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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

The village has condemned Muff Potter for suspicious behavior before he is even found. He claims he isn't guilty, but Injun Joe lies at length. Tom and Huck are surprised that lightning does not strike Joe down.

Injun Joe helps remove the doctor's body, and there are murmurs in the crowd that "the wound bled a little"—a superstition about what happens when a murderer is near their victim.

In the week following these events, Tom's sleep is disturbed so much that Sid reports Tom is speaking in his sleep. Aunt Polly and Mary both admit they are also affected by the murder. Afraid of giving something away, Tom fakes a toothache so he can tie his jaw shut at night with a bandage. Tom's classmates hold mock inquests, which Tom uncharacteristically avoids. Tom eases his conscience by smuggling things through the jail window to Muff Potter.

Notably, the narrator points out that Joe's testimony carefully omits admitting his guilt for grave robbing. No one in the village steps forward to pursue charging him even though it is obvious he has committed the crime.

Analysis

As in earlier chapters, there is an emphasis on superstition. The doctor's wound bled, and according to superstition, this happens when a murder victim is in the proximity of the killer. The superstition is not debunked as the killer is, in fact, close to the body, because Injun Joe is helping to move the body.

The intensity of the guilt and fear that Tom feels, and his unwillingness to participate in the schoolyard games that other children have created in response to the murder, speaks to how witnessing the scene in the graveyard causes Tom to leave behind the innocence of childhood. He's now confronted with the ugly reality of the darker side of human nature and experience—something with which Huck, as someone who exists on the fringes of proper society, is already at least somewhat familiar.

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