“Never Saying a Word”

“Jim never asked no questions, he never said a word; but the way he worked for the next half an hour showed about how he was scared.  By that time everything we had in the world was on our raft, and she was ready to be shoved out from the willow cove where she was hid.  We put out the camp fire at the cavern the first thing, and didn’t show a candle outside after that.

I took the canoe out from the shore a little piece, and took a look; but if there was a boat around I couldn’t see it, for stars and shadows ain’t good to see by.  Then we got out the raft and slipped along down in the shade, past the foot of the island dead still—never saying a word.”

–Chapter XI, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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“Never Saying a Word,” Wood Engraving, Barry Moser, from the Centenary Edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Pennyroyal Press, 1985

Barry Moser’s wood engraving captures the quiet desperation of this pivotal scene in Huckleberry Finn, in which readers embark with Huck and Jim on their journey’s start, joining with them in a silent bond on the river.

Moser’s model for Jim in this engraving was the renowned actor and playwright Samm-Art Williams, whose Emmy- and Tony-nominated work in drama typically focuses on the African American experience. Closer to Hannibal, The Black Repertory Theater Company of St. Louis premièred one of Williams’ newest plays, The Montford Point Marine (2011).