The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Chapter 13 | Summary



Tom's response to Becky's rejection and his other difficulties is to run away. He encounters Joe Harper, who is likewise feeling upset. The boys devise a plan to run away. Joe suggests they become hermits; Tom is for a life of crime, specifically piracy. They locate Huck, and he joins them.

The boys go to an island on the Mississippi River. There they play at being pirates, although a note of seriousness is injected when Huck says, "I don't want nothing better'n this. I don't ever get enough to eat, gen'ally—and here they can't come and pick at a fella and bullyrag him so."


Despite their talk of piracy and being forsaken, both Tom and Joe have homes and families. The boys are playacting at being pirates. For Tom and Joe the discussions of the ethics of piracy (in which they intend to be pirates but not steal) and the adventures of pirates are based on the grand stories of the boy books of the era. Huck joins Joe and Tom on the island because he is invited, but he continues to interject real-world questions and to counter the fictions the other two boys are spinning.

As earlier, when Tom and Huck witnessed the murder, Huck's responses are grounded in reality, and his reality is stark. In this chapter Huck reveals that he rarely has enough to eat, but with Tom and Joe he has enough to eat and he's safe from bullying. The cause of the bullying, which is mentioned only in passing, is unclear. What readers know, however, is that Huck is the son of a drunk, he dresses in worn-out clothes, and he does not attend school or know his letters. He is wary of the temper of Injun Joe, who is known to drink as well. Huck's position makes him an outsider: he is not a man, but his neglected, uncertain status places him outside the fantasy realm of boys who are protected by family and security. Twain does not belabor Huck's situation, but throughout the novel he offers hints of what his life is like. The collected facts about Huck's life do not paint a lighthearted picture.

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