The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapters 1-20

Superstition is an important theme throughout the first twenty chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huckleberry Finn and Jim Robinson are two very different people with different beliefs and backgrounds, but they are both very superstitious. Though they are superstitious in different ways, they make efforts to respect each other superstitions. In one of the earlier scenes of the book, Huck accidentally flicks a spider off of his shoulder and into the candle flame. He says, “I didn’t need anybody to tell me that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck” (133). This happens when he is waiting to sneak out to join Tom Sawyer, and he is scared about what will happen if Miss Watson finds out. After realizing what he has done, he “got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep witches away” (133). Huck is afraid of the unknown, and he does not know how to prepare for it except by performing old rituals to ward off bad luck.

Jim Robinson is even more superstitious than Huckleberry Finn, and he is more adamant that his superstitious actions to ward off evil are followed. While living together on the island, Huck picks up a snakeskin (which according to Jim is very bad luck), and then argues with Jim about it after they find the house, saying: “You said it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a snake skin with my hands. Well, here’s your bad luck! We’ve raked in all this truck and eight dollars besides. I wish we could have some bad luck like this every day, Jim” (162). Later that week, Jim steps on a rattlesnake and gets badly bitten, which forces Huck to believe and respect the power of Jim’s superstitions. Both of them use their superstitions and rituals because they have little control over what is happening in their lives. As a runaway slave, Jim believes more strongly in his superstitions because he has significantly less control over what happens to him in his life.

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