L’homme qui rit

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Victor Hugo

Huckleberry Finn—Huck, as he is known for short, is a boy of about 12. First introduced by Mark Twain in Tom Sawyer, Huck becomes the hero of his own narrative in this follow-up tale, which is told from the first person perspective of Huck himself. Once considered a pariah and an outcast, Huck has since become the pet project of well-intentioned old ladies out to make him respectable. However, when Pap returns to get Huck’s gold, trouble ensues, and Huck slips away down the mighty Mississippi, with Jim, the runaway slave as his companion. Huck’s greatest desire is for independence and a life on the river.

Tom Sawyer—Tom is Huck’s friend, playmate and gang leader. Huck admires Tom for his broad understanding of pirates, robbers, prisoners, and mischief-makers (all gleaned from Romantic novels, of course, and none of it realistic). Tom has a good heart, like Huck, but when it comes to being realistic and practical, Tom plays second fiddle to Huck. Tom’s greatest desire is to have an imaginary adventure, one that is fabricated and controlled by him from start to finish. Tom helps both open and close the narrative of Huck Finn.

Jim—Jim is Miss Watson’s slave. He has family on other farms in the area, but when he overhears Miss Watson talk about selling him to a slave trader, he runs off and hides out on Jackson Island. There, he meets Huck, and joins him on a raft as they float down the river, both longing for freedom.

Pap—Pap is Huck’s drunkard father. He is typically never around, but when he learns that Huck has come into a small fortune, he returns to claim a share. He steals Huck away and keeps him locked in a cabin in the woods. Characteristically ornery, Pap becomes downright deadly when the demon rum is in him. Huck fakes his own death to escape from Pap.

Judge Thatcher—Judge Thatcher tends to Huck’s financial problems and is earnestly concerned for Huck’s well-being. When Pap arrives, Thatcher tries to get custody of Huck so that his father cannot run off with him.

Widow Douglas—The Widow has adopted Huck in an effort to give him a real home and a decent upbringing. She instills in Huck a sense of love and kindness and helps instill the difference between right and wrong.

Miss Watson—Miss Watson is the Widow’s sister. She also takes a hand in Huck’s upbringing, but her methods are not as sound as the Widow’s and they tend to irritate and annoy Huck.

Mrs. Judith Loftus—Mrs. Loftus is a new face in town, and Huck meets her after he fakes his own death and returns to town for news. She does not know him, but she sees through his disguise easily enough and offers her assistance should he need any help.

The Robbers—Huck sees the robbers on a wrecked steamboat. Two of them have turned against a third and have tied him up and plan to leave him on the wreck so that he drowns when it breaks up. Huck and Jim, however, have need of the robbers’ raft so use it to get away, and the robbers are left to perish of their own devices.

Buck Grangerford—Buck is a boy about Huck’s own age. Unlike Huck, he is of a higher class. His family is involved in a decades-long feud and Buck is eager to kill a member of the opposing family. When Buck is killed, Huck’s innocence dies a little.

Colonel Grangerford—Colonel Grangerford is a stately old man, who commands respect and inspires dignity. He is the head of the family and has all the characteristics of a well-bred, decent man. His one flaw, however, is his willingness to see the perpetuation of the feud with the Shepherdsons, for which he and his family pay a steep price.

Miss Sophia Grangerford—Miss Sophia runs off with Harney Shepherdson to get married, thus initiating a final bloodbath between Grangerfords and Shepherdsons.

Harney Shepherdson—Harney is almost killed by Buck one day when Buck and Huck are walking together. Harney chases the two boys through the woods and fires upon them. Later, Harney elopes with Buck’s sister.

The King—The King is a con artist who is old and bald. He specializes in temperance meetings and revivals. He plays a scandalous role in “The Royal Nonesuch” and later attempts to swindle the Wilks brothers out of their inheritance and the daughters out of their home. He tells Huck, Jim, and the Duke that he is the long lost dauphin king of France.

The Duke—He joins the raft at the same time the king does. He specializes in the theater and “The Royal Nonesuch” is his idea, after Shakespeare fails to impress. He plays the deaf and dumb Wilks brother (while the king plays the preacher). He is tarred and feathered along with his accomplice in the end.

Colonel Sherburn—Sherburn is a proud man in Bricksville, where the king and the duke perform their play. He shoots a drunken man named Boggs, who is abusing the Sherburn name in the street. When a mob comes to lynch Sherburn, he stands on the roof of his porch with a shotgun and gives them a lesson in manhood.

Boggs—Boggs is the poor drunkard who roams around town threatening to kill people but does not really mean any harm. Sherburn gives him a chance to get off the street, but Boggs does not listen and is gunned down.

The Wilkses—Peter Wilks is survived by his three daughters and his two brothers, whose visit from England is expected. Peter has left his brothers a small fortune in gold. His daughters are deceived by the two frauds, the king and the duke, until Huck confesses everything to the oldest, Mary Jane.

Dr. Robinson—The doctor was a friend of Peter’s and is an intelligent man. He laughs at the imposters and tells them they are frauds and begs the daughters to cast them away.

Lawyer Bell—The lawyer was another friend of Peter’s who does not trust the two imposters. He is instrumental in getting to the truth and leads the way to the cemetery for the inspection of the body.

Aunt Sally Phelps—Sally is Tom’s aunt and when Huck arrives on the farm to free Jim, she mistakes him for Tom. Huck lets her think so, and when Tom does arrive, she has her hands full keeping various wild creatures out of the house and her wits in order.

Uncle Silas Phelps—Silas buys Jim from the king, believing that he is a runaway slave from the south. He is a good and decent man, if a bit naïve. He keeps Jim in a shack, but treats him well and prays with him.

Aunt Polly—Aunt Polly is Tom’s guardian and Sally’s sister. She arrives on the farm at the end of the novel to confirm the identities of Huck and Tom as well as the fact that Jim is a free man.

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