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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 11

This chapter adds weight to the opinion that St. Petersburg is not an entirely idyllic place. Mixed with the nostalgia are corpses, citizens ready to condemn the innocent before trial, and haunting nightmares.

The discovery of Dr. Robinson's body electrifies the town. The schoolmaster gives the students the afternoon off, and the townspeople flock to the graveyard.

The murder weapon has been found and identified as Muff Potter's. So, when he turns up-seeking his knife-the sheriff confronts him with the evidence. Broken, he tells Injun Joe, who is in the crowd, to explain what happened. Huck and Tom stand dumbfounded as they listen to the real murderer pin the crime on Potter.


When Injun Joe helps put Robinson's corpse in a wagon, the body seems to bleed a little. According to superstition-a corpse bleeds when its murderer is near. But since Muff Potter is only three feet away at the time, no one in the superstitious crowd except Huck and Tom thinks to suspect Injun Joe.

Tom has begun crying out in his sleep, so tormented is he by his secret knowledge. Sid is eager to crack the mystery, and Tom is just as eager to hide it. Tom pretends he has a toothache so that he can tie his jaw closed at night to keep himself from talking.

In time, Tom is haunted less and less by nightmares. To ease his conscience, he smuggles "small comforts" to Potter, who has been jailed in "a little brick den" on the side of the village.

The boys aren't the only people in town who are afraid of Injun Joe. Some want to tar-and-feather him for his part in the body- snatching, but no one has the courage to do it.

NOTE: PARALLELS WITH TWAIN'S CHILDHOOD

When Twain was eighteen, in 1853, he gave some matches to a drunken tramp who had been put in Hannibal's jail-an unguarded place very much like the one Potter is held in here. That night the tramp accidentally set fire to his cell and burned to death. Twain recalled years later that the tramp "lay upon my conscience a hundred nights afterwards and filled them with hideous dreams." How might his feelings about the tramp have helped Twain understand Tom's guilt over Potter?

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
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