What is the role of the “rapscallions” in the novel? Who are they? What purpose do they serve in terms of Huck’s character development and how do they relate to one or more of the central themes of the novel?
The “rapscallions” are “the king” and “the duke” who begin to tag along with Huck and Jim in their travels, and they play a large role in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They completely take advantage of Jim and Huck, most likely because Huck is young and Jim is black. They also lead their lives by deceiving people and in doing this, they put Jim and Huck in bad situations throughout the book. Their relationship with Jim and Huck particularly highlights the evident divide between them, which is shown when Jim explains how he knows they are bad people who are taking advantage of them, but they can’t do anything about it. Jim and Huck say to each other “dese kings o’ ourn is reglar rapscallions; dats jist what dey is; deys regular rapscallions.’ ‘Well, that’s what I’m a saying: all kings is mostly rapscallions as fur as I can make out,” (Norton C, 225). In this short section of their conversation, Huck and Jim recognize how the king and duke are thieves and that they are very immoral, but it is evident that they have to just accept this and go along with it because a young boy and a runaway slave have no power in this situation. This particular aspect of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an extremely direct assertion of the huge divide between Jim and Huck, who are arguably not morally bad people, and two crooks who take advantage of everyone they meet, solely because they are white and Jim is not, while Huck is just a young boy.