One of the significant motifs that recurs in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is deception. The entire novel is full of lies, though there is a difference between the types of lies told – while the duke and the dauphin lie in order to scam innocent people, Huck lies in order to protect innocent people, namely Jim.
The duke and the dauphin seem to lie throughout Huck’s entire story of them. When Huck first meets the con men, the older man states that he is the heir to the French throne, though he claims to have forgotten to speak the language, while the younger man claims to be an usurped duke. The con men scam many innocent people during their time with Huck and Jim, mainly through performances in the towns that they pass by while traveling on the river. Perhaps their largest scam that Huck narrates is the scamming of the Wilks family. By posing as the English relatives of the Wilks family, the con men scam $6,000 out of the grieving family before the money is stolen and given back by Huck. The con men are exposed and eventually escape when the real relatives of the family arrive, though they have sold Jim in the meantime to the Phelps family. Huck decides to steal Jim out of slavery, despite his initial hesitation to help.
While the duke and the dauphin scam innocent people for their own benefit, Huck lies in order to help others. In order to gain the Phelps family’s trust, Huck pretends to be Tom while Tom comes up with an elaborate plan to free Jim, despite already knowing that the recently deceased Miss Watson declared Jim a free man in her will. Although Jim is not heavily guarded, Tom insists on an elaborate escape, just like in his stories, to please himself, while Huck, who is willing to risk his life and reputation, cares more about simply freeing Jim rather than the adventure. Huck and Tom continue to deceive the Phelps family for the next few days while preparing for the big escape, though in the end Tom is injured and Jim is captured again before being declared free. Ultimately, Huck’s deception throughout the entire novel was not really necessary since Jim was declared free, though his willingness to lie in order to help his friend, despite him being a slave, proves Huck’s willingness to look beyond the color of one’s skin and to overcome social norms to help a friend in need.