Weather In Huckleberry Finn

Alexis B, Dylan B, and Adonis A


Weather plays a major role in the novel Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Why would a writer such as Mark Twain signify storms throughout Huck's journey with Jim down the river? Weather not only establishes setting, but it also sets the tone of an event or occurrence in the book as well as foreshadows events to come. There are several instances in which weather played a role in the happenings of the story.


“Well, the second night a fog begun to come on, and we made for a towhead to tie to, for it wouldn’t do to try to run in a fog; but when I paddled ahead in the canoe, with the line to make fast, there warn’t anything but little saplings to tie to. I passed the line around one of them right on the edge of the cut bank, but there was a stiff current, and the raft come booming down so lively she tore it out by the roots and away she went. I see the fog closing down, and it made me so sick and scared I couldn’t budge for most a half a minute it seemed to me—and then there warn’t no raft in sight; you couldn’t see twenty yards.” (Chapter 15)

On the second night of Jim and Huck’s adventure towards freedom they encountered thick fog while on the river that left them visually impaired and mentally disoriented. Twain did not add this without reason and it was not only to enhance the setting, but to make it more suspenseful.


“The fifth night below St. Louis we had a big storm after midnight, with a power of thunder and lightning, and the rain poured down in a solid sheet...The lightning showed her very distinct….Well, it being away in the night and stormy, and all so mysterious- like, I felt just the way any other boy would a felt when I see that wreck laying there so mournful and lonesome in the middle of the river. I wanted to get aboard of her and slink around a little, and see what there was there. So I says: ‘Le’s land on her, Jim.’” (Chapter 12)

On the two’s fifth night on the river they encountered a great, powerful thunderstorm that included heavy rain, loud thunder, and sharp lightning. Again this was not placed only for setting purposes but rather to illustrate and foreshadow events in the novel.


“Directly it begun to rain, and it rained like all fury, too, and I never see the wind blow so. It was one of these regular summer storms. It would get so dark that it looked all blue- black outside, and lovely; and the rain would thrash along by so thick that the trees off a little ways looked dim and spider-webby; and here would come a blast of wind that would bend the trees down and turn up the pale under-side of the leaves” (Chapter 9)

In Chapter 9 of the novel, Huck and Jim have begun their journey towards freedom. They camp in a cave and while they are there, they witness a harsh storm. Huck is in awe of the storm.


"It was my watch below till twelve, but I wouldn’t a turned in anyway if I’d had a bed, because a body don’t see such a storm as that every day in the week, not by a long sight. My souls, how the wind did scream along! And every second or two there’d come a glare that lit up the white-caps for a half a mile around, and you’d see the islands looking dusty through the rain, and the trees thrashing around in the wind; then comes a h-whack!— bum! bum! bumble-umble-um-bum-bum-bum-bum—and the thunder would go rumbling and grumbling away, and quit—and then rip comes another flash and another sockdolager. The waves most washed me off the raft sometimes, but I hadn’t any clothes on, and didn’t mind. We didn’t have no trouble about snags; the lightning was glaring and flittering around so constant that we could see them plenty soon enough to throw her head this way or that and miss them." (Chapter 20)

In chapter 20, Huck and Jim are traveling on the boat and encounter a storm. Huck is on watch during the storm and is drenched in water multiple times during the trip.

Why does Mark Twain signify weather?

Why would Twain, a realist thinker, signify weather, a very romantic occurrence? The man-vs-nature conflict throughout the novel as Huck and Jim partake in their quest encapsulates an uncontrollable struggle that all people have to face. When traveling down a river, unprotected and vulnerable, as black man and a white child would be during this time, one is bound to encounter stormy, harsh weather. Twain signifies weather to foreshadow the dangers in which Huck and Jim will encounter as well as to establish a tone of innocence and vulnerability through the humor, irony, and satire of the novel.

Discussion Question

Could Mark Twain have portrayed the same message without putting an emphasis on weather?


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