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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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Chapter 42

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 42 of Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Chapter 42 | Summary



The next morning Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas still have not gotten word from Tom. Just as they are about to open a letter from Sis (Tom's mother), the doctor brings Tom back (he is on a mattress and not fully conscious) with Jim tied up. The townspeople have gathered, and they want to hang Jim as an example but decide against it because he is not their possession. They curse and hit him and put him in chains. The doctor defends Jim because he has helped him take care of Tom.

When Tom wakes up he tells Aunt Sally about everything that he and Huck did to set Jim free. Tom is under the impression that Jim is free and is surprised when Aunt Sally says he has been recaptured. Tom explains that Jim has been freed by Ms. Watson, who decreed it in her will, and he only freed Jim for the adventure. Aunt Polly then shows up and reveals Huck's and Tom's true identities.


Jim makes the ultimate sacrifice: he gives up his freedom to save Tom. When Jim helps the doctor and is caught, he realizes that his life could also be in danger as he may be lynched. The mob is indeed angry and he suffers because of it, but wiser heads prevail. When the truth comes out (about Jim's help), the townspeople, and later Aunt Sally and Aunt Polly, appreciate what Jim has done. Yet they still do not see him as their equal. They value him as a good slave. The doctor himself says of Jim "a nigger like that is worth a thousand dollars—and kind treatment, too." This is as far even an educated man is willing to go in the pre-Civil War South.

It is only when Tom realizes Jim is still being held as a slave that he notes the whole thing was for an adventure. Doesn't everyone realize that the game is over? Tom takes no responsibility for the people he has hurt. People could have died so he could have his adventure. People have every right to be furious with him, Jim in particular. Tom has treated Jim's freedom like a joke. Is he any different from the slaveholder adults who also do not respect Jim (and black people in general)? Tom seems to think if he pays Jim, it will make everything okay. Huck was correct to think that Tom would not help a slave escape to freedom. Tom has as little regard for black people as the people around him have.

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