In Chapters 36 through 38, the novel slips further into the farce as neither Huck nor Jim understand why they must perform all of these ludicrous acts before Jim can escape. Ironically, Huck and Jim view Tom as a representative of society and education, and because of this, they feel that Tom must know the best way for them to escape.
Jim’s continued enslavement is both absurd and grotesque and is a harsh comment on the racial condition of post-Civil War America. As mentioned earlier, Miss Watson has already set Jim free in her will, but the ability to transcend and change society’s perception is not as easily accomplished. Jim, therefore, remains captive to others despite the fact that he has, indeed, been freed.
It is important to remember that Huck Finn was written in the 20 years following the Civil War, and the entire novel reflects Twain’s own post-Civil War observations. Although the Union made some attempt at Southern reconstruction, the South quickly fell into a squalid and segregated ruin. Conditions for newly freed slaves were no doubt improved, but the longed-for freedom had not come with changed perceptions, acceptance, or equality.
dog-fennel any of several weeds or wildflowers of the composite family, having daisylike flower heads.
scutcheon escutcheon a shield or shield-shaped surface on which a coat of arms is displayed.
juice harp jew’s harp, a small musical instrument consisting of a lyre-shaped metal frame held between the teeth and played by plucking a projecting bent piece with the finger.
mullen stalks stalks of the mullein, a tall plant of the figwort family, with spikes of yellow, lavender, or white flowers.