The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Novel Summary: Chapter 35 - 36

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Chapter 35
Tom and Huck are in the Widow Douglas's bedroom and are supposed to be cleaning themselves up for their public appearance at the party. Huck wants to escape out of the window, as he "ain't used to that kind of a crowd." Tom assures him that he will take care of him.
Sid appears and says that Mr Jones is going to spring a surprise on everybody by revealing that it was Huck who tracked the robbers to the widow's. Sid adds smugly that the surprise will fall flat as somebody has already revealed it. Tom says he believes that that somebody is Sid, as only he would be mean enough. He boxes Sid's ears.
Tom and Huck join the party. Mr Jones announces his 'secret' about Huck's part in the adventure. Everyone pretends to be surprised, but it is clear that Sid's spoiler tactics have worked, in that they already know. The widow showers compliments and gratitude on Huck, who feels uncomfortable. She says that she intends to give Huck a home under her roof, have him educated, and set him up in business. Tom cries, "Huck don't need it. Huck's rich!" He runs outside and drags in the sacks of money. He says that half is his, and half is Huck's. Then he explains to the astounded company how they came by it. Mr Jones admits that this surprise dwarfs his own revelation. The money is counted, and it amounts to over twelve thousand dollars.
Chapter 36
Tom and Huck's new-found wealth is the talk of the town. People start to dig for treasure in every 'haunted' house they know. Tom and Huck are courted and admired. They have acquired a new authority that means that their sayings are listened to and repeated. Even their past history is raked up and discovered to contain marks of originality. The Widow Douglas invests Huck's money for him, and Judge Thatcher does the same for Tom. Both boys are given an allowance of a dollar each weekday and half of the Sundays - a better income than the minister's.
Judge Thatcher has formed a great opinion of Tom, saying, "no commonplace boy would ever have got his daughter out of the cave." Becky tells her father how Tom took her whipping at school by lying about who was responsible for the torn page in the teacher's book, and the Judge is moved, saying that "it was a noble, a generous, a magnanimous lie - a lie that was worthy to hold up its head and march down through history breast to breast with George Washington's truth about the hatchet!" (Washington, 1732-1799, was the first president of America. A story was circulated after his death that as a boy, he admitted to his father that he was guilty of cutting down a cherry tree because he was too honest to lie.) Judge Thatcher plans to have Tom trained as a solider and a lawyer, so that he can follow either career, or both.
Huck's wealth and the fact that he is under the widow's protection "introduced him into society - no, dragged him into it, hurled him into it - and his sufferings were almost more than he could bear. whithersoever he turned, the bars and shackles of civilization shut him in and bound him hand and foot." He tolerates his miseries for three weeks, and then goes missing.
Tom finds him among some barrels behind the abandoned slaughter-house. He has been sleeping in a barrel and was once again dressed in his comfortable rags. Tom tells him about the trouble he is causing, and urges him to go home. Huck protests that though the widow is good to him, he cannot stand having to get up at the same time every morning, wash, and wear smart clothes. He cannot even get interested in the food she provides, because it comes "too easy." He invites Tom to take his share of the money, since he cannot care about anything unless it is "tollable hard to git."
Tom tells Huck that he cannot let him into his new robbers' gang unless he is "respectable." Finally, Huck agrees to try going back to the widow for a month, if Tom lets him join the gang. Tom agrees, and promises to ask the widow to cut Huck some slack. Huck says that if relaxes the regime a little, in return, he will only smoke and curse in private. Tom says that they will arrange the initiation ceremony for the gang tonight in some spooky place - "a ha'nted house is the best, but they're all ripped up, now" by people looking for treasure.
Huck is enthused by the prospect of staying with the widow "till I rot." He will become "a reg'lar ripper of a robber" and make the widow proud that she took him in.
The narrator remarks that he must end his story at this point, since it is the story of a boy, not of a man.
Analysis of Chapters 35, 36 and Conclusion
Twain does not let the rapid turnaround in adult society's attitudes to the boys pass without satirical comment on its hypocrisy. The townspeople, who once had disapproved of the boys, are now so impressed by the status conferred by their new-found riches that they pretend that all along that they saw early signs of their "originality." The boys find that whereas nobody used to take notice of anything they said, now "their sayings were treasured and repeated." Judge Thatcher, the local representative of justice and the punisher of crimes, in a masterly display of hypocrisy praises Tom for the "noble" and "magnanimous" lie that enabled him to take on the whipping due to Becky. With dubious logic, Judge Thatcher equates Tom's lie to the great George Washington's truth in confessing to his father that it was he who cut down the cherry tree.
A major motivation behind all this admiration and respect is made clear in Twain's description of the townspeople's new predilection for ripping up planks in every 'haunted' house in the area: they want to be rich, like Tom and Huck. There is a less selfish reason, too. People have a strong desire to create heroes, and when the hero-making process is under way, they temporarily forget all the things they used to criticize in that person. Without doubt, Judge Thatcher is delighted that Tom, as the special friend of his daughter Becky, is a hero, and he means to ensure that even Tom's classroom lie is recast as an heroic act - which, in a sense, it was.
Huck's desire to escape from the Widow Douglas's bedroom rather than go to the party shows how profoundly unsuited he is to adult "civilization." He finds being the target of admiration and gratitude as uncomfortable as the new clothes the widow provides for him. Soon, worn down by the unrelenting restrictions on his freedom, he runs away, and Tom finds him sleeping in barrels once more, and wearing his old rags. Huck is proof of Twain's dictum in this novel that mankind only values things that are hard to attain: he shows little interest in food that comes "too easy" and does not even care about the money because it was not "tollable hard to git."
The fact that on both occasions it is Tom who persuades Huck to give civilization another chance shows that Tom is more at home in this world. This is to be expected, since Tom, unlike Huck, has had parental figures in his life; now that he has money, he seems even readier to conform. At the same time, Tom, more than Huck, is a wild fantasist, and lures Huck back to civilization with the characteristically romantic promise that he will be allowed to join Tom's new robbers' gang. It is likely that Tom has evolved a strong fantasy world as his way of coping with, and rebelling against, the constraints of civilization. Another ally of Tom's in this respect is his psychological astuteness. Just as he manipulated other children to do his whitewashing for him, so he effortlessly manipulates Huck into returning to the widow by convincing him that robbers have to be "respectable." Huck, in turn, reconciles his yearning for freedom with his new civilized life by imagining that the widow will be "proud" of him if he becomes "a reg'lar ripper of a robber."
For all Huck's protests, there is a sense of rightness about Tom and Huck's acceptance into respectable society at this point, when they have come into their fortune. Both have endured ordeals and have shown that they are able to tell the difference between right and wrong, and to act selflessly. As the Conclusion tells us, they are on the verge of becoming adults.


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