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Alexandre Dumas

Chapter 36

The boys begin digging in the middle of the night with the case knives Huck has swiped from the house. However, they quickly realize that it will take them nearly four decades to dig Jim out with such tools.

Tom reluctantly agrees to use the picks and shovels to dig with, but he still insists that they pretend they are using knives—out of principle, Huck suspects. After a couple hours of digging, Tom and Huck manage to dig their way into Jim’s shack and wake him up. He is happy to see them and tells them that Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas have been very good to him. He is excited about escaping, however, and tells the boys to hunt up a chisel to get the chain off his leg. This idea does not appeal to Tom, because it lacks complications. Tom insists that Jim needs more things smuggled into him before he could be sprung.

One morning while Tom and Huck and consulting with Jim, a pack of dogs follows them through the hole they have dug and pile up under Jim’s bed, frightening Nat, who is with them again. The slave again suspects witches are up to something.

Chapter 37

The absurdities of Tom’s plan continue to pile one upon another. Meanwhile, Aunt Sally notices a number of items that are missing: one of Silas’ shirts, a sheet, spoons, and candles. Uncle Silas fishes a spoon out of his pocket and cannot imagine how it got there.

Tom decides that they must put some things back so as to cover their tracks and keep Aunt Sally from knowing just how many things she has and has not. At the same time, the boys set to work on a pie in which they plan to stuff the sheet rope. Unfortunately, they have enough rope for forty pies—but only one pie.

Nat does not observe the boys as they slip the pie to Jim, and Jim, in turn, scratches marks on tin pans and tosses them out the window (as per Tom’s instructions).

In one sense, the continued (and unnecessary) enslavement of Jim may be viewed as representative of the issue overall. Because the novel was penned two decades before the abolishment of slavery, it is full of satirical commentary. Yet, the satire is no longer scathing (as it is in earlier chapters), but has now become rather farcical.

Chapter 38

The boys set about making pens for Jim’s journal, and Tom gives Huck more lessons on the great escapes of literature and history. He informs Huck that Jim needs a coat of arms, because all the great prisoners had coats of arms. Huck finds it ridiculous, but Tom sets about developing a coat of arms for Jim anyway.

Then Tom draws up a “mournful inscription” for Jim to put on the wall of his prison. Tom decides that Jim needs a grindstone for the coat of arms and the inscription and knows where they can find one. Then Tom decides Jim needs spiders and a snake in his prison with him because all the great prisoners had pets that they tamed out of wild animals. Jim protests that he does not like spiders or snakes. Tom says he needs rats, too, so he can play music to them—and Jim loses all patience with the scheme. Tom, then, loses all patience with Jim, and so Jim apologizes and states that he will go along with Tom’s plans.

In this chapter, Twain shows how the adult Jim and the maturing Huck become slaves to Tom’s childishness and his whims and fancies. Neither sees any sense in Tom’s designs, but because Tom has so much force of character, the two are helpless to resist his tactics.

Chapter 39

Tom and Huck catch rats for Jim’s prison, but the little Phelps boy opens the box in the Phelps’ house and the rats escape—and Aunt Sally chases them all over the room. The boys then collect an assortment of spiders, frogs, caterpillars, and snakes, and fill Jim’s prison with the animals and insects. Jim takes no comfort in his new companions and states that he would never be a prisoner again, not even if he was paid for it.

After three weeks of activity, Jim is finally ready to be freed as far as Tom’s plans are concerned. But before anything can happen, Tom declares that a “warning” must be sent. Huck wonders why anyone needs to be warned that Jim is about to escape and Tom states that that is how things are done: a warning always comes so that everyone is on his guard to make things more difficult for the heroes. So, Tom writes out a mysterious warning that “trouble is brewing” and signs it “Unknown Friend” and Tom leaves a picture of a skull and crossbones (drawn in his own blood) on the front door. Tom even drops a note to the slaves to be on the lookout for cutthroat Indians come to steal away Jim. Tom considers that everything is just about ready for an escape to take place.

Chapter 40

Tom and Huck begin to set the plan in motion, but Tom insists they need butter for their packed lunch the next day. Under Tom’s directions, Huck sneaks into the cellar to swipe some butter, but Aunt Sally catches him emerging, and Huck has to stash the butter under his hat. Aunt Sally refuses to let him go without an explanation and makes him wait inside. Huck sees a number of armed farmers gathered together in the other room and decides that all of Tom’s foolishness has put everyone on edge. Meanwhile, the butter is beginning to melt on his head.

When Huck hears the men say they will stand watch inside Jim’s prison shack, he nearly faints and Sally is afraid his brains have leaked out. She sees to her relief that Huck has only been swiping bread and butter, so she sends him up to bed. He goes up and immediately goes out the window to join Tom and Jim. Tom is happy and excited to hear that armed men are coming, and the three just barely manage to escape. The men call out and begin to shoot, and Tom is hit in the leg, but the three manage to make it to the raft.

Once at the raft, Huck and Jim see that Tom is wounded. Tom insists that they go on. But Jim considers that if their places were switched, Tom would not leave but would send for a doctor for him. So Jim and Huck decide to fetch a doctor for Tom, and Tom insists that they blindfold the doctor and that Jim hide in the woods when he arrives.

In this chapter, the escape finally takes place, but not until the entire farming community has been put on edge and brought into Tom’s fantasy. Twain shows how easy it is for an entire society to be deceived—even by the fantastic imaginings of a boy like Tom Sawyer.

Chapter 41

Huck wakes the doctor and tries to take him to the island, on which Tom is lying wounded, but the doctor does not trust Huck’s canoe and tells Huck to wait onshore and he will go alone. Huck falls asleep while waiting and when he wakes it is morning and immediately he dashes to the doctor’s to see if he has returned. He has not, so back he goes, but runs right into Uncle Silas. Uncle Silas takes Huck back to the house where Aunt Sally and all the other farmers and slaves are talking about Jim. Judging by the things left in the prison shack, they assume that Jim went crazy.

Aunt Sally, meanwhile, is very worried about Tom. She decides to wait up all night for his return, and tucks Huck into bed and hopes that he will not sneak out again. Huck wants to sneak out and see how Tom is, but every time he nears where Sally is waiting with a candle in the window, he feels bad and decides that he cannot do anymore to hurt her, and goes back to bed. In the morning, there is still no word from Tom.

Chapter 42

In the morning during breakfast, Uncle Silas removes a letter he received from the post office and sees that it is from Tom’s mother. Just then Tom is brought in on a mattress with the doctor and Jim, hands tied, in attendance. Sally is thrilled to see that Tom is still alive. Jim, however, is considerably abused by the others for having run off. He takes the abuse without saying anything in reply and never shows that he knows Tom or Huck.

The doctor, on the other hand, defends Jim and says that he is very honorable and that he helped him save Tom and was a very good nurse to him. The others become appreciable and thankful that Jim acted so well.

When Tom awakes he is so proud of his adventure that he confesses everything to Aunt Sally. She is so shocked she can barely manage to say anything but finally she assures Tom that when he gets well, she will whip him good. Then Tom learns that Jim is back in his prison and he states that Jim should be set free, because he is not a slave any longer. He claims that Miss Watson was so ashamed of wanting to sell him that she set him free in her will.

Just then Aunt Polly walks in and confirms the true identities of the boys as well as the fact that Jim has been set free.

Chapter 43

Huck discusses with Tom what his plans would have been had they actually freed Jim in style, and Tom says he had the idea of sailing all the way down the Mississippi and then telling Jim he was really free and taking him back up the Mississippi in a steamboat and bringing him to town with a lively procession and a brass band, etc. Tom gives a present of cash to Jim. Jim tells Huck that his Pap is dead and that Huck does not have to worry about going home or that his money is not safe. But Huck is more worried about something else—which is that Aunt Sally has plans to adopt him and civilize him and, as Huck says, he “can’t stand it.”

In this final chapter, Twain draws the novel to a conclusion, with Huck complaining that had he known how much work it would be to write a novel he never would have begun. There is also in the final words from Huck a sense of revolution—that the wheel is turning again, and that Huck is back to where he was in the beginning of the novel, with civilization and conformity threatening overhead, and the allure of freedom and the frontier out in front of him.

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