless the reader is familiar with Twain’s Tom Sawyer the reader has likely never heard of him. Huck states that Twain mostly told the truth in that story, but that everyone stretches it now and then.

It is then down to business and Huckleberry proceeds to bring the audience up to speed on everything that happened after Tom Sawyer ended. He describes how Judge Thatcher, acting on behalf of the boys, invested their gold; and how Huck was adopted by the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson. Huck initially resists and returns to his life of vagrancy, but Tom insists that Huck cannot join the gang unless he goes back to the Widow. So Huck does and allows the Widow and her sister to dress him in clothes he does not like. He describes the way the Widow cooks—which is not to his liking, for she cooks each item individually instead of throwing everything together in a pot and allowing the flavors to mix. Miss Watson tries to teach him his spelling and how to sit correctly and tells him not to smoke. He observes that she takes snuff and “of course that was all right, because she done it herself.”

When Miss Watson tries to tell Huck he will go to Hell if he does not mind himself, he says that he wishes he was there (because at least he would be away from them). She tries to convince him that Heaven is where he should want to go because there you get to play a harp all day. He asks if Tom will be in Heaven and she says not likely, and he is glad to think that they will be together.

At night he tries to sleep, but he is very superstitious and is worried when he accidentally kills a spider and performs a number of rituals to try to ward off the evil that he suspects is waiting just outside the window. Actually, it is Tom who arrives to call him out for some midnight adventure.

In this chapter, Twain introduces Huck from the first-person perspective, allowing Huck to describe his world with his own voice and words. Huck reveals himself to be a thoughtful, witty, restless boy, who would rather rough it out-of-doors than live in a civilized and respectable way.

Chapter 2

Huck joins Tom and the two of them try to sneak past Miss Watson’s slave, Jim. The boys freeze in the dark. Jim attempts to discern who is sneaking about and since he cannot see, he sits and waits to see who moves. Tom and Huck lay silently and Huck struggles with a case of the itches—but finally Jim falls asleep on the watch. Tom sneaks in the kitchen and takes three candles, leaving a five-cent coin as payment. Then he plays a trick on the sleeping Jim: he removes his hat and hangs it on a tree branch in front of him. When Jim wakes, he sees his hat and swears he has been bewitched by witches and that they rode him all over the state. But each time he tells the story he exaggerates it, saying the witches rode him all the way to New Orleans, and then all over the world. Other niggers, as Huck states, would come to hear his tale and Jim would profess to be an expert on witches. He also wears the five-cent piece on a string around his neck and claims it is a charm given him by the devil and that it can cure anything.

Tom and Huck finally meet up with more boys and Tom sets the rules for their gang, which will be a gang of robbers. One of the rules is that if anyone tells the gang’s secrets, he and his family have to be killed. Seeing that Huck does not have any family—other than a father who can never be found—the boys argue that Huck cannot join. But Huck says they can kill Miss Watson if he squeals, and they all agree that that is fine. Then the boys debate the gang’s policy on ransoming their victims. Since none of them knows what it means to ransom (and they assume it means merely to watch over their victims till they die), they decide that their hideout will quickly be full of people (especially since they do not kill the women but seduce them with kindness). By the end of the night the gang’s plans seem unlikely, especially since one of them falls asleep and cries when wakened, and another doubts that he will have much of an opportunity to join them on account of having no free time. Huck finally makes it back to the Widow’s. His clothes are a mess.

This chapter introduces the reader to Jim, a main character of the novel—and a man as given to vivid imaginings as the boys themselves. Jim is thus set up to be the perfect companion for Huck—playful, older and, in a way, fatherly (and even something of a pariah like him). Twain also shows the innocence and naivety of the boys as they get together to discuss their gang—illustrating how the boys are limited in their capacity to have any real adventures (at least of the kind Tom fantasizes about) both by age and circumstance.

Chapter 3

In the morning, the Widow pricks Huck’s conscience with her sorrowful looks and cleans his clothes, while Miss Watson takes the boy off to pray. Miss Watson tells Huck that if he prayed more he would get whatever he asked. He explains that he has put this idea into practice with no results. Miss Watson tries to tell him that the results are spiritual. Huck goes out into the woods to think over everything that Miss Watson says about prayer and Providence. Finally, he decides that there are two Providences as far as he is concerned—and that the Widow’s Providence is better than Miss Watson’s.

Word arrives that Huck’s Pap has been found drowned. But Huck reasons that it likely was not his Pap and that his old man will be around to make trouble for him before too long.

Meanwhile, Tom, Huck and the rest of the gang go about pretending to be robbers, although they never rob or kill anyone. Huck pronounces his displeasure with the whole outfit, especially after Tom tells them that a bunch of Arab merchants will be in town soon, with camels, elephants and diamonds. All they discover, however, is a Sunday-school picnic. Tom refers to Don Quixote and explains that magicians changed the Arabs into children and that it is no use going after the magicians since they have an army of genies. Huck attempts to call forth his own genie by rubbing a lamp in the woods but nothing happens, so he figures Tom was only telling his usual lies.

In this chapter, Huck is shown to be less romantic and more practical than Tom. Indeed, in spite of his childlike innocence, there is a kind of rational maturity and sense of realism in Huck. He is also able to think for himself—and is not willing to accept anyone’s argument on the sake of that person’s authority alone. These characteristics will be explored more fully throughout the novel. But they show the disparity between Tom and Huck here—a disparity that will return at the end of the novel as well.

Chapter 4

As time goes by, Huck gets more adjusted to his new dwellings and routine. By winter, he has even gotten used to school, and even the Widow has noticed improvement. However, he has not lost his superstitions—and one morning when he spills the saltcellar, he hurriedly tries to throw some salt over his shoulder to stave off bad luck. Trying to correct his ways, Miss Watson prevents him, and Huck leaves the house wondering how his bad luck will present itself. It is then that he notices tracks in the snow and realizes, by the cross in the left boot heel, that they belong to his Pap.

Huck immediately races to see Judge Thatcher, to whom he gives all his gold and its interest. The Judge, humoring Huck, gives him a dollar in return and has him sign a receipt.

Then Huck pays a visit to Jim, who has a hairball the size of a fist, which was removed from the fourth stomach of an ox. Jim uses the hairball the way a fortune teller would use a crystal ball. Jim informs Huck that the hairball will not talk unless it gets some money. Huck tells Jim all he has is a counterfeit quarter which has lost its shine (Jim takes it knowing that if he sticks it in a potato it will look good as new).

The hairball then speaks to Jim and Jim tells Huck’s fortune, which includes the fact that two angels (one good, one bad) are hovering over Huck’s Pap but that no one knows what he will do; that Huck will have joy and trouble in his life; that he will marry a poor girl and then later a rich girl; and that he should keep away from water and always maintain his credit.

When Huck returns to his room, his Pap is there waiting for him.

This chapter shows that Huck has a considerable amount of forethought; for example, he knows immediately that if his Pap has returned, it is most likely to get his money, which is why Huck signs all of it over to the Judge. Huck also shows, however, that he is still very much a child of superstition—even if he has begun to adjust to the ways of the civilized.

Chapter 5

Pap is described as being dressed in rags with long black hair and “fishbelly white” skin. Pap belittles Huck for his fancy clothes and his education and says that he will whip him for learning how to read. Pap finally gets around to what he wants—which is the money. Huck tells Pap that he is not rich and that he can ask Judge Thatcher himself—then he reluctantly gives up the dollar Judge Thatcher gave him earlier.

Pap uses the dollar to buy whiskey and get drunk and cause trouble, for which he is arrested and brought before the new judge. The new judge tries to reform Pap by bringing him to his own home to stay and convincing him to lead a life of temperance. Pap swears to this new life and shakes everyone’s hand, and the new judge, his wife, and Pap all weep over what the new judge calls a “holy” declaration. But that night, Pap sneaks out, gets drunk, and breaks his arm falling from the window. The new judge admits that the only way anyone could reform a rascal like Pap is with a shotgun.

In this chapter, Twain subtly satirizes the philanthropic reformation exercises of the day through the person of the new judge who refuses to break up the family of Pap and Huck by allowing Judge Thatcher or the Widow become Huck’s legal guardian. The satire reaches its crescendo when the new judge takes Pap into his own home to reform him, which climaxes with a highly sentimentalized promise to be good from Pap and concludes with Pap sneaking out to get drunk that very same night. The chapter also shows the good will and real concern that Judge Thatcher and the Widow have for Huck, as well as Huck’s courage and lack of fright in facing his father and speaking his mind directly.

Chapter 6

While waiting for the courts to decide his case regarding Huck’s money, Pap hangs around the town and especially around the Widow’s house. When she confronts him, he decides to that he still controls Huck by catching the boy and taking off with him across the river to an old cabin in the woods.

Huck begins to like this way of life, which consists of hunting, fishing, smoking, and lazing around. The downsides to living with Pap are when Pap beats Huck and when he goes off to town and locks Huck in the cabin. During one of these days of solitary confinement, Huck discovers an old saw and begins to cut his way out of the cabin.

Meanwhile, Pap has no luck securing Huck’s fortune, for Judge Thatcher is cunning when it comes to the law system and knows ways of dragging out the process. Pap does secure, on the other hand, a jug of whiskey along with various other items. As Huck prepares dinner, Pap rants about the injustice of the courts, gets drunk, and curses everyone and everything. Huck decides he will wait until Pap falls asleep and then he will sneak off.

But Pap never falls asleep. Instead, he slips into a delirium and imagines that demons are assailing him. He thinks Huck is a demon and chases him around the cabin trying to kill him with his knife. Pap finally exhausts himself and rests against the door and dozes off. Rather than attempt to saw his way out, Huck gets Pap’s rifle and sets himself up behind it just in case Pap should wake and want to begin the chase all over again.

In this chapter, Pap displays the levels of madness that he is capable of and at times truly seeming like a man possessed. Huck, on the other hand, shows remarkable good sense and awareness, both in his ability to adapt to Pap’s lifestyle as well as to read Pap's behavior and plan his escape. Also revealed is the fact that Huck prefers the wilderness to town and that, to a certain extent, he is a chip off the old block.

Chapter 7

Huck falls asleep behind the gun, which he has cocked. When Pap wakes in the morning, he is back to normal and wants to know why Huck has his gun out. Huck tells him that he heard someone sneaking around and got it down just in case. Pap scolds him for not waking him and tells Huck to check the lines for any fish.

While outside, Huck observes that the river is high. He catches a canoe that is drifting down the river and hauls it ashore; planning at first to give it to his Pap so he can sell it, Huck then decides to keep it for his escape rather than to head off on foot.

Pap hauls in some logs that the high river has swept downstream and sets back off to town to sell them. Pap locks Huck in the cabin, but Huck saws his way out. Then he cleans out the cabin and puts all the supplies in the canoe. Thinking it best that no one try to follow him, he shoots a hog and spreads its blood around the cabin after knocking in the door with an axe. He pulls out some hair and makes a trail of corn meal to the lake and another trail with a sack of rocks to the river (to make it look as though his body had been dragged that way). Thus, he fakes his own death—an incident reminiscent of a scene in Tom Sawyer. Then he slips away in the corner just as Pap returns.

In this chapter, Huck shows that Tom is not the only one to have the power of invention. In fact, Huck shows remarkable maturity in the way he carries out his escape, which is plotted with ingenuity and foresight.

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