The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Study Guide

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain about Huck, a mischievous boy, who runs away from his drunken father. Huck meets up with Jim, a runaway slave and they travel down the Mississippi on a raft. The two escape through various misadventures, including the family feud between the Grangerfofrds and Shepherdsons and the conning "duke and king." Finally, Jim is captured on the Phelps' farm, Huck plans an escape and, finally, it is revealed that Jim is now a freeman and Huck's father has died.

Chapter 36

Brief Summary

Huck and Tom sneak out and start digging. After a while they realize that it is going to take too long, so Tom makes the concession that they can use shovels as long as they pretend that they are using case-knives. Once they finish the hole they go in and talk to Jim. He is happy to see them and ready to go. Tom tells him that he cannot leave yet and explains the different things that he needs to do. He assures Jim that if necessary they can get him out at any time. Jim agrees to go along with it.

The boys begin sneaking things into Jim's food and he soon learns to check before biting into anything.

Detailed Summary

Huck and Tom sneak out at night and begin digging. They work with case-knives at first and after a few hours Tom admits that it is difficult to do with their time frame. Reluctantly, he decides that they will have to dig with shovels and pretend that they are using case-knives. After digging for half and hour they make much more progress.

They steal more things to use, including a brass candlestick for Jim to use as a pen. Tom tries to devise a plan for getting the things to Jim. Huck suggests the hole that they are digging but Tom comes up with a couple of other ideas. That night they finish the hole and crawl into Jim's shack. They wake him up gently and he is overjoyed to see them. Jim immediately wants to head out but Tom explains that there are several things that they need to do first. He assures Jim that if trouble arises they will make sure he gets out but in the meantime they might as well draw it out. Jim agrees and then they sit around and talk. Jim describes how Uncle Silas and Aunt Polly visit him and Tom decides that it would be best to send things to Jim through them. Huck is immediately against the idea but Tom does not listen.

Tom tells Jim that he will receive things in the food that he is brought and that he must take things out of Aunt Sally's pockets. He explains how he is to keep a journal on a shirt and write messages on tin pans before throwing them out the window. They sit around and smoke and talk, until the boys go to bed. Tom is enjoying himself immensely; he talks about how great it would be if Jim could be prisoner for years and years.

The next day they sneak things into Jim's food. After one accidental bite into a piece of candlestick, Jim learns to test his food first. While they are waiting with the man who looks after Jim, a group of dogs rush into Jim's shack via the hole in the ground. Huck realizes that they forgot to lock the shed after they left last night. They convince the man who is watching Jim that it is the work of witches again. Tom promises to make him a witch pie to try and keep them away.

Chapter 37

Brief Summary

Tom and Huck work on baking a giant pie to take to Jim. They steal more things and cause considerable havoc in the house. Aunt Sally becomes extremely upset and frazzled by all that is going wrong. Tom and Huck successfully bake a pie with a ladder inside. Jim does as he is told; he hides the ladder and then marks on a plate and throws it out the window.

Detailed Summary

Tom and Huck find a wash pan to use to bake the pie in which they plan to send things to Jim. At breakfast that morning, Aunt Sally is upset because she cannot find one of Uncle Silas's shirts. Being absent-minded, he takes the blame and is not bothered by it. She mentions all of the other things that have gone missing around the house. They blame the rats for some things and Uncle Silas promises to plug the rats' holes. Tom and Huck are worried but they are not discovered. Aunt Sally becomes angrier and angrier as more things are lost. Uncle Silas finds a spoon in his pocket and this makes Aunt Sally even more upset. He still does not know how it happened but he is not concerned.

In order to help their Uncle and assuage their guilt, Huck and Tom stop up the rat holes in the basement. Uncle Silas comes down later and is surprised to see that the holes are plugged. He thinks that he did it at some point without realizing it. Tom is sad that their spoon was taken back. He goes to Aunt Sally and gets her to count the spoons. She counts nine then Tom puts a spoon back and asks her to count again. He does this several times until she can no longer count at all and she sends him away.

With that solved, they turn their attention to the pie, which is the source of much trouble. They work out how to make one and then put part of a cut up sheet that is pretending to be a ladder on the inside. They finally get it to work and they take the pie to Jim. He hides the rope ladder under his bed and then make marks on a plate and throws it out the window.

Chapter 38

Brief Summary

Tom informs Jim that he needs spiders and snakes in the shanty with him. Jim pleads with Tom to reconsider, but Tom is adamant. When Jim complains about all the things he has to do, Tom convinces him that he should appreciate the richness of the experience.

Detailed Summary

The pens prove to be difficult to make and Jim is not sure that the inscription is going to be possible. Tom tells him that he needs to have a coat of arms and he explains what that means. They need to make the hole big enough to get a stone through so Jim has to come out and go around and dig it for them. He returns to his shack and they re-attach him to the bed.

Tom thinks about spiders and informs them that Jim needs spiders and rats to occupy his cell. He explains that Jim can tame them with music and make them his friends. Jim is not keen on the idea, doubting the necessity of co-habitating with a bunch of annoying creatures. Jim pleads with Tom to reconsider but Tom insists and Jim concedes as long as it is absolutely necessary. Tom also wants Jim to grow a flower, which Jim thinks is probably impossible. Jim begins to complain a bit about all the things he has to keep doing and the idea of living with spiders. Tom becomes a bit impatient and tries to convince him that he is experiencing the adventures of a lifetime. He lectures Jim on the need to appreciate his situation. Jim apologizes and they all go to bed.

Chapters 36-38 Analysis

In this series of brief chapters, Huck and Tom begin in earnest to put their plan into action. Tom soon has to make his first concessions, realizing that is plan is too extravagant to be borne for long, so he decides that they can pretend for much of it. He soon shares many of the particularities of the plan and each becomes sillier and more outlandish than the last. He takes as his guide the adventure novels that he loves so much. These are the novels that Twain continuously criticizes throughout the narrative. As they are ironically applied to Huck's story, their juvenile aspects are brought to light. These novels are built on peculiar situations that become even more so as Tom combines them all. They are implausible and for Twain, not worth anything beyond entertainment. That is far different from what this book tries to accomplish.

Tom desperately wants to reenact events that could never have happened in the first place. He lives for the stories and the romance that they represent. He maintains that it is absolutely necessary to maintain the appearance of the escape. His focus on the superficial is juxtaposed with Huck's grounded, realistic assessment of the situation. Huck repeatedly offers suggestions that would quickly and efficiently help Jim escape. Tom does not allow these to happen because it would spoil his fun. Tom unfeelingly causes his aunt and uncle distress as he overturns their house at his leisure. He takes the family that Huck never had for granted. He is sure that he will always be forgiven, no matter what he does; this is a security that Huck never had.

Tom's silly escapades are much more in the vein of the previous novel that focused on him, and this fact effectively demonstrates the difference between the two novels. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was a simpler tale, interested in the entertaining situations in which Tom finds himself. Huck Finn is similar in many ways; the humor that is involved with Tom's silly ideas is similar to the previous novel's lighter tone. But overall, it is a more serious work by far, as it tackles significant issues like racism and slavery. This is not meant to be a frivolous book and the contrast of Tom's actions with Huck's attitude highlight this idea.

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