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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Chapter 33 | Summary



The men once more load the skiffs and go to McDougal's cave. When the door of the cave is unlocked, they find Injun Joe dead, seemingly from starvation.

After Injun Joe's funeral, Tom and Huck meet. Tom reveals that the treasure is in the cave and asks Huck to come with him to get it. They gather supplies, "borrow" a skiff, and set out for the treasure. As they go they plan their "gang." A brief worry about Injun Joe's ghost makes them stumble, but they decide that the presence of a cross keeps ghosts away. Along with the treasure, they find weapons and other goods. They leave these behind in case they need them to go "robbing."


The racism inherent to Twain's portrayal of Injun Joe is different from his representation of enslaved people. Joe is a grave robber, a murderer, a liar, and a thief. He seeks revenge much greater than the slights against him. He is intimidating to the point that the villagers are unwilling to stand against him to pursue a grave robbing charge. There are zero redeeming qualities in the novel's depiction of Injun Joe, and the references to his race are constant (it is, after all, part of the name people use to refer to him). His death is demeaning: eating bats and starving to death in a cave. It is also, according to Twain, based on real events.

Here at the end of the conflict with Joe, the boys also call up the same sources of authority that they'd used throughout the novel—stories and superstition. The cross itself becomes another totem of superstition for them, albeit one that is connected to proper society. Their boyhood adventures seeking treasure seem to be resolved, in that the hidden treasure is found and claimed, though the boys refuse the weapons they also find. They overcome their superstitions and leave behind the most untamed place they've visited in the whole of the text to return to the village. Numerous transitions in their lives are presented in this singular event.

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