The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Analysis The activities of the king and the duke show us as much about the victims of fraud as it does about the perpetrators. Discuss, making close reference to the text. Include a detailed discussion of one of these characters’ scams. Normally, if a story discusses a fraud, it emphasizes on either the vulnerability of the victims of the fraud or the cynicism of the perpetrators, but not both.
However, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the discussion of the King and the Duke illustrates both the victims’ tendency to be tricked and the liars’ incredible confidence on their ability to trick, mainly because of Huck’s deep involvement with both sides. A scam that illustrates these two aspects the most would be the incident dealing with the Wilks brothers, where the King pretended to be Harvey Wilks, and the Duke William Wilks.
From this particular scam we can see the cynics’ extreme trickery, the victims’ naive willingness to believe, and how the two sides actually “incorporate” with each other in this situation. This scam starts to form when the King and Huck were on the way down to Cincinnati, when they met a young fellow who told them about Peter Wilks, a man that had died the night before. The King had the forming as he “went on asking questions till he just fairly empties that young fellow” (172-173), according to Huck.
And fair enough, when the young man is out of sight, the King told Huck to fetch the Duke so that he can tell the Duke the whole story. But what is surprising is the pair’s assurance that they won’t be discovered as fakes, because they don’t really know anything about the brothers except for what the King hears from the young fellow. When Huck secretly hears the pair’s conversation, it really gives the audience an insight on how the pair doesn’t even care a bit how the Wilks girls will get on after they’ve taken the money and sold the house, especially when the King says “what!
And not sell out the rest o’ the property? March off like a passel o’ fools…we shan’t rob ’em of nothing at all but jest this money” (190). But a problem with the King and the Duke is that they are too confident that they will not be discovered as fakes, when the King said “cuss the doctor…hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? ” it’s obvious that the King has no concern about being found out, which in terms explains the pair’s extreme trickery. On the other hand, the victims were just a bit too easy to fool.
When Mary Jane and the girls first met their “uncles”, they didn’t even a little bit of suspicion that the uncles might be some totally different people, the girl “jumped for them, and the hare-lip jumped for the duke” (176) without a single doubt. But this might not be them to blame, since they’ve never seen their uncles in their entire life, and it’s not once in a while that someone claims to be their uncle, so they might easy to fool, but the others in town, even those who’d written to Harvey, believed the king’s act (except for the doctor, who had a clear eye).
But at least a minority of the town was suspicious enough to test the pair out in the end, especially the lawyer who tricked the King to write something so he can compare the handwriting. But even with these occasion clear-minded people, the rest of the town were still too vulnerable to lies, and that’s why it led them to be fooled in the first place.
The reason for the original success of this scam is attributed not to only the wits of the frauds or only the naivete of the victims, but how they work together to weave into a lie that not everyone can see through. When the doctor first expressed doubt about who the king and the duke really are, if Mary Jane and the others in town weren’t so firm and stood on the pair’s side like they did, “begged and begged him not to hurt Harvey’s feelings and the poor girls’ feelings” (182), they wouldn’t have suffered from this scam.
Especially the girls, they trust the King and the Duke too much, so that when Mary Jane finds out that they are fake, her reaction was equally strong, “The brute! We’ll have them tarred and feathered, in flung in the river! ” (201). The real problem lies in that the townspeople trust too much in what they see on the surface, but do not think deep enough to see the flaws in the pair’s acts. And it is exactly this problem that aids the frauds to better their trickery on the naive townspeople.
In conclusion, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn demonstrates good insights on the scams whether it’s in the victims’ perspective or the frauds’ perspective, because Huck is deeply involved with both sides in that he doesn’t really take a side. It also gives more insights on the main character’s mindsets since it talks about both the perpetrators and the victims. Also, with this book, Twain is trying to imply that the society is full of people like the King and the Duke, but just like the townspeople, the others trust too much to doubt about the identity of those frauds.