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 39

Brief Summary

The boys gather creatures to give to Jim. Many go free inside the house and Aunt Sally's nerves are shattered by the presence of rats and snakes. Uncle Phelps writes two letters to New Orleans with no response, so he intends to advertise in the New Orleans and St. Louis newspapers. Huck gets worried and Tom decides it is time for the anonymous letters which inform the family that a gang is trying to steal their slave.

Detailed Summary

The boys catch some rats and hide them under Aunt Sally's bed. They get out and cause her a lot of stress and trouble. The rats are got rid of and the boys have to catch some more. They collect a variety of creatures, some of which, such as the spiders, get released inside the house. She punishes them every time she sees a snake and becomes angry as a result of her infested house.

The boys take the creatures to Jim, who tries to live with them. They make the place extremely uncomfortable and he has trouble sleeping. He mentions that he never wants to be a prisoner again. The plans proceed well and Jim follows his instructions. Uncle Phelps writes to the plantation twice but does not get any response. The next step is for him to advertise in the New Orleans and St. Louis papers. Huck gets worried and Tom feels it is time for anonymous letters warning Uncle Phelps that the prisoner is trying to escape. Huck expresses deep concern at trying to tell people about what they have been trying to hide from them. Tom explains that it has been too easy so it is time to get other people involved more. Huck has his reservations but goes along with Tom. They develop a complicated plan for delivering the letter, which state that "trouble is brewing." In response, the family gets extremely anxious and two other slaves are placed on lookout outside of Jim's shack. Tom soon follows this letter is a more explicit one, in which he warns Silas that a gang is planning to steal their runaway slave.

Chapter 40

Brief Summary

Tom and Huck return home after fishing to find everyone worried. They are in the shanty when a group of men enter, intending to wait for the gang to come. Tom, Huck and Jim sneak out and run from the men. They make their way to the island where the raft is hidden and find that Tom has been shot in the leg. Jim stays with Tom and Huck goes for a doctor.

Detailed Summary

Tom and Huck go out fishing. When they come back they find that everyone is worried and anxious. That night they are sent to their room directly after dinner and they set out on the final stage of their plan. They intend to stuff Jim's clothes with straw and then escape with him. Tom heads to Jim's shack and Huck has to go down to the cellar to retrieve the butter he left behind. Aunt Sally finds him and he hides the butter under his hat. She makes him walk with her into the sitting room, where a bunch of people wait for the gang's attack. Huck is shocked to see so many farmers, all with guns. He is worried about what it means for their escape and he is desperate to get out of the sitting room and inform Tom.

Aunt Sally asks Huck a lot of questions and the butter starts to melt down his neck. She first thinks he has some kind of fever and then discovers the cause. She is relieved that it is nothing more and she sends him to his room. He immediately leaves out the window and finds Tom in the shack. He tells him about the men, which excites Tom and spurs him on. While they are getting ready to go, a group of men approach them, planning to sneak inside and wait for the gang to come. Jim, Huck and Tom sneak out the hole and out of the shed. They stealthily make their way over the fence but Tom hits a snag and makes a noise. They make a run for it and the person who heard them begins to shoot.

The men chase after, with dogs. Huck, Jim and Tom stop and hide, waiting for them to go past. The dogs find them but since they are familiar with all three, ignore them and keep going. After they are gone, they get over to the island where the raft is hidden and Huck tells Jim that he is free again. Jim is very happy and he expresses his admiration for the complexity of the plan. Tom is jubilant, especially because he was shot in the leg.

Huck and Jim become concerned. Tom tells them to go on without him, that he can take care of himself. Jim thinks and then says that he cannot go on if Tom is hurt. Huck agrees to go for a doctor. Jim stays behind with Tom and Huck suggests that he hide in the woods when the doctor arrives and wait there until he is gone.

Chapter 41

Brief Summary

There is no sign of Tom and Huck gets worried. He runs into Uncle Silas and is forced to return home with him. A group of people discuss the things that Jim left behind. Aunt Sally puts Huck to bed and makes him promise not to go out. He keeps his promises and notices that Aunt Sally waits up the entire night for Tom to come home.

Detailed Summary

The doctor is a kind man and Huck tells him a story about his brother, who accidentally shot himself in the leg. Huck takes him to the canoe and plans to go with him to the island. The doctor says that the canoe is not big enough and suggests that he go home and wait. Huck thinks about it and realizes that it might take more than one day to fix Tom's leg. He develops the plan to kidnap the doctor until Tom is better and then put him back on shore when it is over.

He falls asleep and when he wakes up it is late in the morning. He goes to the doctor's house to find that he has not yet returned. He runs into Uncle Silas, who asks where he has been. He tells a story about looking for the runaway slave and canoeing over to the island and then falling asleep. He mentions that "Sid" is at the post office, so he and Uncle Silas look for him there. They head home and Aunt Sally is happy to see Huck. There is a group of people at the house discussing the events. They comment on the enigmatic articles that Jim left behind, like a shirt with markings on it and inscriptions on the wall. They think that Jim must be crazy, plus have several other people to help do everything that he did.

Aunt Sally confronts Huck about being out that night, since she had locked the door. He explains that he and "Sid" wanted to see what was going on so they snuck out but do not plan to do it again. Everyone gets worried when Tom does not arrive. Aunt Sally puts Huck to bed and mothers him. She tells him that the door is not locked but she makes him promise not to go. He is incredibly curious about Tom but he promises. He looks out but Aunt Sally is waiting up and he does not dare sneak out.

Chapter 42

Brief Summary

Tom arrives home, carried on a mattress and accompanied by the doctor and Jim, who is in chains. Tom is taken upstairs and Jim is put in the shanty. He is treated roughly until the doctor describes Jim's goodness and the way that he stayed with Tom even though it meant sacrificing his freedom.

When Tom is better, Huck goes in to see him. He is joined by Aunt Sally and while they wait, he wakes up. He is excited and proceeds to tell Aunt Sally about everything that happened. He explains that it was all his idea. She is shocked and dismayed. Tom also tells them that Jim is a free man; Miss Watson recently died and set Jim free in her will, since she regretted that she had tried to sell him.

Aunt Polly arrives and confirms Tom's story, as well as uncovers Huck and Tom's true identities. They discover that Tom has been hiding letters from Aunt Sally.

Detailed Summary

Everyone is up before breakfast, with no sign of Tom. They are waiting when he arrives, being carried on a mattress, along with Jim, with his hands tied and the doctor. Tom is taken upstairs and Jim is taken back to the shack. Some people want to hang him as an example to the slaves but other people remind them that Jim does not belong to them and if they hang him they would have to pay his owner should he turn up. They hit him some and chain him to the bed again with extra care. They swear at him and promise that he will get nothing but bread and water. The doctor defends him and describes the way that Jim waited around to help even though it meant sacrificing his freedom. He did everything he could to help the doctor and showed genuine concern for Tom. He explains that Jim never raised a fuss or tried to get away but acted calmly and peacefully the entire time. This softens the men's attitude toward Jim and they promise to treat him better.

Tom gets better eventually and Huck goes in to see him. While he is in there, Aunt Sally joins him but she does not scold him as he expects. They are watching Tom when he wakes up and finds he is at home. He asks Huck about the raft and Jim and Huck does not have the heart to tell him how things ended up. Tom asks Huck if he has told Aunt Sally about it all and before anyone has a chance to say anything, Tom is telling her the entire story. He explains that everything was his idea, from the spoons to the spiders. She is shocked and angry and promises to punish them both. Tom is unfazed and he continues talking about his triumph and she continues venting her anger.

She informs Tom that Jim is back in chains again. Tom is surprised and tells Aunt Sally that he needs to be let go. She does not understand and he finally admits that Miss Watson died two months before and set Jim free in her will because she regretted that she tried to sell him. Aunt Sally asks why he went to that trouble to free a free man and Tom tells her that it was all for the adventure.

At that moment, Tom's Aunt Polly walks in. She came for a visit as soon as she heard that "Tom and Sid" came for a visit, something she knew not to be true. She uncovers Huck and Tom's true identities. She confirms Miss Watson's death and Jim's freedom. Everything comes out in the open and when Uncle Silas finds out, he is completely muddled. Aunt Sally and Aunt Polly discover that Tom had been hiding letters, to try and interrupt communication.

Chapter the Last

Brief Summary

Huck mentions that Tom recovered and that his plan had been to have adventures all the way to New Orleans and then tell Jim that he was free. He wanted to take Jim back up the river on a steamboat and give him a wonderful homecoming.

Jim is released from his chains and Tom gives him $40 for his troubles. Jim is pleased, taking it as proof that the prophecy of his hairy chest has come true. Huck finds out that all of his money is still waiting for him and that the dead man he and Jim saw in the floating house was his father.

Huck shares that he is heading for the Territory to avoid being "civilized" by Aunt Sally.

Detailed Summary

When Huck gets Tom alone, he asks him what his plan was, should Jim's escape have been successful. Tom tells him that he was planning for the three of them to have adventures all the way down to New Orleans and then he would tell Jim about his freedom. They would ride a steamboat up the river in style and Jim could have a triumphant homecoming.

Jim is quickly released from his chains and once Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas find out what he did to help Tom, they do everything they can for him. He visits Tom in the sick room, who gives him $40 for his trouble. Jim is pleased, taking it as proof that the prophecy of his hairy chest has come true. The three of them continue to talk and have a great time. Tom suggests that they head out to have more adventures and Huck agrees but makes the comment that he has no more money to do it. He assumes that his father got his hands on his money as soon as he faked his death. Tom tells him that the money is still there and that his father has not been back since. Jim informs him that the man they saw in the floating house had been his father, but Jim had not had the heart to tell him.

Huck finishes the novel by mentioning that Tom is fully recovered and that he is finished with writing because he never knew that writing a book could be so involving. He mentions that Aunt Sally has invited him to live with them, so that she can "civilize" him. He decides that he is going to head for the Territory because he has had enough civilization.

Chapters 39-Chapter the Last Analysis

In these final chapters, Tom's plan reaches a fever pitch. He invades Jim's shanty with snakes and spiders, despite Jim's strong request not to. He pushes forward with the rest of his plans, impervious to the growing distress that his aunt is feeling and deaf to Huck's worries that Jim might not escape. He finally brings the matter to a head with his anonymous letters. He bullies his way and in the end a number of people are involved. As the plan goes through and then quickly fails once Tom is shot, he experiences the height of triumph as he sees the way that he was able to manipulate everyone. Tom's reasons for his plan are purely selfish. He thinks of nothing but his own amusement and he seems to want to test how far he is able to direct people. Huck makes the comment that Tom is good at "superintending" people, which highlights how much of Tom's behavior is focused on having control and being able to manipulate other people. In this way, he characterizes some of the worst aspects of his society. He feels he is privileged and superior enough to toy with other people's comfort. He knows he will be forgiven and therefore consequences do not apply to him. It is ideas such as these that help to perpetuate cruelty within society. Though Tom is not necessarily cruel, his selfishness is obviously dangerous, as it puts his life at risk, as well as Jim's freedom. Tom's actions serve as a reminder of the threat of unchecked self-centeredness.

The theme that a person's humanity does not depend on color is exemplified here, as the doctor discovers Jim's decency much in the way that Huck did. He is left alone with Jim and his actions over the course of two days prove to the doctor that Jim is smart, kind and considerate. Though it means risking the very thing that he worked so hard to attain, Jim stays with Tom because he knows that his help is needed. He does not fight when he is brought back to the plantation and he receives the blows the farmers inflict with patience and grace. He is considered practically sub-human by the farmers who bring him in, but the evidence that the doctor provides is enough to silence them for a time. This demonstrates the power that integrity can have when someone has the strength to exhibit it.

Finally, Huck's development comes to its full potential as the novel closes. When he and Jim are making the decision about what to do about Tom, they are thinking the same thing, and they each know it. Their friendship has created a bond that strongly works on them both and Jim's influence on Huck is clear. Huck demonstrates the decency and integrity that Jim always showed to him. He also comes to a full understanding of himself and his place in society as he calmly mentions his plans to head for the Territory in order to avoid Aunt Sally's civilizing influence. He knows that it is not for him to try and force himself into society but rather strike out and make his own path.

You'll need to sign up to view the entire study guide.

Sign Up Now, It's FREE
Filter Your Search Results: