The Cons of the Duke and the King

Sarah, Mackenzie, Hannah & Michael

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When the reader first meets the King and Duke in Chapter 19, they are running from trouble. From the beginning, the reader sees these two characters as bad people. One knows them as “con” men, no matter what they claim their title to be. Throughout the novel it becomes more clear as to what terrible people they are. From fake plays, to stealing family fortunes, they are cruel people to be companions with, and Huck realizes that. He tries several times to be rid of the two, but they always seem to come back.

•Why Twain?

Mark Twain includes the Duke and the King in order to represent the way that a capitalist state exploits members of its society. The Duke and the King represent those individuals that are willing to do anything and take advantage of others in order to turn a profit. Huck, Jim, various townspeople, and the Wilks sisters are the people that they step on for their own gain. At the time that Twain wrote Huck Finn, American Industry was coming-of-age. At this time, big business was exercising power over the government and no one was willing to step in and try to combat industrial giants.

Connection of the Hypothesis to the rest of the Novel:

The instance in which Huck and Jim have their raft run over by a steamboat captain is also symbolic of capitalism. The steamboat operator is only concerned with getting down the river so that he can earn his paycheck. He, like the wealthy industrialists of the late nineteenth century, has no respect for the “little people” or for the environment.

•The use of devices


The choice of words the Duke and the King use within the novel is important to them being con-men. Twain made a note of giving each character their own way of speaking. The Duke’s and the King’s way of speaking changes throughout the novel as they change their appearance to match what they want others to see. They had to be persuasive and appealing to others, and they used their words to trick others.

In Chapters 25-29 we see them pretending to be Peter’s brother - telling stories, knowing the townspeople, the family

This appeals to the audience’s ethos because the Duke and the King seem credible in their eyes. They seem to be real people who aren’t performing.


In Chapter 23, the King is about to put on one of their “shows.” These shows are obviously part of their con because they are not actors, and they do not know Shakespeare. Huck is at one of these shows, and the King comes out naked on all fours. He is painted all over his body with many different colors. Huck then says he is “as splendid as a rainbow.” Obviously comparing the King to a rainbow.


The Duke and the King are extreme exaggerations. They are constantly lying and cheating people. They have taken on the role of con-men. They don’t stop after they’ve been caught but continue moving around so that they can trick more people. They invent their own characters and constantly change themselves. For the Duke and the King, their characters are actors. They are performing their way through life, tricking everyone they meet.

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•Discussion Questions

  1. What will Twain use as the downfall to these two cons? Will there be a downfall?

  2. Why does Twain continue to allow The Duke and King to go through life without getting caught or punished?

  3. Why does Huck and Jim continue to go on with the attitude of accompanying royalty?

  4. What does it say about Huck that he sees through the King and the Duke’s tricks but he doesn’t do anything to stop them?


The Auction. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Jawing. 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

"By Rights I Am A Duke". 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

"I Am The Late Dauhpin". 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

The Shakespherien Play. 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.