It has been close to a week since I wrote last of my dear friend Huckleberry Finn; and, while the story is finished, there remain some details to go over in these posts–for example, the duke and the dauphin, the two false royalties who stow away on to the raft halfway through Chapter 19, and who Huck refers to as “rapscallions.”
They are the worst rapscallions, and during their stay the reader cannot help but hope they are pushed from the raft, never to be seen again. Drifting from town to town the two knuckleheads devise these grand schemes–a memorable trip into the “State of Arkansaw” features the spectacularly dreadful Royal Nonesuch, the largest attempt to swindle townspeople out of their money, but which also, later, has the largest comeuppance on the duo, in terms of feathers and tar.
A quote by Huck–“All kings is mostly rapscallions, as fur as I can make out,” describes the nastiness of those acting liars; and is simultaneously a generalization of the nature of royalty interpreted by Huck.
He has yet to see genuine royalty, and so his inexperience leads to generalizing, based perhaps on perceptions and inferences gathered from books he has read, either the kings of the Bible, or literary rulers, such as Tschezrezade in Arabian Nights.
Of course, generalizing– in this case, globally generalizing–is a component of Structuralism and Semiotics. This theory plays a role here because generalization and stereotyping are the cooperating components of this novel; they work majorly behind the scenes, especially in the racial prejudice against Jim and the otherwise unnecessary black servant; it is also to be heavily noted in the later sections in which Huck and Tom argue over the details of jail breaks learned from fiction and life.
Equally significant in these adventures is the scene in Chapter 29 when the duke and the dauphin, accused of identity theft–what a phrase to hear in those times–are told to sign their false names on a slip of paper, so the jurors can compare the signatures of the real brothers and the fakers. At the time a judicial measure like so was only beginning to appear in courts around the country; evidence related to individual markings, like fingerprints, was a new presence in the field of law.
Talk about ahead of its time.
These, and separate segments with the duke and the dauphin, ranging from fraud to aggression, are defining points in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, more so perhaps than lesser sections of the book, being a veritable gold mine of hidden information.