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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Discussion Questions 31 - 40

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How does Tom's reemergence in the story in Chapter 33 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn impact Huck?

Huck has grown over the course of the novel, particularly since he and Jim departed from Jackson's Island. Huck has become a person who is willing to go against society and act upon his conscience. He has recognized the evils in society and trusts his own instincts. When Tom reemerges in the novel, Huck plays second fiddle and follows Tom's instructions even when he does not see the sense in them. Tom treats Jim and his freedom as something that can be used in one of the adventures he reads about in books. Huck's willingness to go along shows that he still struggles to fight for his convictions.

What is situationally ironic about Huck's judging Tom for his willingness to help Jim in Chapter 33 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

When Huck first sees Tom, Huck tells him that about his plan to rescue Jim. Huck expects Tom to argue with him and not agree to help. When Tom agrees to help, Huck says, "I'm bound to say Tom Sawyer fell considerable in my estimation." Huck is willing and determined to steal Jim but judges Tom negatively for his willingness to do the same thing. When Huck tells Tom he is stealing Jim, he says of himself, "I'm low down." Huck recognizes that he is on the outskirts of the community, that he is uneducated and orphaned, and that his willingness to pull a stunt like freeing Jim might be expected for someone of his poor upbringing. On the other hand Tom is from a good family. In addition, despite his mischievous ways Tom is essentially respectable and even encourages Huck to be. In Chapter 1, he tells Huck that he "might join [Tom's gang] if [Huck] would go back to the widow and be respectable." Tom is part of society and Huck is not, and therefore Tom has more to lose by acting in a way that their society would not approve of.

Why is Tom's presence from Chapter 33 onward in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn so jarring?

Many critics argue that the end of the novel detracts from its overall quality. Some say Twain lost his nerve and the book reverts to a childish one for boys where previously it had dealt with serious topics, including the evils of slavery. The story does indeed change dramatically. Tom's plans are farcical, and there is a slapstick element introduced. The other characters are driven crazy by Tom's wacky plans and his insistence on trying to recreate the adventure novels he has read. The serious issues such as Jim's freedom and Huck's growth recede into the background. In fact, readers might question whether Huck has truly grown, which had been the central story line up to this point in the novel.

How does Tom's reaction to the gun-toting posse in Chapter 40 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reinforce his views about the best escape plan for Jim in Chapter 34?

For Tom Jim's escape is a reason to put into action a real live adventure just like the ones he's read about. In Chapter 34 when he hears Huck's plan for how to free Jim, Tom says, "But it's too blame' simple; there ain't nothing to it. What's the good of a plan that ain't no more trouble than that?" Tom wants the plan to be daring and adventurous, and he's more interested in style over substance. Huck goes along with Tom's plans. However, when he sees the farmers gathered in the Phelps's living room in Chapter 40, Huck is scared and runs to tell Tom. Tom's reaction to the news, "No!—is that so? Ain't it bully!" Tom wishes there were more men as it would make his plan even more daring. He gives no thought to the potential danger and the lives that could be lost while executing his wild plan. Tom is all about the glorious adventure.

How does Jim's reaction to Tom's being shot in Chapter 40 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn show the two of them to be opposites?

Jim is a grown man and is not interested in silliness or games. His goal throughout the book is getting his own freedom and ultimately his family's as well. When Tom is shot Jim insists on getting a doctor, putting his escape in jeopardy. He says, "No, sah—I doan' budge a step out'n dis place 'dout a doctor; not if it's forty year!" Jim's heroic actions help Tom to escape serious injury. On the other hand Tom does not want to get a doctor because it is not part of his grandiose plan and vision. He is all about style and does not consider the consequences. Unlike Jim, Tom is completely impractical.

How does Huck's comment in Chapter 40 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when Jim insists on getting a doctor for Tom reveal he hasn't shed society's views on slavery?

Huck and Jim agree that they must get a doctor to look at Tom's wound. Jim's insistence in this regard prompts Huck to say, "I knowed he was white inside, and I reckoned he'd say what he did say ..." By implying that being decent and putting the interest of others before one's own is a white trait, Huck is revealing a bias against slaves and black people. Huck has grown greatly in this book and feels Jim deserves to be free. However, it is not clear if Huck feels Jim is a special case because of the type of person he is, or if Huck feels slavery is wrong and that everyone should be freed. Either way, Huck still feels that "white" is equivalent to "good," which is an idea that he would have been exposed to growing up.

How does Huck's reaction to Aunt Sally's concern in Chapter 41 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reinforce the differences between him and Tom?

In Chapter 41 Jim has escaped and Huck and Tom are nowhere to be found. When Huck returns alone, Aunt Sally greets him lovingly. She insists that Huck stay home while others, including Uncle Silas go to look for Tom. Huck is desperate to join the search as he knows where they are. However, Huck is torn about leaving because he does not want to upset Aunt Sally. He feels guilty putting her through more worry after all that has gone on. Part of Huck's maturation is seen when he shows concern for others. Huck's concern for Aunt Sally contrasts with how Tom treats her (ironic, since she is actually Tom's aunt and Huck is not related to her). In Chapter 33, for example, Tom is a tease as he pretends to be someone else, which confuses and upsets Aunt Sally (before he finally reveals he is Sid). Tom is more interested in his own fun and games and does not care who is impacted and how. Unlike Huck, Tom is selfish and self-centered.

How does the mob's reaction to Jim's return in Chapter 42 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn compare to the earlier mob reactions, including the one in Chapter 22?

There are a number of mobs in the book. Each time they are angry and blood-thirsty, they act on impulse, and show no deep thought. They simply have an emotion and they act upon it, taking justice into their own hands. As Colonel Sherburn notes in Chapter 22, people have courage when part of a crowd but less so when it comes to standing up on their own. Because of this one man can quell a mob if he has the courage to stand up. When Jim is brought back to the Phelps's farm, people want to hang him so other slaves will not get any ideas, and for "making such a raft of trouble, and keeping a whole family scared most to death for days and nights." In this case wiser heads prevail as they realize that killing Jim will mean paying a debt to his rightful owner. So when a person or persons step up and speak out, the mob's anger can be defused just as it happened when Colonel Sherburn spoke up.

How does Tom's reaction to Jim's continued imprisonment in Chapter 42 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn represent Mark Twain's thoughts on slavery?

When Tom recovers from being shot he awakens and blurts out what he and Huck have done. He is certain that Jim has escaped and is proud of this. When he learns that Jim has been recaptured, Tom is incredulous: "They hain't no right to shut him up! Shove!—and don't you lose a minute. Turn him loose! he ain't no slave; he's as free as any cretur that walks this earth!" Aunt Sally thinks Tom has gone mad. It is only when Tom reveals that Miss Watson has freed Jim that she understands. Mark Twain married into an abolitionist family and adopted their views. His view is that which Tom has expressed. However, Tom does not limit it to Jim but all slaves. Everyone should be free to walk the earth and be equal.

How does Jim's reaction to Tom's payment in Chapter 43 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contradict his earlier behavior in Chapters 2 and 15?

Jim is a proud man and shows this multiple times throughout the book. For example, in Chapter 2 Jim is proud to tell the story of his hat and the angels to all who want to hear. In Chapter 15 Jim's pride is wounded when Huck's lies make Jim look like a fool. Because of the obvious pride that Jim has, his acceptance of the money that Tom pays him after all he has been put through is surprising. After Jim realizes Tom put his life in danger to satisfy his own needs for adventure, one would expect Jim to be at least annoyed with Tom. However, Jim's practical needs trump his pride, and he takes the money with no regrets. Jim is no longer a slave, but he remains a man in need.

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