Saturday, December 31, 2011

December recording stats

A special Saturday edition bringing you the December recording stats:

The number of deeds recorded in December 2011 dropped 1% compared to December 2010, from 497 to 494

The number of mortgages recorded in Dec 2011 dropped 17% compared to Dec 2010, from 1623 to 1343

The number of foreclosure deeds recorded in Dec 2011 rose 200% compared to Dec 2010, climbing from 13 to 39

The number of orders of notice recorded in Dec 2011 dropped 2% compared to Dec 2010, from 44 to 43

The total number of documents recorded in Dec 2011 dropped 7% compared to Dec 2010, from 6386 to 5946

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Ten Registry Events of 2011

Here are my choices of the Top Ten Registry of Deeds events of 2011:

  1. After years of discussion, study and testing, the "new" version of becomes the default search application for registry of deeds records on the internet.
  2. In two far-reaching decisions on mortgage foreclosures, Ibanez v. US Bank in January and Bevilacqua v Rodriguez in October, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that a foreclosure commenced prior to the the entity conducting the foreclosure being assigned the mortgage is void, even as against a subsequent purchaser of the property.
  3. Adverse weather repeatedly had a negative impact on registry operations.  Snow forced the closure or curtailment of operations on six days in January and February; Hurricane Irene interrupted electricity and partially flooded the basement in August; and the Halloween snowstorm knocked out power and closed the office for two days in early November.
  4. The new MassLandRecords put all grantor and grantee indexes from 1629 to the present on the registry website.
  5. A major revision to Massachusetts Homestead Law went into effect on March 16.
  6. Attorney General Martha Coakley sued five national lenders for, among other things, failing to modify mortgages in good faith, failing to record required assignments of mortgages and foreclosing on properties when not legally entitled to do so.
  7. Essex South Register of Deeds John O'Brien gained national attention with his efforts against MERS and robo-signers.
  8. The new elevator in the Superior Court was completed and went into operation.
  9. The Lowell-based movie "The Fighter" which had scenes filmed in the Superior Courthouse, won Academy Awards and Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale) and actress (Melissa Leo).
  10. The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup.
Happy New Year.  See you in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

File Print Server

On four separate occasions over the past six weeks we've had a problem with our networked printers, simply put...the printers stop working. I want to emphasize this problem has caused no inconvenience for the public. Why? mainly because the fix is quick and easy. When the problem occurs we immediately call the Secretary of State's IT Department and either they or we boot the "file/print server". But the simplicity of the fix does not make the problem any less serious.

The first time we experienced the problem the SEC IT Department speculated that the memory in "print server" was full (booting empties the cache). Even though the problem has reoccurred three addition times since this hypothesis, memory over-load may still actually be the problem...but why? Why is the memory filling?, determining this is complex.

This morning our printers shut down again...This time a diagnosis of the server revealed a possible IP address conflict. Our MIS Director immediately resolved that issue.

I want to reiterate, this problem has not caused any interruption in our operation or inconvenience for users. I'll continue to keep you current on the issue.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top Ten events of past years

Every December I publish a list of the Top Ten events at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds for that year.  The 2011 list will be done this Friday, December 30.  In the meantime, I've listed below the Number One item from Top Ten lists of years past, with links to each year's full list:

2010: Electronic recording continues to become a major point of entry into the registry for new documents. From January to June, electronic recordings constituted 15% of our average daily recordings; from July to December, electronic recordings accounted for 23% of our daily recordings.

2009:  The state’s financial crisis caused mid-year cuts and a reduced budget for FY10, curbing our ability to implement new technology and registry-related applications.

2008: The Paperless Registry – On April 1, 2008, we closed off the Lower Record Hall to public access and thereby made all record books and indexes available only on our computer system.

2007: On August 20, 2007, we fully implemented our “scan and return” operation. From that day forward, all recorded documents were scanned at the time of recording and immediately returned to the customer.

2006: To reduce the risk of identity theft, registry employees redacted thousands of social security numbers from previously recorded documents.

2005: Electronic Recording became a daily event during 2005 with nearly 1,000 documents recorded in this manner. There are many details that must still be resolved, but the technology has proven to be useful and reliable.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Biometric Password

The newest new thing coming to computers and smart phones is biometric passwords.

What is biometrics?
"Biometrics is the science of measuring physical properties of living beings (".

What is biometric recognition?
"By measuring an individual's suitable behavioral and biological characteristics in a recognition inquiry and comparing these data with the biometric reference data which had been stored during a learning procedure, the identity of a specific user is determined." (

What is a biometric Password?
"Authentication may take advantage of biometrics by using a biometric characteristic as identifier or as verifier. When using biometrics as an identifier, uniqueness (very low FAR) is an essential requirement especially for large user numbers. When using biometrics as a verifier, the biometric characteristic may be either viewed as a secret or as public. In the latter case, it is essential that a fake detection is provided against mechanical copies of the biometric characteristic." (

OK,OK enough of this high-falutin, scientific is a video from the New York Times describing biometric passwords.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Registry Holiday Schedule

With Christmas only two days away, I thought now might be a good time to look at our short term holiday schedule and how all legal holidays play out on the 2012 calendar.  By state law, when a holiday falls on a Sunday, as Christmas and New Years do this year, the "legal holiday" is observed on Monday.  That means the registry of deeds and all other government buildings will be closed on Monday, December 26, 2011 and on Tuesday, January 2, 2012.  (When the holiday falls on a Saturday, it is observed on Saturday only as was the case last year for Christmas and New Years).

Besides New Years, the days we will be closed in 2012 for holidays are as follows:
  • January 16 - Monday - Martin Luther King Day
  • February 20 - Monday - Presidents' Day
  • April 16 - Monday - Patriots' Day
  • May 28 - Monday - Memorial Day
  • July 4 - Wednesday - Independence Day
  • September 3 - Monday - Labor Day
  • October 8 - Monday - Columbus Day
  • November 12 - Monday - Veterans' Day (celebrated on Sunday, Nov 11)
  • November 22 - Thursday - Thanksgiving
  • December 25 - Tuesday - Christmas
Please note that because 2012 is a leap year, Christmas and New Years both jump two days in the week, so while they fall on Sundays this year and would normally fall on Mondays next year, they actually are on Tuesdays.

These are the only days on which the registry is scheduled to be closed.  The registry may close in the event of weather emergencies such as major snowstorms.  There is no hard and fast rule as to when that might happen, but it is decided on a case by case basis.  The best way to find out the registry's status is to consult with this blog.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Traditions

Did you ever wonder why certain traditions and customs became associated with Christmas? I did. Below I have listed a few traditions and their origins:

Stockings: According to legend the tradition of putting presents in stocking began in the 12th Century by French nuns. The nuns would go around to the homes of poor people and leave old stockings filled with fruits and nuts.

Gifting Giving: In Roman times gifts were given on New Years Day. Interestedly, today Italians still do not exchange gifts on December 25...rather Italians exchange gifts on January 6, the day the Wise Men arrived in Jerusalem.

Christmas Trees: The tradition of the Christmas Tree began in Germany in the 1500's. One source actually states that Martin Luther was the first person to decorate a fir tree as part of the holiday.

Christmas Cards: Sir Henry Cole, a government worker in England in the 1840's was looking for a way to make more people use the postal service. Cole and his friend, John Horsley designed the first Christmas Cards and sold them for 1 shilling each.

Candy Canes: Again a tradition that originated in Germany...legend has it that a choirmaster passed out sugar-sticks made in the shape of a Shepard's "cane" to children during the concerts to keep them quiet.

Mistletoe: The custom of kissing under Mistletoe began in Norway. In Norway a piece of mistletoe hanging in a house is a sign of love and friendship. This tradition evolved into the kissing custom.

Boxing Day: Boxing Day is celebrated in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It started almost 1000 years ago. Today Boxing Day is a big shopping day in these countries, but originally it was the day the churches opened their collection "boxes" and distributed the contents to the poor.

Santa Claus (modern day): The image of Santa as we knew him...a rotund, jolly man in a red suit with a white beard comes from a Coca-Cola advertising campaign in the 1930's.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Five Excellent Techie Info Sites (and a Bonus)

I enjoy reading about technology...and fortunately, there are a number of terrific sources of information for the technology oriented. Below I have listed five of my "many" favorites:

AllThingsDigital: Is owned by the Wall Street Journal. This is a powerhouse of information. When you visit you'll find news, opinion and commentary on, well "all things digital".

CNet: One of my absolute favorite information websites. CNet focuses much attention on digital consumer items (that's why I like it so much). In addition to the website CNet publishes a blog and podcasts.

Gizmodo: According to Technorati, Gizmodo is in the top five visited websites in the world. It offering information about cool electronic gadgets... and uncool ones too.

PCWorld: Maybe the most commonly known techie website providing product reviews, pricing information and just plain interesting article about digital stuff.

Techcrunch: This is one high powered and popular technology websites out there. Techcrunch ventures into a beyond range of digital and Internet topics should as social networking.

Bonus Site...Bonus Site...Bonus Site...Bonus Site...Bonus Site...Bonus

OK... I said I was only going to list my five favorite sites, but I must mention one more. It IS my favorite source of technology information...

Wired: To begin, Wired has has an incredible iPad App...the site is colorful, informative and innovative. Wired uniquely blends technology issues with societal and cultural issues, making for some interesting reading.

Monday, December 19, 2011

SEC sues 6 former Fannie and Freddie executives

Last week the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it had filed civil lawsuits against six former executives of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The allegations, according to this story are mostly that the executives greatly understated the level of risk involved in the mortgages being sold to investors.  For instance, one of the defendants once gave a major speech asserting that Fannie Mae had "virtually no" subprime mortgages.  The problem was that Fannie was using its own definition of subprime not the one the rest of us understood.  To Fannie, "subprime" was a function of the lender, not the borrower.  Any loan made by a Wall Street firm, for instance, was deemed a "prime" loan, no matter what the credit score of the borrower.

The only thing I find shocking about this is the fact that the SEC has taken some action at this point, more than three years after the financial collapse.  You would have thought that an event that nearly destroyed the western world's financial system would have had some culpable folks, but to date, hardly any have been held accountable.  Perhaps this suit signals a change in that, but I doubt it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mid-month recording stats

With December half over, I thought a quick look at recording statistics to date would be worthwhile, so I've compared recordings during December 1 to 15 in both 2010 and in 2011.  Interestingly, the number of deeds and orders of notice recorded were nearly identical during the two periods.  For those two weeks in 2010, there were 231 deeds recorded; for the same time in 2011, there were 233.  In those two weeks in 2010, there were 28 orders of notice; the exact same number were recorded in 2011.  It was a different story with the other two document types we follow.  Mortgages were down considerably, falling from 856 in the first half of December 2010 to 630 for the same days in 2011, a drop of 26%.  And foreclosure deeds were way up, jumping from 7 in 2010 to 24 in 2011.  To put that number in perspective, if we projected it over the entire month, it would give us 48 foreclosure deeds, a number that would exceed the total for any other month in 2011.  In 2010, however, eight different months had more than 48 foreclosure deeds recorded.

Be sure to check back at the beginning of January when we'll have stats for the entire month of December and for all of 2011.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Their Last Words

Yesterday morning while watching WCVB's News at 5:00AM a "tease" before the break caught my attention. In a well articulated tone the anchor said something like... "What did they say? Last words of famous people"... bam, a commercial. Unfortunately, time retrains prevented me from seeing the "Last Words" TV segment, so I looked it up this morning on the stations website, The website article mentioned a number of famous people and their last words. I choose ten and listed them below.

Composer Ludwig Von Beethoven:
Applaud, my friends, the comedy is finished.

Circus P.T. Barnum: How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?

Actor Humphrey Bogart: I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.

Playwright George Bernarad Shaw: Dying is easy, comedy is hard.

Beatle George Harrison: Love one another.

Senator Robert F Kennedy: Is everyone else all right?

Author Oscar Wilde: My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.

General George Patton: This is a hell of a way to die.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs: Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.

Mexican Revolutionary Pancho Villa: Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The registry of deeds and the US mail

Last week a wave of stories broke about plans to curtail mail service in the United States.  This article from the December 5, 2011 New York Times, for example, mentions lengthening the time of delivery of first class mail.  Now, a majority of pieces in that postage category are delivered the next day.  Under the new plan, which involves among other things, closing many regional mail processing centers (including the one in Lowell), the quickest that first class mail would be delivered would be two days after mailing, even if it's only going across the street.  This is just a proposal, but it seems clear that big changes will be coming to our national mail service.

The problems of the USPS got me thinking about the relationship between the registry of deeds and the mail.  Approximately one-quarter of our daily intake of documents comes to the registry by mail or other delivery service (as opposed to in-person or electronic recordings). 

Here are some of our observations about "the mail."  By far the biggest volume arrives on Monday (or a Tuesday if there's a three day weekend).  Tuesdays and Fridays tie for the next busiest mail day, while the volume on Wednesdays and Thursdays tail off considerably.  Most of the mail that arrives on Mondays was sent by a bank or other institutional entity while mail received on the other days comes primarily form law offices.

When we use the term "mail", it refers to all documents delivered to us, be it by the US Postal Service, UPS or Fedex.  The latter two are used almost exclusively by banks and institutions and rarely by law offices.  As a percentage of our daily "mail", deliveries from UPS and Fedex are definitely increasing.  These days, the document types most frequently received by mail are foreclosure related.  There will be a spurt of orders of notice followed a few months later by an increase in foreclosure deeds.  Since the Ibanez case, the number of foreclosure-related assignments received by mail has definitely increased.

The single biggest reason we reject mail is that the document presented for recording lacks a reference to a related document.  It is essential that such a reference be present so that we can ascertain whether the document belongs in Recorded Land or Registered Land.  Other reasons for rejection, in descending order of frequency, are documents sent to us are for another registry; there's a missing signature (either grantor, notary or on the check), and finally, the check accompanying check for recording fees may be stale or in the wrong amount.

Finally, the way to ensure that your mailed-in document gets recorded promptly is to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with it.  Those get processed very quickly.  Because they need additional handling, submissions that lack the required SASE are put aside so as not to delay those customers who follow the rules.  We eventually record the mailed in docs that lack a SASE, but only after everything else has been recorded. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

eBooks for Free

As I get older, I get cheaper. Let me explain...

Last August my family gave me a Nook eReader for my sixtieth birthday (I'm the cheap one, not my family).
I love it.
But since then I've been buying an eBook every couple of weeks or so, that's a problem for a cheap guy like me.
I just finished reading a "small" book by humorist Dave Barry titled Dave Barry Turns 50. Now, if you've ever read Dave Barry you know, although very entertaining, his material is not very other words you can blast through one of his books in no time.
I paid $9.99 for Dave Barry Turns 50. Ten bucks for a quick read like that?! No way...but, as I mentioned I love my Nook.
What can I do?
The other day I met a friend and shared conversation and enjoyed a coffee with him (he had his own coffee and I had mine own, I'm not that cheap).

Me: You know, I love my Nook by I don't want to pay 10 bucks for an eBook every week.
Him: This coffee is good...Did you say something?
Me: I said since I turned sixty I'm too cheap to buy eBooks.
Him: Do you want a piece of Danish?
Me: I'd love a Danish but I'm not paying 2 bucks for one. Did I tell you I paid 10 bucks for Dave Barry Turns 50 ?
Him: I thought you turned sixty not fifty?
Me: I said "Dave Barry" turned fifty, not me. Maybe when Barry does turn sixty he'll get cheap like me and reduce the price of his eBooks. I'm hungry. I wonder what they're charging for a muffin?
Him: Get'em at the library?
Me: Why, are they selling muffins cheap at the library?
Him: Not the muffins, the eBooks.
Me: What?
Him: You can get your eBooks at the library for free right here in Lowell and most other surrounding communities.
Me: Really...are you saying I can download eBooks to my Nook (or Kindle) right from the library for free? Is it difficult to do?
Him: This Danish is fabulous...I think this is homemade jelly on it.
Me: Forget that...Do I need a special computer or buy software to borrow eBooks from the library.
Him: No, ...just go on to your local library's website, download the necessary free software they provide and you are ready to get a free eBook.
Me: Wow, maybe we should head to the Pollard Library.
Him: You don't have to go the library... you can download eBooks right from your home computer.
Me: I was talking about the cheap muffins you said they had.
Him: No cheap muffins...but free eBooks

Monday, December 12, 2011

Returning from the disabled list

I've been absent from the blog and from work for a while.  Back before Thanksgiving I suffered a detached retina which required immediate surgery.  The procedure went well and the vision in that eye should gradually return to normal over the next few weeks.  The biggest challenge was the post-care which required me to lie face-down for 17 consecutive days to allow everything to heal properly.  It took a few days to adjust to that awkward positioning, but after that the challenge was more mental than physical.  In that, modern technology came to my rescue.  Between an iPad and a laptop, both positioned on the floor, I was able to watch TV (I saw a lot of football and hockey), surf the web, and enjoy all kinds of movies streamed via Netflix.  All that made time pass quickly enough. 

Today is my first day back at the registry.  Ironically, at the same time that I was out injured, my office computer died (a sympathetic reaction?) so this morning was spent putting its replacement into operation, catching up on emails and doing the end of month reports I usually have finished a few days into the new month (my apologies to anyone inconvenienced by that delay).  In the courthouse lobby this morning, a landlord I know who was waiting for Housing Court to open asked about recent trends in foreclosures.  I confessed to losing track of that and other statistics, so I do have a bit of catching up in that regard to do over the next few days.  In conclusion, thanks to Tony Accardi and Dick Regan and all the other registry employees for allowing me to convalesce without worrying about the office and for making the transition back to work such an easy endeavor.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Seeing-Eye Mouse

Often I get caught up in the everyday, simple uses of a computer...sending an email, looking for a good restaurant, receiving news updates etc. But today a fellow employee told me about a fabulous technology that demonstrates perfectly how computers can improve lives.

Watch...I'll bet you are as amazed as I was.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwich

I read Google's Technology News every morning...hey, I've admitted it before, I'm a true, blue, techie geek and proud of it.

But this morning when I logged into google's technology section I was confused, geek or no geek.

Why? I saw this headline: "Hacker Installs Ice Cream Sandwich on Kindle Fire"
What, the heck does that mean? I thought. I was baffled, yes still a geek, but a baffled one.

So I did what every true, blue, baffled, techie geek would do...I googled Ice Cream Sandwich.

Of course, the first hit I saw explained that an Ice Cream Sandwich was a vanilla flavored ice cream bar with a chocolate "cookie" on the top and bottom (we geeks loved them when we were kids).

But the next entry explained that Ice Cream Sandwich was a version of Andriod, google's popular mobile operating system.

What!? When!? Why!? How!? I thought I was a real geek! I've never heard of this before...So I did what every baffled, true, blue techie geek would do...I looked it up in wikipedia.

Here is what I every operating system, Andriod releases improvements and fixes bugs. This is done by releasing updated versions.

As a true, blue, techie geek, I find Google uniquely clever. Case in point...At some point, for some reason Google decided to name each new version of Andriod after a dessert... and to name them in alphabetical order.

Up to this point, there have been seven versions of Andriod...Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and yes...Ice Cream Sandwich.

So being a true, blue techie geek I'm already wondering...What will Google name the next Andriod version. It must begin with a "J", so will it be... Jam, Jello, Jelly, Jellybean, Junior Mint, Jalousie... etc?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pearl Harbor, 70th Anniversary

Seventy years ago today the Japanese Imperial Navy bombed the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The surprise attack left almost 2,400 dead, 1,178 wounded, sank a dozen U.S. warships and destroyed 323 aircraft.

Five years ago on the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor I watched a PBS program about the attack. The show was enhanced with numerous interviews of survivors telling what they saw and experienced on that infamous day. I found their stories the most amazing chronicles of heroism I ever heard in my life.

On a personal note...Every Pearl Harbor Day I think of my father. He passed away a number of years ago at the year of 70. My father was born in 1920 and was 21 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He,like so many others, joined the Navy just days after the attack. He saw heavy action in the North Atlantic aboard the USS Campbell, a Corvette warship. Corvettes were used to protect convoys as they brought supplies to troops in Europe. These fast destroyer-like ships would zigzag in front of the convoy seeking and destroying German U boats in their path. On one occasion torpedo stuck his ship damaging its engines and rudder. The ship was unable to move or maneuver. For twenty four hours the USS Campbell and its men sat like sitting ducks, motionless...but armed and ready to fight, every man fixed at his gun. In the early hours of the morning, a day later, the Campbell was finally rescued and towed to Reykjavik, Iceland where it was repaired and sent back out to continue its duties.

Days like today remind us of the special sacrifices made by Americans of that great, generation.

Below is a video from the official Pearl Harbor site titled "A Day at Pearl Harbor".

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Windows 8... Coming in January

My computer at home is running Microsoft is a cumbersome Operating System that boots up very slowly. But, once its cranking it works fine.

I've my laptop computer for about three years now and I'll admit I've gotten used to Vista...but I've been tempted by the allure of Windows 7. I even thought I might upgrade it if I saw a good deal during this Christmas season.

I'm glad I didn't see a good Christmas deal.

Why? Well, I just read this morning that Microsoft is releasing Windows 8 in early January. And its sounds radically improved from Windows 7.

The most outstanding new feature in Windows 8 is the touch screen feature..yes, the mouse and keyboard will still be there...but you don't need to use them if you don't want to.

And on a more technical level Windows 8 will be compatible with ARM processors. ARM's are highly versatile microprocessors that use low power...this means they are perfect for use in mobile devices and tablet ARM's put the Windows 8 Operating System in the cell phone/tablet arena.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has developed a reputation for not delivering products timely...we'll see with Windows 8.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Famous IQ Scores

Yesterday I started reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book deals with extraordinary people and the unique opportunities that paved their path to success. One person mentioned in the book is Chris Langan. Langan is famous because his IQ is 195. To put this in perspective the average IQ score is 100 and a score of 140 or above is considered "genius". Langan's incredibly high IQ made me curious. I wondered what some other famous people's IQ's might be... so this morning I did some investigating and found the IQ scores of these well known people:

Albert Einstein (Scientist): IQ Score 160

Arnold Schwarzennegger (Actor/Politician/ Bodybuilder): IQ Score 135

Bill Gates (Microsoft Owner): IQ Score 160

Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State): IQ Score 140

James Woods (Actor): IQ Score 180

Stephen Hawking (Physicist): IQ Score 160

Steve Martin (Comedian/Actor): IQ Score 142

Reggie Jackson (Baseball Player): IQ Score 160

Bobby Fisher (Chess Champion): IQ Score 187

Madonna (Singer/Dancer/Actress): IQ Score 140

Thursday, December 01, 2011

"Huckleberry Finn", the Great American Novel

Yesterday was Samuel Langhorne Clemens' birthday...better known as Mark Twain. In celebration, google's doodle depicted a scene from Twain's most famous novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

I read Tom Sawyer many years ago.It's OK...but my favorite Twain novel is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn...I am not alone in this assessment. Many literary critics even consider Huckleberry Finn the great American Novel.

Twain published Huckleberry Finn in 1884. It was a socially significant work, unlike Tom Sawyer. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is filled with philosophical and practical messages. Perhaps the two most significant are the concepts of human understanding and individualism.

I didn't read Huckleberry Finn until I was in my early twenty's. It had a powerful effect on know when you read something or someone says something that hits you like a lightning bolt? That's what The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn did to me.

My favorite passage from the novel is below, but first some background...

Huckleberry Finn and a slave named Jim ran off together (I'm simplifying). During their time together Huck and Jim became close friends, Jim even saved Huck's life...but social and religious beliefs in the 1840's demanded that Huck return the slave to his owner, Miss Watson. Huck was taught it was a matter of right and wrong...a matter of being moral or immoral.

The juxtaposition of what society and religion tell Huck he should do, and what he feels in his heart, creates an enormous moral conflict central to the novel...and actually life itself. Huck gives his dilemma deep thought then decides to return Jim in compliance with the accepted standards of society. He writes Jim's owner, Miss Watson a letter in which he tells her he has her slave. As Jim sleeps and Huck navigates the raft down the Mississippi River he holds the pivotal letter in his hands and says...

"It was a close place. I took it up , and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath and then says to myself: 'All right, then I'll GO to hell- and tore it up'."